A Florida appellate court recently issued an opinion in a lawsuit stemming from head injuries a three-year-old girl suffered after falling through a guard rail on a cruise ship. Evidently, the girl’s mother filed a lawsuit against the cruise line, claiming that it was liable for the negligent creation and maintenance of the guard rail, and its failure to warn of the danger. The trial court found in favor of the defendant, reasoning that there was no evidence that the cruise ship had actual notice of the specific alleged risk-creating conditions.
The plaintiff appealed on several issues, including a claim that there was a genuine issue of material fact regarding whether the defendant should have known that children could climb through the guard rail and fall. The record indicated that there were questions of fact regarding exactly how the girl fell; however, the complaint stated that the guard rail posed a risk of falling to children because children could pass or climb through a gap in the rails and fall to a lower deck. On appeal, the plaintiff argued that the lower court failed to view the evidence in a light most favorable to the plaintiff, which it must do in a summary judgment motion.
Under the law, evidence that a cruise ship owner took corrective action can establish notice of a hazardous condition. Corrective actions include warnings to passengers about a danger that a situation poses. However, there must be a connection between the warning and the condition. In this case, a passenger testified that crew members conducted a safety drill at the beginning of the cruise, where they warned people not to climb up on the rails or sit on them. She also testified that crew members explained that there had been passengers that had fallen off.