Maritime Expert Advises on Cruise Ship Slip and Fall

Kristin Casler

Written by
— Updated on April 9, 2018

Maritime expert advises on cruise ship slip and fallA maritime admiralty and ocean expert advises on a case involving a passenger who sustained a serious injury after falling while aboard a cruise ship. Plaintiff participated in a breast cancer walk-a-thon aboard a Caribbean cruise ship. The ship suddenly surged toward the end of the walk, causing the plaintiff to lose her balance and fall. She said the sea had seemed calm before the sudden surge. She suffered injuries and filed a negligence claim against the cruise ship company for failing to provide a safe environment for the event.

Question(s) For Expert Witness

  • 1. Were conditions safe to hold a walk-a-thon?
  • 2. What procedures should have been followed?
  • 3. Did the defendant’s actions cause the plaintiff’s injuries?

Expert Witness Response

The combined wind wave / swell height could well have surpassed 8 meters intermittently under the conditions and would have made walking on the vessel difficult, especially at the starboard quarter; where given the converging angles of swell and sea there would have been even more vessel movement. This was the approximate area where the plaintiff fell. Additionally, she would have just transited the stern a distance of 100 or more feet in a counter clockwise direction and made a turn that would have brought her ninety degrees to her previous direction of travel. The state of converging swell and sea along with the increased vessel movement in that area was the cause of her fall.

There was no specific safety protocol addressed in the ship’s manual for this event, an event which had been ongoing on all of the defendant’s ships since 2006. Such protocols are easily established and tested, and it is also a simple matter to impose specific parameters for marginal conditions. That none apparently exist amounts to negligence.

There were no communications with the bridge team regarding weather conditions and other environmental factors that might impact the decision to hold this event. The sea and wind conditions at the time of this event would lead a prudent mariner to have canceled the event. Lack of specific protocols left such an important decision regarding safety of passengers in no one’s hands. The individuals directly charged with organizing this event had no specific maritime training regarding assessment of environmental factors, thereby lacking in the critical judgment necessary to conclude whether or not the event could be held safely.

Apparently, one passenger fell before the plaintiff during this event; but no attempt was made to warn or caution passengers participating in this event, or to call off the event. I find incongruous, the statement in a deposition that essentially asks guests to use their own judgment in determining the safety of an event. This approaches the absurd, in that this is asking untrained, non -maritime passengers to assess such things as sea state, weather conditions, and other environmental factors. That is tantamount to a complete abnegation of responsibility. This, again harkens back to the lack of involvement on the part of the bridge team and the apparent lack of protocols in this regard.

Records of the monthly safety meeting held after this incident indicated that 20 passenger related accidents occurred during the previous 30 days and that no actions taken or recommendations made by the safety committee could have prevented any of these accidents. Given such a statement and given the apparent lack of risk assessment and protocols for this event, such a statement is infers negligence. The lack of log entries regarding accidents, along with cursory accident investigation and reporting belies a culture of complacency and abnegation of responsibility for the safety and well being of passengers.

Had protocols been in place and been acted upon; there is no doubt in my mind that given the sea and wind state and resultant vessel motion, that this particular event would have been canceled. From the time a ship lets go its lines and embarks upon a voyage, until the time such vessel returns from such voyage, it is the duty of the master and his subordinates to mitigate risk wherever and however possible. Sadly, this was not the case aboard this ship.

The expert is a ship’s captain.

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