Resort Torts Case Law
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In general, every property owner or occupier has a duty to keep its premises in a reasonably safe condition and to protect the invitee from dangers of which the owner is or should be aware or which the owner might reasonably foresee. Newalk v. Florida Supermarkets, Inc., 610 So. 2d 528 (Fla. 3d DCA 1993); Levy v. Home Depot, 518 So. 2d 941 (Fla. 3d DCA 1988);Winseman v. Travelodge Corporation, 205 So.2d 315 (Fla. 2d DCA 1967). This duty applies to hotel owners/operators as the law specifically imposes on hotel owners the duty to keep their premises in a reasonably safe condition free of obstructions or hazards. Goldin v. Lipkind, 49 So.2d 539 (Fla. 1950); Marhefka v. Monte Carlo Management Corp. 358 So.2d 1171 (3rd DCA 1978).
The owner of a hotel, resort, golf resort, amusement or theme park must also give timely notice of latent or concealed perils which are known or would be known but which are unknown to the invitee guest. Post v. Lunney, 261 So.2d 146 (Fla. 1972); Pittman v. Volusia County, 380 So. 2d 1192 (Fla. 5th DCA 1980); and Sambito v. Southland Recreational Enterprises, Inc., 383 So.2d 989 (Fla. 2d DCA 1980).
Of course, the owner/operator of a hotel, resort, amusement of theme park is subject to the law of respondeat superior and actual and apparent agency to the same extent any other employer is. Therefore, they are liable for the negligent acts and omissions of their employees and agents.
Negligent security cases involving hotels, resorts, and amusement and theme parks typically involve criminal assaults. The law governing negligent security cases is largely derivative of general premises liability law. The general statement of law is that one who possesses property (landlord/owner/lessee) owes a duty of care to the public (visitors, guests, invitees) to eliminate and protect them against accidental, negligent, and intentional acts of third parties. See generally, Restatement (Second) of Torts, § 344 (1963) (land possessor entreating members of public to do business is subject to liability to public for physical harm caused by intentionally harmful acts of third persons on property and by land possessor’s failure to exercise reasonable care to provide adequate warning or protection).
The criminal act is not a supervening and intervening cause when the act is foreseeable and the defendant’s negligence permitted the criminal act to occur. See generally, Holley v. Mt. Zion Terrace Apartments, Inc., 382 So. 2d 98 (Fla. 3d DCA 1980) (“We first reject, as entirely fallacious, the defendant's claim that the brutal and deliberate act of the rapist-murderer constituted an "independent intervening cause" which served to insulate it from liability. It is well-established that if the reasonable possibility of the intervention, criminal or otherwise, of a third party is the avoidable risk of harm which itself causes one to be deemed negligent, the occurrence of that very conduct cannot be a superseding cause of a subsequent misadventure).
As the Florida Supreme Court has stated, “...a negligent tortfeasor whose acts or omissions give rise to or permit an intentional tortfeasor’s actions....as a matter of public policy, negligent tortfeasors such as in the instant case should not be permitted to reduce their liability by shifting it to another tortfeasor whose intentional criminal conduct was a foreseeable result of their negligence....” Merrill Crossings Associates v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 705 So. 2d 560 (Fla. 1997).
