Cruise Companies a Have Duty to Inform Passengers of Dangers at Excursion Sites

Some years ago, we blogged about at terrible tragedy which befell a family as it took an excursion from a Carnival cruise ship. As the Chaparro family was traveling with the execution company on the island of St. John, the vehicle in which the family was traveling passed by an area known for gang violence. Suddenly a shootout broke out between rival gangs which were attending a funeral. One of the bullets from the shootout struck 15-year-old Liz Marie Perez Chaparro, who had been on the cruise with her family to celebrate her quinceañera. Liz Marie died from her injuries.

According to a Miami New Times write-up about the case, Liz Marie’s father had been sold the excursion by a Carnival employee as he sat drinking during the first days aboard the ship. What the Carnival employee did not inform him was that St. Thomas was currently undergoing a serious upswing of violence, which had seen 43 murders on the tiny island with a population of just 100,000.

The Perez family sued Carnival, claiming that the company owed them the duty of informing them of the known dangers at the excursion site. Predictably, Carnival objected. But the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals found that the company does, in fact, owe such a duty to its passengers, writing:

“More specifically, a Florida intermediate appellate court has said that a cruise line owes its passengers a duty to warn of known dangers beyond the point of debarkation in places where passengers are invited or reasonably expected to visit. Carlisle v. Ulysses Line Ltd., S.A.,475 So.2d 248, 251 (Fla.Dist.Ct.App.1985). In spite of Carnival’s objection that Carlisle is an improper expansion of a shipowner’s liability to passengers, the Southern District of Florida has often acknowledged and applied the standard articulated in Carlisle.”