Cruise ship passengers who are injured while in port on excursions sold by cruise lines face a very difficult legal battle to hold those cruise lines accountable for their accidents. Take for example the case of Gary Reming and his wife Patricia, who were passengers on a Holland America cruise from San Diego to Mexico. During the cruise, they purchased an excursion tour for the Port of Mazatlan, Mexico, operated by a Mexican company called Tropical Tours. The tour took them to a place called the Cliff Diver’s Plaza, where Mr. Reming fell and sustained very serious injuries when the pavement he had been walking on collapsed beneath him
Mr. Reming, who was represented by another law firm, filed a personal injury case under federal maritime law against Holland America in federal court in the state of Washington, claiming that Holland America was negligent. He asserted various theories of liability, including a claim for negligent misrepresentation and deceit. The trial court judge dismissed his entire claim after Holland America moved for summary judgment. Mr. Reming appealed, and the dismissal was affirmed, meaning that he received nothing from Holland America for his accident and injuries.((Reming v. Holland America Line Inc. United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit. October 14, 2016 662 Fed.Appx. 507 2016 WL 5956740 14-35249.))
Passenger injury cases against cruise lines like Holland America are governed by maritime law–even when the accident occurs off the ship, in port, and on an excursion. In these types of cases, a cruise line operator’s legal responsibility is to “exercise reasonable care to the passenger under the circumstances.” The trial court found that Holland America was entitled to this standard because walking on pavement is not something that is unique to maritime travel, and accordingly Holland America did not have a duty to warn Mr. Reming of the crumbling pavement–unless it was shown that Holland America had either actually known or should have known that the payment was in a dangerous condition.
Mr. Reming argued that Holland America should have known of the risky condition because of a story in a local Mazatlan newspaper that had reported the plaza was crumbling months before the accident. However, Mr. Reming provided no legal authority to prove that cruise ship operators have a duty to review the newspapers from every port of call. Mr. Reming also argued that a cliff diver in Mazatlan knew of the dangers as did the tour’s guide. However, the local cliff diver and guide were not shown to be connected with either Tropical Tours or Holland America. Therefore, the court opined that it was unreasonable to expect that Holland America should have had this information prior to selling the tour.
Instead, Holland America testified that it completes a daily analysis of the security and safety of their ports of call by reviewing information from major international media sources as well as the US Department of State, along with information provided by Carnival, its parent corporation. None of that information suggested that the streets of Mazatlan were unsafe for their passengers.
Additionally, Mr. Reming alleged that Holland America was negligent in selecting Tropical Tours as a vendor. To prevail on this allegation, one must prove (1) that the tour operator “lacked competence in providing reasonably safe” excursions, and that Holland America (2) “knew, or in the exercise of reasonable care should have known, of this deficiency.”((L. B. Foster Co. v. Hurnblad, 418 F.2d 727, 730 (9th Cir. 1969). )) The court record reveals that there was no evidence that the operator was negligently selected in light of the fact that it had provided tours to Holland America for more than 30 years without incident.
Lastly, as his claim for negligent misrepresentation/deceit. Mr. Reming would have had to prove that Holland America had provided false information and that he relied on that information. Mr. Reming contended that Holland America’s website stated that (1) it operates its own tours and (2) that the tours provide the highest level of safety. As to the first claim Mr. Reming testified that he had assumed, regardless of the website’s claim, that Holland America did not actually operate the Mazatlán tour. Therefore, he could not prove that he relied on the information on the website. Moreover, the record does not show that the second statement was in any way false. One incident of injury does not make the tour categorically unsafe.
This case magnifies the difficulty of holding a cruise line legally responsible for an injury that occurs in port on an excursion. While these cases are difficult to win, they are not impossible. If you have been injured while on a cruise, in port, on a tour or excursion, it is important that you consult with an experienced maritime accident attorney as soon as possible.
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Suing a cruise line, specifically, suing Holland America, requires the assistance of a legal team well versed in the complications of federal maritime law. Since 1991, Aronfeld Trial Lawyers has practiced cruise accident law and successfully represented passengers from around the world in cruise ship accident injury claims. If you have been injured because of a wet and slippery deck, a dangerous staircase, or an unmarked threshold–or in any other type of accident while aboard a cruise ship–call our office today and speak with an experienced maritime accident attorney.
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