Court: United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida
Case Name: O’Malley v. Royal Caribbean Cruises
Citation: 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 99052
This case involves alleged negligence by the defendant cruise company for a slip and fall sustained on one of their vessels. The plaintiff sued for compensatory damages from physical injuries suffered after falling while roller skating. The plaintiff claimed that the defendant allowed ping pong balls to collect on the roller skating rink, resulting in her falling and breaking her ankle. The plaintiff further alleged there was no barrier to prevent foreign objects from landing on the floor of the rink or a warning sign for ping pong balls falling on the surface. The plaintiff also claimed that the crew of the ship did not remedy the situation or remove the balls. The plaintiff retained a maritime expert witness to support her case.
The Maritime Expert Witness
The maritime expert witness was a former Chief Officer on a cruise ship. In his testimony, the expert explained that passengers on an oceangoing vessel have an increased standard of care to protect them from physical harm. As such, he stated the ping pong balls on the rink created a danger for skaters and per video evidence, the plaintiff fell while trying to remove a ping pong ball. He also claimed the crew had not attempted to remove the ball themselves nor had netting been adjusted to keep the ping pong balls from entering the skating rink. The defendant sought to exclude the plaintiff’s maritime expert witness testimony claiming he was unqualified to testify, and that his methodology was not reliable.
The defendant argued that the expert’s opinion was inadmissible because it did not venture beyond a layperson’s knowledge of the incident and contained conclusory statements. The defendant claimed that the expert had not reviewed any discovery responses in this suit, nor had he inspected the location of the incident. The defendant also pointed out the expert’s conclusion of a breach of the standard of care.
The defendant further contended that the expert was not qualified to testify because his curriculum vitae was not submitted. The only indication toward his qualification was his declaration of having worked as a Chief Officer on passenger ships and having expertise in passenger safety protocols.
The court agreed with the defendant’s argument to exclude the expert’s testimony on the breach of the standard of care because these were legal conclusions. The court further noted that the expert was not qualified to testify because there was no evidence of his employers, length of marine industry employment, level of education and training, or job duties. The court also asserted that there was no evidence of the relation between his qualifications and the case facts.
The court further stated that the expert had not demonstrated how his expertise had informed his opinions. The expert had not performed any analysis nor had his opinions had not been subject to peer review or verification. He only reviewed video footage and deposition testimony for his expert report.
The motion to exclude the maritime expert witness’s testimony was granted.