Different types of premises can give rise to different duties. Here are some examples:
A hotel “had a non-delegable duty to guests to provide a reasonably safe premises, including reasonable protection against third party criminal attacks.” U.S. Security Services Corp. v. Ramada Inn, 665 So. 2d 268 (Fla. 3d DCA 1996) (landowner can contract out performance of non-delegable duty, but he is still legally responsible)
The law imposes on hotels, apartments, innkeepers, etc. the duty to keep their buildings and premises in a condition reasonably safe for the use of their guests. The duty of maintaining safe premises cannot be delegated to another. Goldin v. Lipkind, 40 So. 2d 539, 541 (Fla. 1950)
Hotel owner’s actual or constructive knowledge, based on past experience, of the likelihood of disorderly conduct by third persons in general that may be a safety risk is sufficient to establish foreseeability. Hardy v. Pier 99 Motor Inn, 664 So. 2d 1095 (Fla. 1st DCA 1995)
The duty to provide reasonably safe premises is non-delegable, so even though hotel/motel may contract with an independent contractor to provide required security for guests, the hotel/motel is nonetheless vicariously liable for any negligence of the security service. U.S. Security Services Corp. v. Ramada Inn, 665 So. 2d 268 (Fla. 3d DCA 1995)
Self service gas station standard of care may include duty to protect customer from known ongoing attack. Butala v. Automated Petroleum and Energy Co., 656 So. 2d 173 (Fla. 2d DCA 1995)(plaintiff attacked by another customer, who poured gas on him and ignited it)
Bars and Nightclubs:
Duty may arise on part of bar where there is chronic, long-standing violence at bar, the management fails to have proper security, and injury ensues. Adelsperger v. Riverboat, Inc., 573 So. 2d 80 (Fla. 2d DCA 1990)(police officer injured – application of exception to ‟fireman’s rule”)
If a bar proprietor knew or should have known of the likelihood of disorderly conduct by third parties which might endanger invitees, foreseeability exists. Allen v. Babrab, Inc., 438 So. 2d 356 (Fla. 1983); see also Stevens v. Jefferson, 436 So. 2d 33 (Fla. 1983)(plaintiff need not show that particular assailant’s propensity for violence)
A bar or saloon, although not an insurer of a patron’s safety, has a duty to ‟use every reasonable effort to maintain order among the patrons, employees, and those who come upon the premises” and are likely to produce disorder or cause injury. Priester v. Grand Aerie of the Fraternal Order of Eagles, Inc., 688 So. 2d 376 (Fla. 3d DCA 1997)
Evidence supported jury verdict that due to inadequate security, it was foreseeable that rowdy patrons would cause injury to others. Hendry v. Zelaya, 841 So. 2d 572 (Fla. 3d DCA 2003); see also Hall v. Billy Jack’s, 458 So. 2d 760 (Fla. 1983); Holiday Inns, Inc. v. Shelburne, 576 So. 2d 322 (Fla. 4th DCA 1991); Smith v. Hooligan’s Pub & Oyster Bar, 753 So. 2d 596 (Fla. 3d DCA 2000); Daly v. Denny’s, Inc., 694 So. 2d 775 (Fla. 4th DCA 1997); Crown Liquors of Broward v. Evenrud, 436 So. 2d 927 (Fla. 2d DCA 1983).
Just a few examples of cases in which Leesfield Scolaro has represented clients against hotels/resorts/amusement and theme parks:
- Hot coffee spilled by waitress at theme park into lap of restaurant patron
- Slip and fall on wet marble floors in hotel entrance without any wet floor warning
- Wrongful death resulting from burns at Carribean hotel
- Honeymoon wrongful death due to gas leak at resort hotel in the Dominican Republic
- Suit against Island of Jamaica for failure to provide adequate medical care for tourists
- Trip and fall on hotel entrance sidewalk due to obstruction
- Brain damage to child due to hot tub overheating caused by defective thermostat
- Bicycle accident causing injuries to Key West tourist
- Tourist assaulted at motel due to inadequate lighting and security
- Child injured from untrained horse at riding stable
- Malfunctioning suction jet at spa causing severe internal injuries to spa guest
- Sexual assault of child at theme park by park employee
- Sexual assault on hotel property
- Assault and battery in hotel parking garage
- Slip and fall on outdoor hotel stairway
- Collapse of hammock at resort
- Carbon monoxide poisoning due to faulty equipment at hotel in Key West
- Fall on resort stairway due to excessive height gaps between steps
Entire volumes could be written regarding torts involving cruise ships, motorboats, and jet skis. This outline can only touch on a few of the areas of significance.
In the United States, claims for personal injuries and deaths that occur on or near navigable waters generally fall within a court’s admiralty jurisdiction and require the application of substantive maritime law, which is federal law.
Federal maritime law provides that “an owner of a ship in navigable waters owes to all who are on board for purposes not inimical to his legitimate interests the duty of exercising reasonable care under the circumstance of each case.” See Kermarec v. Compagnie Generale Transatlantique, 358 U.S. 625, 632 (1958); Tittle v. Aldacosta, 533 F.2d 752 (5th Cir. 1977); Everett v. Carnival Cruise Lines, Inc., 912 F.2d 1355, 1358 (11th Cir. 1990); Kornberg v. Carnival Cruise Lines, Inc., 741 F.2d 1332, 1334 (11th Cir. 1984). Because federal maritime law only applies if the injury or death occurred in navigable waters, the location of the incident is of crucial significance.
