Is the cruise line negligent in this case?

A female passenger descends a carpeted staircase aboard a cruise ship. She slips on a wet substance, falls and fractures her ankle. She sues the cruise line alleging negligence on the theory that the cruise line was negligent in allowing the wet substance on the stairs. Okay, so why does the court dismiss her claim? (And here’s a hint: It’s not a statute of limitations issue.)

Wrong! The court dismisses her claim because she didn’t have the necessary proof. A ship owner owes a passenger a duty of reasonable care under the circumstances. When a plaintiff alleges a dangerous condition (like the wet substance), the plaintiff typically must show that the cruise line had actual or constructive notice of the risk creating condition. That is, the passenger’s claim was dismissed because she couldn’t show that the cruise line knew or should have known about the treacherous wet substance.

I think these are very close calls. If there was a wet substance and it’s on a passenger stairway aboard a cruise ship and there were cleaning activities in the vicinity, I probably would’ve let the matter go to a jury to let them decide whether the cruise line was responsible. But, no one around here is calling me “judge” or “your honor” so that’s just the comments of this admiralty attorney.

Proof is the fuel that powers a plaintiff’s claim.

Underway and making way.


About the author

John K. Fulweiler

John K. Fulweiler is a licensed mariner and experienced admiralty attorney. He represents individuals and companies throughout the East and Gulf Coasts and has recently taken command of his own maritime law firm. He enjoys navigating the choppy waters of the maritime law, but readily admits to missing life on the water. He can be reached at . His website is

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