Flanagan & Bodenheimer recently received an opinion from the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals reversing the district court’s entry of summary judgment in a cruise liability case handled by the firm. This is a big win for the firm, but an even bigger win for our deserving client.
About the Case: Slip & Fall on the Carnival Ecstasy
In this case, we represented Marjorie Cogburn against Carnival Corporation. Ms. Cogburn and her husband took a cruise in 2019 on the Carnival Ecstasy to celebrate their wedding anniversary. On the second day of the cruise, Ms. Cogburn and her husband went to get dinner and walked along an area of the ship called “City of Lights Boulevard.” As Ms. Cogburn was walking, she slipped and fell on a brown liquid on the dark-colored tile floor, suffering a very serious injury. Ultimately, she required two surgeries, including a partial hip replacement.
During discovery, our firm uncovered that several prior slip and fall incidents had occurred on the same or similar walkways to the one where Ms. Cogburn fell. We also found evidence that the ship’s Chief Security Officer was aware that passengers were spilling drinks on the walkway. Despite this evidence, the district court granted summary judgment in favor of the cruise line on the basis that the cruise line did not have actual or constructive notice of the dangerous condition.
About the Appeal: The Role of a Single Similar Prior
On appeal, the Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court. Specifically, the Eleventh Circuit held that because there was at least one prior incident of a slip and fall that occurred in a similar location to the area where Ms. Cogburn fell, the evidence established that “Carnival had constructive knowledge of the risk-creating condition. . .” Notably, the Court also wrote that “Because Cogburn came forward with evidence of a substantially similar prior incident, we conclude that she established notice of the risk-creating condition.” This is an important sentence in the opinion because it seems to suggest that a single similar prior may be enough to establish notice in these types of slip and fall cases.
Learn More from Flanagan & Bodenheimer
This case presents a few important points for practitioners handling these types of slip and fall cases against cruise lines.
First, you need to work hard in the discovery process to find prior incidents. Although you may get objections to your initial requests for this type of information, plaintiffs are entitled to this information, and you should fight to get as much of this information as you can.
Second, when you learn about a prior incident, gather information about the details surrounding the prior incident. The law places the burden on the plaintiff to prove substantial similarity between prior incidents and the case you are handling. Typically, this will require you to prove similarity in the type and location of the prior incident. This can be accomplished by getting contact information for the person involved in the prior incident and taking their deposition.
If you would like our firm to handle your slip and fall case against a cruise line, or you are a lawyer who has a case and would like some guidance, feel free to contact us, we are happy to share as much information as we have. We can be reached via our online contact form or by dialing (305) 638-4143.
You can find the full opinion at the link below: https://media.ca11.uscourts.gov/opinions/unpub/files/202111579.pdf