Cruise Ship Accident Lawyer’s Guide To Surviving A Motion For Summary Judgement

The most common case-killing legal defense utilized by cruise lines and the lawyers who defend them is the motion for summary judgment. That legal maneuver is designed to derail the claims of injured passengers by ensuring that their cases never get to a jury. I was taught in law school that summary judgments should rarely be granted. Summary judgment should occur only when the judge looks at all of the facts in a particular case and surmises there is no reasonable dispute over the material facts, and that no jury could possibly disagree should the case be dismissed. In order to defeat a request for summary judgment, the plaintiff must make a strong argument that a jury should decide for the passenger.

Instead, in virtually every case we file on behalf of someone who was hurt while on a cruise, I see the defendant cruise line scurrying to file a motion for summary judgment in the hope that they can convince the judge to dismiss the entire case. Getting past a summary judgment is the first of many hurdles a passenger’s lawsuit against a cruise line has to cross.

Norwegian Cruise Lines is notorious for filing summary judgment motions and has been very successful in having case after case dismissed. Our law firm recently defeated NCL in a motion for summary judgment in the case of Pizzino v. Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL), on behalf of a woman who slipped and fell in a wet hallway. That case is now proceeding to trial.

NCL lost another motion for summary judgment in the case of Marietta Virgillo, a case not handled by our firm, who claims to have fallen and injured her ankle in the bathroom of her cabin aboard the NCL Jewel because of backed-up water on the floor. Ms. Virgillo had notified NCL before taking the cruise that she is disabled and required a handicap-accessible cabin. She sued NCL for negligence, claiming that it had failed to properly design, maintain, and inspect the bathroom in her cabin to ensure that it was reasonably safe for her and other passengers.

Of course, NCL filed a motion for summary judgment, hoping to have the entire case dismissed, arguing that it was not responsible for her fall and injuries because it had no notice of the water on the floor and therefore could not have done anything to prevent it. In fact, that was the only defense NCL offered.

Ms. Virgilio’s lawyers argued that NCL had noticed because the bathroom did not meet the ADA requirements for safety. The floor was too slippery when wet, which made it more dangerous. And most importantly, NCL had participated in designing the bathrooms. Moreover, there is evidence that Ms. Virgillo was not the first person who encountered a problem in that bathroom due to flooding. In fact, there were two other slip and fall incidents in similar handicap-accessible bathrooms and five prior reports of water flooding in the bathroom where she fell.

In analyzing NCL’s motion, the court looked at all of the information in the case–the pleadings, affidavits, depositions, and admissions–to determine whether there was any real dispute as to any of the material facts.

The court found that NCL was in fact on notice of the condition of the dangerous bathroom floor and denied its motion for summary judgment. We believe this was the correct ruling, and we applaud the Court’s decision.

If you slip, trip, or fall during a cruise aboard a Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Disney, Holland America, MSC, Princess, or other major cruise, it is very important to understand that simply because an accident happened, cruise lines do not automatically have a legal obligation to be responsible to pay or compensate the passenger. First negligence must be proved, meaning that the cruise line is either wholly or at least partly responsible for the incident. Negligence is the legal theory utilized to sue cruise lines like NCL, Royal, Carnival, and Celebrity on behalf of passengers hurt aboard their vessels.

Elements To Prove Negligence

The elements to prove negligence under general maritime law are the same as those under common law:

(1) that defendant owed plaintiff a duty;

(2) that defendant breached that duty;

(3) that this breach was the proximate cause of plaintiff’s injury; and

(4) that plaintiff suffered damages.

Obtaining the evidence of a cruise line’s negligence is a complicated and expensive process that requires the assistance of an experienced and aggressive maritime accident attorney. Our law firm is located in Miami, Florida, just a few minutes away from the Port of Miami (the world’s busiest cruise ship terminal) and the corporate headquarters of Carnival Cruise Lines, Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, and others.

Since 1991, our cruise ship accident lawyers have investigated, filed, and successfully resolved thousands of claims on behalf of people from around the world who have gone on a dream vacation aboard a cruise ship, only to have it turn into a nightmare from having slipped, tripped, or fallen on a wet deck, dangerously designed staircase, hidden threshold, or other dangerous condition. If you have been hurt on a cruise, or even if you have suffered sexual assault and battery, we recommend that you contact our law office today for a free and confidential initial consultation regarding your potential claim. We are available 24/7 toll free at 1-866-597-4529 or 305-441-0440, by email at [email protected], SKYPE, or Facetime. We are ready to help you recover compensation for lost wages, medical expenses, travel expenses, loss of enjoyment of the cruise, and pain and suffering. Call us today.