Gary Bruce answers a viewer question regarding the liability of cruise ships to passengers who may get injured while onboard. Claims arising out of conduct on cruise ships is governed by maritime law and international treaties – not Georgia law.
However, the same burden of proof applies in establishing that the cruise ship had notice of a problem and failed to correct the problem. There is a recent case out of Savannah, GA involving an injury to a passenger while onboard a cruise ship. The insurance representatives from the cruise line prolonged the case by making false promises to the injured passenger until the time to file the claim had passed, eventually arguing that the language on the back of the ticket for the cruise governed the case. The court allowed the claim, though, because the insurance company’s fraud caused the passengers to not file a timely claim.
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Narrator: Now answering your questions about the law and legal issues this is Legal Break with attorney, Gary Bruce.
Gary: Good morning again. Glad to be here to answer your questions, thank you for continuing to send them to us. This morning we have a question from Pat, in Columbus, who has asked about cruising. I guess it’s a timely question because people do that this time of year, and all times of year. And also because there was a recent Georgia case on it.
Question One: So, Pat asked, “can I sue a cruise ship if something happens while I’m traveling and if so, where would I do that?”
Gary: Good question Pat, thank you. So, it is important to know the answer to that question because cruise ships are governed by maritime law and international treaties, not Georgia law. There was a recent case brought in Savannah where someone had cruised out of Savannah I guess, and they had been injured while on the high seas. They were allowed to bring the case in Savannah, and a jury verdict was rendered in their favor. What happens what I see is people fall when things are spread around, and it’s the same burden of proof really about notice of a problem and failure to create or to fix or warn of the problem, that’s always the problem in a fall. But the twist on the Savannah case was this: The people who have been on the cruise were approached by the insurance company about the fall, and they said they wanted to resolve it. But they kept dragging things out for more than a year, after a year they said, “well too bad we’re not gonna deal with you now anymore because you had a one year window to file a lawsuit.” What happens in these international cases and cruising particularly, the information and the contract on the back of your ticket actually defines the statute of limitations, and the time in which you can bring a case. So they had drug it out the insurance adjuster had drug it out past the one year where the family was unable to pursue any relief. The lawsuit was filed anyway, the lawyers in Savannah took it to the court, and the court said, “no when you’re mislead about these things, when you don’t know, and the negotiations drag on because of actions by the insurance company on behalf of the cruise line, then we are going to allow the lawsuit to proceed. Where there’s fraud in the inducement that kept you from filing your lawsuit, we will allow the lawsuit to proceed.” So, the suit was allowed to go forward despite the fact was after a year was filed, a verdict was rendered based on the negligence of the cruise line, and apparently, the matter was resolved.
Gary: So interesting question, laws are different when you’re cruising. Be careful. Send us your questions: send them by Facebook or email, we’ll be happy to answer them. Thank you very much.