The Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC), an Italian cruise line, was once again able to successfully have another injured passenger’s claim dismissed this week in Federal Court in Miami. Our cruise ship injury law firm did not represent Carol Gorczyca in her lawsuit against the cruise line; but have reviewed the court’s file and found that Ms. Gorczyca sued the cruise line after tripping and falling down a stairway in the Pantheon Theater aboard the MSC Divina in the middle of a 7-night cruise.
Ms. Gorczyca claimed that she tripped and fell due to a loose LED lighting strip that was attached to the metal strip on the steps; and that there was no available handrail to hold onto as she descended the stairs and that MSC violated its duty of exercising reasonable care under the circumstances.
MSC’s defense, ione that most cruise lines assert in similar cases, is that they did not build or design the ship and that it did not have actual or constructive notice of the alleged dangerous condition- in this case, the loose lighting strip on the stairs.((MSC did testify that there were between five and ten “accident reports” from falls in the Pantheon Theater over the two years before Ms. Gorczyca’s fall. But none of these falls occurred on the same step or area as where Ms. Gorczyca fell, and none of them were allegedly due to a loose metal nosing.))
This defense known as the “notice defense” creates a very substantial legal burden for all injured cruise ship passengers to overcome. And the failure to prove “notice” can and will result in the passenger’s claim being dismissed. Therefore, it is very important that this concept is understood- as many of the people we represent and investigate claims on behalf of– do not understand how a cruise line can escape accountability for their slips, trips, and falls. Sadly, this scenario occurs all the time: a person falls on a cruise ship due to (insert dangerous condition here, a spill, a dark staircase, a slippery deck or steep gangway) – but cannot prove that the cruise line knew or should have known about the condition- BEFORE the fall.
This legal concept is often incomprehensible for the people who are suing a cruise line to understand. In other words, how could a cruise line not know of a dangerous condition on its own ship? Proving notice starts by attempting to find out if there are prior similar accidents. And this information is closely guarded and protected by the cruise lines. The only way to even scratch the surface of an answer to this question is to sue the cruise line- and take the deposition(s) of its corporate representative. And only then – can it be asked what the cruise line knew of or should have known of. The problem is that the cruise line’s corporate representatives are often skillfully trained lawyers themselves–that know exactly how to answer the questions. And mostly answer they simply claim they don’t know the answer. This almost always requires a court hearing, additional depositions, ship inspections, and battles each step of the way designed to prevent the injured passenger and his or her lawyer from discovering the truth.
And the federal courts don’t seem to be of much help. For example, we typically ask the cruise lines when we sue them on behalf of our clients to testify about every previous similar incident. They object – “it’s too overbroad”- “it’s too much time”. Instead, they offer to give a useless sliver of information– and later argue that there is no proof that they knew of the condition– and that summary judgment should, therefore, be granted and the entire plaintiff’s case dismissed. And it works- for them, time and time again. Depriving the injured their day in court- stealing justice from people; and protecting and padding the profits of these mega-corporations. All at the expense of the very people they wined and dined and marketed to get to buy cruise ship tickets from them in the first place–their very own passengers.
Spoiler alert- Ms. Gorczyca case was dismissed by the trial judge, even though she offered evidence of other passengers having slipped and fallen on the same steps both before and after her fall. One of which resulted in a prior lawsuit against MSC that was also dismissed on summary judgment.
she appealed and the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeal agreed with the trial judge- citing the same old litany of cases that are used time and time again- “the cruise line didn’t know,” “the cruise line didn’t build the ship,” “the cruise line couldn’t have known” and my favorite- “the cruise line didn’t have to warn the passenger because the danger was open and obvious.” As a lawyer who has practiced personal injury law for over 25 years- I find this last defense the most insulting- because if the dangerous condition was truly so “open and obvious”- the plaintiff would not have fallen.
It is infuriating. These summary judgments deprive plaintiff’s like Ms. Gorcyca her true day in court.-Sure she got a judge to hear her case- but I bet she asked for a jury trial. Look if she had got her case dismissed by a jury- I would have no complaint. That is what our system of justice is designed to do- at least that is how I understood it to be– and how I had hoped it would work. But here- and for many similarly situated individuals who try to take on these giant and powerful cruise lines- many will never get their case beyond the cruise lines defenses, hidden secrets and their case killing motions for summary judgment.
SPEAK TODAY WITH A CRUISE SHIP ACCIDENT LAWYER 1-866-597-4529
If you have been injured on a cruise ship like the MSC Divina, or onboard a Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Disney, Princess, Holland America, Norwegian, Regents Seven Seas, Oceania or other cruise lines- we recommend that you contact a cruise ship accident lawyer in Miami as soon as possible. Our maritime accident attorneys have over 30 years of combined legal experience suing the major cruise lines on behalf of the injured. Call us today toll-free 1-866-597-4529, local 305-441-0440 or email us at [email protected]. We offer anyone injured on a cruise ship, in port, on an excursion, tender boat or gangway a free initial consultation. Call us today, we are ready to help.