Slip and Fall on Carnival Cruise Ship

Cruise lines often seek to defeat passenger negligence claims by filing motions for summary judgment. These motions ask the court to rule in favor of the Defendant without a trial and throw the Plaintiff’s case out.  A recent order by United States District Court Judge, Cecilia Altonaga, explains how a cruise line Defendant’s motion for summary judgment can be defeated in a cruise line slip and fall case.

Cruise lines argue more often than not that they never knew about the dangerous condition before a passenger gets hurt. In Nathans v. Carnival Corporation, Judge Altonaga rejected Carnival Cruise Line’s argument that it lacked knowledge of the slippery nature of its pool deck flooring where the Plaintiff slipped and fell.  Judge Altonaga cited Carnival’s daily newsletter which contained warnings about the pool deck:

Here, the warning in the Newsletter states “[o]utdoor decks can become slippery due to humidity and pool water.  Please help prevent slip-and-fall accidents by using caution crossing the decks and by drying off after using the pool.”  (Newsletter 12 (alteration added)).

Nathans v. Carnival Corp., 17-23686-CIV, 2018 WL 6308694, at *3 (S.D. Fla. Aug. 31, 2018).

The Court concluded that:

Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, the Court finds the warning in the Newsletter creates a genuine issue of material fact as to whether Defendant had actual or constructive notice the Carnival Pride’s deck could be dangerously slippery.  See Rioux v. City of Atlanta, 520 F.3d 1269, 1274 (11th Cir. 2008) (holding courts “must view all the evidence and all factual inferences reasonably drawn from the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party” (internal quotation marks and citation omitted)).

Nathans v. Carnival Corp., 17-23686-CIV, 2018 WL 6308694, at *4 (S.D. Fla. Aug. 31, 2018).

Carnival also argued that the water on the pool deck which caused the Plaintiff to slip and fall was an open and obvious condition. Carnival contended that no warning was needed. But Judge Altonaga ruled in the Plaintiff’s favor, rejecting this argument as well. The Court disagreed with Carnival for two reasons:

The Court identifies two disputed issues of fact making it impossible to conclude as a matter of law the wet and slippery deck was an open and obvious hazard: (1) whether a reasonable person would have or should have known to anticipate a wet and slippery deck; and (2) whether the deck was so “unreasonably slippery when wet . . . that a reasonable person would [not] have known . . . [it was] as slippery as it actually was.”  Frasca, 654 F. App’x at 952–53 (alterations added); see also Thomas, 203 F. Supp. 3d at 1194 (“The Court finds there are disputed issues of material fact regarding whether a puddle consisting of a clear, gooey, slimy substance on a deck is an open and obvious danger.”).

Nathans v. Carnival Corp., 17-23686-CIV, 2018 WL 6308694, at *4 (S.D. Fla. Aug. 31, 2018).

Next, Carnival argued that the Plaintiff caused her own fall by tripping.  But again, the Court sided with the Plaintiff and said that the question of what caused Plaintiff to fall must be considered by the jury. 

Lastly, Carnival argued that the Court should grant summary judgment because it satisfied its obligation to provide warnings to the Plaintiff about the slippery pool deck. The Court disagreed:

Plaintiff insists “the warning cone nearest the pool [was] many feet from where [she] actually slipped and fell.”  (Resp. ¶ 96 (alterations added)).  Plaintiff again cites to Frasca, this time for the proposition that a fact-finder must determine whether or not the warning signs were sufficient under the circumstances.  (See id. ¶ 95 (citing 654 F. App’x at 955)).  Again, the Court agrees.   “‘Whether adequate efforts were made to communicate a warning to the ultimate user and whether the warning if communicated was adequate are uniformly held questions for the jury.’”  Magazine v. Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd., No. 12-23431-CIV, 2014 WL 1274130, at *4 (S.D. Fla. Mar. 27, 2014) (quoting Stapleton v. Kawasaki Heavy Indus., Ltd., 608 F.2d 571, 573 (5th Cir. 1979)); see also Frasca, 654 F. App’x at 954 (“[A] fact-finder will determine whether such warnings were sufficient under the circumstances.” (alteration added)).

Nathans v. Carnival Corp., 17-23686-CIV, 2018 WL 6308694, at *5 (S.D. Fla. Aug. 31, 2018).

In the end, Judge Altonaga’s order rejected all of the cruise line’s arguments and illustrated how a Plaintiff can overcome a cruise line’s motion for summary judgment in a passenger injury case.