In 1920, the United States Congress enacted the Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA), which provides a remedy for wrongful death which had not previously existed under general maritime law. DOHSA provides that whenever the death of a person shall be caused by wrongful act, neglect, or default occurring on the high seas beyond a marine league ( three nautical miles) from the shore of any State, or the District of Columbia, or the Territories or dependencies of the United States, the personal representative for the decedent may maintain a suit for damages in the district courts of the United States, in admiralty. 46 U.S.C. app. §§761-767. Unfortunately what Congress gave on the one hand, it took away on the other. DOHSA only allows for the recovery of pecuniary losses actually suffered by the survivors. Miles v. Apex Marine Corp., 498 U.S. 19 (1990).
Several cases have addressed the situation where an accident occurs on the high seas but the death occurs elsewhere. In Howard v. Crystal Cruises, Inc., 41 F.3d 527(9th Cir. 1994), a passenger sustained a laceration while disembarking from a cruise ship in Mexican territorial waters. He was first treated on the vessel and then underwent surgery in Acapulco to repair the injury. He returned home to Sacramento and died within a month from blood clots. His widow filed a wrongful death suit against the operator of the cruise ship. Finding it “undisputed that Howard died as the result of a wrongful act that occurred ‘beyond a marine league from the shore of any State,” the court applied DOHSA as the exclusive remedy.
In Motts v.M/V GREEN WAVE, 210 F.3d 565 (5th Cir. 2000) the Fifth Circuit held that DOHSA’s reach “is not limited to negligent acts that actually occur on the high seas.” Instead, the place negligence or wrongful act occurs is not decisive. The place injury occurs and the function the injured person was performing are more significant.” Based on its review of the case law, the Fifth Circuit reasoned that the cruise ship’s actions invoke DOHSA jurisdiction even though all of the ship’s actions and the decedent’s death occurred onshore.” The Fifth Circuit concluded that the location of the accident determines whether DOHSA applies. “That said, as long as the decedent is still on the high seas at the time the negligence begins, DOHSA must apply to post-accident negligence.”
Courts have applied DOHSA to a variety of accidents in foreign territorial waters, including the death of a snorkeler from a heart attack in Mexican territorial waters during an expedition off the beaches of Cozumel, Moyer v. Klosters Rederi, 645 F. Supp. 620, 1987 (S.D. Fla. 1986); the death of a snorkeler in Jamaican waters when the decedent was struck by the propeller of a twenty-two foot motorboat; Kunreuther v. Outboard Marine Corp., 757 F. Supp. 633, (E.D. Pa 1991); and the death of a cruise ship passenger of complications from an injury sustained on a gangway of a vessel in Mexican territorial waters. Howard v. Crystal Cruises Inc., 41 F.3d 527, (9th Cir. 1994).
In one of our firm’s recent cases, DOHSA was also applied to the death of a scuba diver in Bahamian territorial waters which was the result of cruise ship negligence. The significance of the applicability of DOHSA in all of these cases is obvious. The measure of damages set forth in DOHSA, 46 App. U.S.C.A. §762, authorizing recovery by a decedent’s survivors for their pecuniary loss, applies in the case of a death on the high seas, and survivors may not recover additional damages under general maritime law for loss of society or pre-death pain and suffering.
In re Horizon Cruises Litigation, 101 F. Supp. 2d 204, 213 (S.D.N.Y. 2000) and In re Plaquemine Towing Corp., 190 F. Supp. 2d 889, 892-94 (M.D. La. 2002) both set forth an analytical framework for deciding the proper application of damages in claims brought under the general maritime law. The Plaquemine court stated: A court must first evaluate the factual setting of the case and determine what statutory remedial measures, if any, apply in that context. If the situation is covered by a statute like the Jones Act or DOHSA, and the statute informs and limits the available damages, the statute directs and delimits the recovery available under the general maritime law as well. The general maritime law will not expand the available damages when Congress has spoken to the relief it deems appropriate or inappropriate.
A litigant may also be able to circumvent DOHSA in the following situation: Suppose for example that a cruise ship passenger suffers from a negligent act while on board the cruise ship, but is then transported from the cruise ship to the nearest foreign country for medical care, and subsequently dies on land from the lack of proper medical care both on board the ship and on land. DOHSA might apply to the wrongful death of this passenger, since the negligence began while on the cruise ship. However, the decedent’s spouse, while on land, in witnessing her spouse go through such horrific pain and trauma, may likely bring a claim against the carrier for negligent infliction of emotional distress since the tort occurred on land. The spouse in this situation might be able to recover for her distress, although her deceased spouse’s damages would be capped by DOHSA.
