A shipowner can be held liable under the Maritime Code when its employee neglects a passenger without having previously been notified of a risky situation, a federal appeals court said Monday to overturn a lower court ruling.
Joann Yusko, a passenger on a cruise ship operated by Miami-based NCL (Bahamas) Ltd. was injured when she voluntarily participated in a dance competition while on a 10-day cruise, according to Monday's decision by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta Joann Yusko v. NCL (Bahamas) Ltd.
The ruling said that 64-year-old wife Yusko was spun around by a cruise ship employee who was a professional dancer when she fell backwards and hit her head. When she returned home, she was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury that resulted from her fall, the decision says. Yusko filed a lawsuit against the Cruise Council at the U.S. District Court in Miami, alleging that NCL was negligent through its agents and employees and that the employee had not acted reasonably and in a manner that would protect her.
The district court granted the summary judgment on cruise ships that reject the case and hold a shipowner is not liable to a passenger under negligence law at sea, unless it has an "actual or constructive notice of a risk-taking condition" on a ship, which according to him, the case here
The decision is overturned by a unanimous panel of three judges.
The panel agreed with Yasuko that the cruise ship could be held liable for its employee's negligence based on a theory of substitute liability, even if it could not be held directly liable for an act it did or failed to do, without being notified of a possible risky situation.
Among the cases cited in its decision was the decision of the 1
A lawyer for Yusko, Philip D. Parrish from Philip D. Parrish The PA in Miami, said in a statement, "We are pleased but not surprised that the 11th Circuit clarified that a shipowner like NCL is responsible when the employee negligently neglects a passenger and that the passenger does not have to determine that the cruise ship in advance had reported his employee's negligence.
"This is a sensible decision based on over a century of maritime law."
Cruise line lawyers did not respond to a request for comment. Catalog