Parents of Slain Toddler Fight for New Chance to Sue Cruise Line
This story made headlines all across the United States. A grandfather held up his granddaughter atop a window that he believed was closed. The window, however, was open, and when the grandfather let go, the child fell to her death. The family blamed Royal Caribbean for leaving windows open in the child’s play area. However, the grandfather was charged with negligent homicide, ended up pleading guilty without serving prison time, and the family’s lawsuit was dismissed on the basis that Royal Caribbean could not have reasonably foreseen that the grandfather would hold his child up against an open window.
The grandfather contended that he only placed his granddaughter there because she enjoyed banging on the glass at her older brother’s hockey games. The grandfather appeared to believe that the window was closed at the time like all of the other windows in the child’s play area.
The current state of the lawsuit
The parents filed an appeal after the grandfather was wholly blamed for the death of his grandfather. They argued that there was a present danger on the day of the accident and that Royal Caribbean may have had a policy of keeping those windows closed. They are currently asking the appeals court to reverse their decision and allow the matter to proceed before a jury.
While the judges agreed that there was a clear and present danger within the child’s play area due to the open window, they questioned whether or not Royal Caribbean could have foreseen this type of accident.
Foreseeability in personal injury lawsuits
The question before the court, although unusual, boils down to a premises liability lawsuit as many cases involving cruise ships do. In this case, the parents are arguing that the cruise line could have foreseen some potential danger in leaving the window open. Their attorneys have argued that Royal Caribbean could have done more to mitigate fall hazards, particularly considering the fact that over 5,000 children are killed each year due to falling out of a window. They’re arguing that the conduct of the grandfather is irrelevant to the claims placed before the court.
In a personal injury lawsuit, a defendant need not be wholly liable for the plaintiffs to recover damages. Under the current law, which looks set to be changed, a plaintiff can be 99% liable for an injury and still recover 1% damages. Under the new law, a plaintiff will need to establish that the defendant is at least 50% liable for their injuries to recover anything at all.
The cruise line has countered these statistical claims by pointing out that an incident like the aforementioned has never occurred before and is therefore, by definition, not foreseeable. On the other hand, adults do hold children up to windows, so the matter remains in contention. A formal decision has yet to be reached.
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Michael F. Guilford represents the interests of Miami residents who have suffered personal injury aboard cruise ships. Call our Miami admiralty & maritime lawyers today to schedule a free consultation and we can begin discussing your next moves immediately.