As a common carrier, a cruise line has an obligation to use the highest degree of care that is consistent with its mode of transport to ensure the safety of its passengers. This duty is not limited to the journey itself, but also requires carriers to provide a safe means of boarding and exiting a conveyance. See e.g. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority v. Reading, 674 A.2d 44 (Md.App. 1996). Moreover, numerous cases deal specifically with the duty of vessels to provide safe gangways. Bellocchio v. Italia Flotte Riunite Cosulich Line, 84 F.2d 975 (2d Cir. 1936). Tullis v. Fidelity and Casualty Co. of New York, 397 F.2d 22 (5th Cir. 1968); Marshall v. Westfal-Larsen & Co., 259 F.2d 575 (9th Cir. 1958); White v. United States of America 53 F.3d 43 (4th Cir. 1995), Florida Fuels, Inc. v. Citgo Petroleum Corp. 6 F.3d 330 (5th Cir. 1993) and Romero Reyes v. Marine Enterprises, Inc. 494 F.2d 866 (1974); Russell v. City Ice & Fuel Co., 539 F.2d 1318 (4th Cir. 1976); Kermarec v. Compagnie Generale Trans-Atlantic, 358 U.S. 625, 79 s.Ct 406 (1959); Marshall v. Westfal-Larsen Co., 259 F.2d 575 (9th Cir. 1958); Meyers v. M/V Eugenio C, 842 F. 2d 815 (5th Cir. 1988); Urian v. Milstead, 473 F.2d 948 (8th Cir. 1973).
The law provides that the duty of the carrier to provide for safe ingress and egress, as well as transportation, extends to the use of tender vessels. Thus, a carrier that contracts to take a passenger on a cruise stopping at a designated foreign port has a duty if the vessel anchors in that harbor to provide him with safe transportation, under adequate supervision, to and from the dock. See Samuelov v. Carnival Cruise Lines, Inc., 2003 WL 22849633 (Fla. 3d DCA 2003).Incidents Which Occur In State Territorial Waters
In Yamaha Motor Corp., U.S.A. v. Calhoun, 516 U.S. 199 (1996) the Court held that a state wrongful death and survival statute could supplement federal remedies when a nonseaman’s death occurred in territorial waters. Yamaha involved a twelve-year old who was killed in a jet ski accident on a beachfront resort in Puerto Rico. Finding that Congress had not prescribed a comprehensive tort regime for territorial waters, the Court held that the remedy for wrongful death was governed by state law. Thus, Florida’s wrongful death statute governs the damages in a case where the incident causing the death occurs in navigable waters but which are less than 3 nautical miles from shore.
By their nature, most Florida jet ski incidents typically occur in state territorial waters. (Of course, jet ski accidents also occur outside of the U.S. as well). If the incident does not occur on navigable waters, federal maritime law does not apply. Instead, Florida law of personal injury and/or wrongful death applies.
Even if, however, the jet ski incident occurs in territorial waters, if the location is in navigable waters, maritime law still applies. See e.g., Tassinari v. Key West Water Tours, L.C., 2007 WL 942093 (S.D. Fla. March 29, 2007)(Tassinari also includes a discussion of claims for negligent infliction of emotional distress under maritime law). For a discussion of the invalidity of a release signed by a parent on behalf of a child for jet ski rental from cruise operator in the Bahamas, see In re the Complaint of Royal Carribean Cruises, Ltd., 459 F. Supp.2d 1275(S.D. Fla., 2006).
Florida’s Legislature has declared all vessels of whatever classification, to be dangerous instrumentalities in this state. Fla. Stat. § 327.32. The statute imposes of the operators of all vessels the highest degree of care in order to prevent injuries to others. This standard of care is higher than that applied under maritime law, and only applies in cases to which maritime law does not govern. See Rindfleisch v. Carnival Cruise Lines, Inc., 498 So.2d 488, 490 (Fla. 3d DCA 1986); Bradley v. Guy, 438 So. 2d 854 (Fla. 5th DCA 1983). Jet skis and air boats are considered vessels. In the Matter of the Complaint of Everglades Island Boat Tours, 2007 WL 1200961 (M.D. Fla. April 23, 2007); Keys Jet Ski, Inc. v. Kays, 893 F.2d 1225, 1230 (11th Cir. 1990).
