In Franza v. Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd., 772 F. 3d 1225 (11th Circuit 2014), the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals overturned 140 years of precedent by holding that cruise lines may be sued for the professional negligence of ships’ physicians and nurses. In this landmark case, I successfully represented the Personal Representative of Pasquale Vaglio, who died as a result of the medical negligence of RCCL’s medical staff in attending to a closed head injury sustained while on the cruise. Prior to the Franza decision, cruise passengers had no right to sue cruise lines for even the most egregious negligence on the part of the cruise lines’ physicians, even though the cruise lines employed the physician, and directly profited from the physician’s practice aboard its vessels. In Franza, the Eleventh Circuit, which has jurisdiction over federal maritime cases in Georgia, Alabama and, more importantly, cruise lines, Florida, refused to recognize the immunity defense which cruise lines raised, the roots of which, according to the court, “snaked back into a wholly different world . . . of 19th Century steamships . . . .” Instead, relying upon well-established maritime agency principles, the Eleventh Circuit acknowledged the 21st Century reality of medical care on modern cruise lines. Before addressing the opinion in detail, we will briefly revisit the history of maritime medical malpractice actions.
Today in a unanimous opinion, the Supreme Court of Florida quashed a petition for writ of certiorari which had been granted by the Third District Court of Appeal, and took the rather extraordinary step of disapproving of a half dozen other decisions in which district courts of appeal had previously granted writs of certiorari, including three decisions from the Third District; two from the Fifth; and one from the Fourth. One of the decisions quashed by the Supreme Court dates all the back to 1986. Today’s decision, Board of Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund v. American Educational Enterprises, LLC, Case No. 10-2251, can be found here.
In a historic and tragic case, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals today acknowledged for the first time that cruise lines have a duty to warn their passengers of dangers ashore in places where their passengers are known or expected to visit during ports-of-call. You can read the opinion here. The case involves the shooting death of 15-year-old Liz Marie Perez Chaparro who was celebrating her quinceanera with her parents and brother on a cruise aboard the M/V Victory. One of the ports-of-call was St. Thomas, in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Unbeknownst to the Chaparros, but well known to Carnival, was the fact that the capital city of St. Thomas, and particularly an area known as Coki Beach, at Coki Point, had become the scene of rampant gang related violence and numerous shootings. In fact, just a few months before the incident in which Liz Marie was shot and killed, no less an authority than the Attorney General of the Virgin Islands had predicted that innocent bystanders would be caught up in these shootings. His predictions were quoted in U.S. Virgin Islands newspapers.
Johnson v. Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd., 2011 WL 6354064 (11th Cir. 2011).
You have no doubt seen the cruise line commercials which depict happy passengers engaging in physical activities normally found ashore – rock climbing walls; zip-lines; and FlowRider simulated surfing attractions. These commercials, utilized to entice passengers and their families to choose cruising as their vacation destination do not mention the release of liability form which passengers are quickly shown in a 3 inch x 5 inch electronic keypad, such as one signs at the grocery store checkout counter when paying by credit card, with fine print that purports to release the cruise line from even its own negligence.
Continue Reading The Eleventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Rules that Cruise Lines Cannot Limit Their Liability for Increasingly Dangerous Onboard Activities Such as Rock Climbing Walls, Zip-lining, and Simulated Surfing
CRC 603 and CRC 1103, LLC v. North Carillon, LLC, 2011 WL 3916151 (Fla. 3d DCA Sept. 7, 2011)
This case is a South Florida special, arising out of the purchase of high-end condominium units in 2006. Borrowing a phrase from former Fed. Chairman Alan Greenspan, Judge Vance Salter referred to the period as “an irrationally exuberant real estate market.” At issue were deposits, exceeding $176,000.00 a piece, on two units. Pursuant to Florida Statute §718.202, a purchase contract is voidable (and the deposits recoverable by the buyers) if the developer failed to comply with the statute, which in §1 requires the developer to hold a deposit of up to 10% of the sales price in an escrow account, and in §2 requires any amounts in excess of 10% of the sales price to be held in a “special escrow account. ” The issue in the case was whether a developer could use a single escrow account versus two separate accounts. The trial court had dismissed the buyers’ action against the developer and the escrow agent.