What the Legislature gave with one hand, it took away with the other. Fla. Stat. § 327.32 limits liability for the reckless or careless operation of a vessel to the operator in immediate charge of the vessel. Liability will not be imposed upon the owner of the vessel unless he is either the operator of the vessel or he is present in the vessel when the injury occurs. This statute does not exonerate the absent boat owner for his own direct negligence in entrusting the boat to an incompetent operator. Boland v. Suncoast Rent-A-Scooter, 439 So. 2d 916 (Fla. 2d DCA 1983); Cashell v. Hart, 143 So. 2d 559 (Fla. 2d DCA 1962).Cruise Ship Medical Care
Currently, one of the hottest topics of debate in the United States courts concerns the nature and scope of the law governing cruise ship medical care. For the past 100 years, most courts in the United States have followed the same basic tenant, i.e., when a carrier undertakes to employ a doctor aboard a ship for its passengers’ convenience, the carrier has a basic duty to employ a doctor who is competent and duly qualified.
If the carrier breeches its duty, it is responsible for its own negligence. If the doctor is negligent in treating a passenger, that negligence will not be imputed to the carrier. Barbetta v. S/S Bermuda Star, 848 F.2d 1364, 1371 (5th Cir. 1988); The Great Northern, 251 F. 826, 830-32 (9th Cir. 1918); Di Bonaventure v. Home Lines, Inc., 536 F. Supp. 100, 103-04 (E.D. Penn. 1982); Cimini v. Italia Crociere Int’l S.P.A., 1981 AMC 2674, 2677 (S.D.N.Y. 1981); Amdur v. Zim Israel Navigation Co., 310 F.Supp. 1033, 1042-43 (S.D.N.Y. 1969).
A shipowner owes its injured passengers the “duty to exercise ‘reasonable care to furnish such aid and assistance as ordinarily prudent persons would render under similar circumstances,’” it is not legally obligated to provide a physician aboard its vessel. Barbetta v. S/S Bermuda Star, 848 F.2d 1364, 1371 (5th Cir. 1988). Accordingly, where it does provide a physician, the shipowner only has a duty to use reasonable care in the selection of such physician.
Under federal maritime law, shipowners are most often not held vicariously liable for the negligence of the ship’s doctors in treating passengers. See Barbetta, 848 F.2d at 1372; Cummiskey v. Chandris, 895 F.2d 107, 108 (2d Cir. 1990); Nanz v. Costa Cruises, Inc., (S.D. Fla. 1991), aff’d 932 F.2d 977 (11th Cir. 1992); Jane Doe v. Celebrity Cruises, Inc., 145 F. Supp. 2d 1337, 13454-46 (S.D. Fla. 2001); Gillmor v. Caribbean Cruise Line, Ltd., 789 F. Supp. 488, 491 (D.P.R. 1992); Hilliard v. Kloster Cruise, Ltd., 1991 AMC 314, 316-17 (E.D. Va. 1990); Mascolo v. Costa Crociere, 726 F. Supp. 1285, 1286 (S.D. Fla. 1989).
In recent years however, a few federal and state courts have declined to follow the traditional rule that a carrier will not be held liable for negligent treatment rendered by its on-board doctor. A federal district court first called the rule into question in 1959 in Nietes v. American President Lines, Ltd., 188 F. Supp. 219, 221 (N.D. Cal. 1959) where the court refused the defendant shipowner’s request to follow what it considered an outdated and “ancient rule” and dismiss, a wrongful death suit brought against the defendant pursuant to the doctrine of respondeat superior.
However, in Nietes, the court found the ship’s onboard physician to be an employee of the shipowner. No court has not yet decided whether a shipowner may be held liable for an independent contractor physician, although the case of Fairley v. Royal Cruise Line, Ltd. 1993 A.M.C. 1633, 1634 (S.D. Fla. 1993) did address the issue by attempting to use the doctrine of apparent agency.
In Fairley, the plaintiff sued Royal Cruise Line for negligence and negligent hiring arising out of the plaintiff’s injury and subsequent treatment by the shipboard’s doctor, which occurred while aboard the ship. In denying Royal’s motion to dismiss, Judge Stanley Marcus discussed the potential, under certain circumstances, for an apparent agency theory of recovery. The court stated: if the ship actually held the doctor out to be its agent, under circumstances suggesting that the doctor was treating the Plaintiff on behalf of the carrier, and the Plaintiff so relied to her detriment, then the Defendant could be liable for the ship doctor’s malpractice.
Apparent agency was recently acknowledged as a viable claim, assuming all of the elements of apparent agency were properly alleged and could be proven, by the district court in Suter v. Carnival Corp., 2007 WL 46623144 (S.D. Fla. May 14, 2007). In that case, Judge Altonaga stated that:
Permitting a claim of vicarious liability based on the theory of apparent agency would not disturb those maritime principles [of harmony and uniformity] because cruise lines are well aware that if they affirmatively hold shipboard doctors out to passengers as their agents, they effectively lose their immunity from liability from any negligent acts of their shipboard doctors. Indeed, courts upholding the majority rule enunciated in Barbetta have either permitted or alluded to the possibility of a passenger raising a claim against a cruise line for injury sustained due to the acts of a shipboard doctor on the theory of apparent agency.
Suter, at * 6.
Even though the Fairley court could not hold for the passenger on the issue of imposing vicarious liability to the shipowner–the majority rule precluded such a finding–the court did agree that where the cruise line reaps the benefits of carrying a doctor aboard its vessels, there may be circumstances where it should be required to bear the consequences of negligent medical treatment by that doctor.
The federal district court in South Florida again refused to dismiss a claim for medical negligence of a ship’s doctor in Huntley v. Carnival Corp., 307 F.Supp.2d 1372 (S.D. Fla. 2004). On Carnival’s motion to dismiss, Judge King held that the cruise line was subject to vicarious liability for the ship doctor’s alleged medical negligence in treating a passenger. He found particularly persuasive Judge Marcus’ opinion from Fairley that the cruise line has made an economic decision that it is most cost effective for the cruise line and most attractive to prospective passengers for it to employ a shipboard doctor with a well-equipped shipboard infirmary in order to discharge its duty to provide reasonable medical attention under the circumstances. [Huntley further relied upon the decisions in Nietes and Carlisle v. Carnival. See discussion below]
Departures from traditional maritime law concerning the shipowner’s liability with regard to medical care occurred in the Florida state court decision of Carlisle v. Carnival Corp, 864 So.2d 1 (Fla. DCA 2003), rev’d, 2007 WL 471172 (Feb. 15, 2007), followed by the Illinois state court decision of Mack v. Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd., 838 N.E.2d 80, 2005 Ill. App. LEXIS 1035. These cases are the first since Nietes to hold that a passenger injured by the negligent treatment of a cruise line’s on-board physician can maintain a vicarious liability cause of action against the cruise line.
A similar situation as the one in Carlisle occurred in Mack v. Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. The court stated: “While we acknowledge that we are bound by federal statute to follow federal maritime law in this matter (see U.S.C. § 1333(1) (2004); Offshore Logistics, Inc., 477 U.S. at 222-23, 91 L. Ed. 2d at 189-90, 106 S. Ct. At 2494), Nietes and the federal cases that have followed its reasoning and holding indicate that the question of whether a vicarious liability claim against a shipowner for the negligent treatment by its on-board doctor will stand under maritime law is not settled at this time. Accordingly, for the reasons stated above, we elect to follow the holding of the federal courts in Nietes, Huntley,and Fairley.” Despite such promising decisions, several cruise carriers have made significant legal changes with regard to the passenger/carrier relationship in response to these recent holdings.
Unfortunately, and to the extreme detriment of the cruising public, the Florida Supreme Court overturned the Carlisle decision citing the traditional maritime precedents. The Florida Court’s final statement shows its frustration with the precedential maritime law:
As earlier stated, we find merit in the plaintiff's argument and the reasoning of the district court. However, because this is a maritime case, this Court and the Florida district courts of appeal must adhere to the federal principles of harmony and uniformity when applying federal maritime law. At the time the instant case was decided by the Third District, with the exception of Nietes, the federal maritime law uniformly held that a ship owner is not vicariously liable for the medical negligence of the shipboard physician.
Carnival Corp. v. Carlisle, 953So. 2d 461, 470 (Fla. 2007).
Cruise passengers have not fared any better when they have tried to assert breach of contract claims against cruise lines for failing to provide competent medical care. In at least two cases from the Southern District of Florida, the district courts have dismissed claims for inadequate or incompetent medical care which were raised as contract claims. In Doonan v. Carnival Corp., 404 F. Supp.2d 1367, 1373 (S.D. Fla. 2005), the Court dismissed the breach of contract claim, explaining that “maritime law will not support a passenger’s breach of contract claim unless there is an express provision in the contract of carriage guaranteeing safe passage.” The Doonan opinion was cited as authority in Barnett v. Carnival Corp., 2007 WL 1746900 (S.D. Fla. June 15, 2007).