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Passenger “completely disoriented” falls into escape hatch: Is cruise line liable?

Passenger “completely disoriented” falls into escape hatch: Is cruise line liable?

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In this week’s article, we examine the case of Caron v. NCL (Bahamas) Ltd. d/b/a Norwegian Cruise Line, Civil Action No. 16-23065-Civ-Scola (S.D. Fla. 2017) wherein the plaintiff “was traveling as a passenger on a Baltic cruise aboard defendant’s Norwegian Cruise Line’s vessel, the Star (and) paid extra to purchase an all-inclusive drink package which allowed him unlimited beer and wine while on the cruise. After drinking beers at several different bars that evening, Caron first entered an area that was clearly marked with two signs: ‘Crew Only’ and ‘Restricted, Crew Access Only’. Two minutes later he opened an emergency-escape door with a red colored sign labeled ‘Caution’ only authorized crew beyond this sign’. Upon going past the door, he fell several feet, through a hatch intended to serve as an emergency exit from the bow-thruster room below. Shortly after Caron emerged from the escape hatch, some four-and-a-half hours after his fall, he filled out a statement form presented to him by Norwegian. In response to the question, ‘Who do you blame the incident on’? Caron marked the box associated with ‘Myself’. Despite this acknowledgment, Caron nonetheless seeks to recover damages from Norwegian, submitting that Norwegian caused the injuries he sustained in the fall”. Defendant’s motion for summary judgment granted.

Terror Targets Update

Las Vegas, Nevada

In Goldman & Medina, Las Vegas Gunman Took Elaborate Steps to Hide His Tracks, New Documents Show, nytimes (1/12/2018) it was noted that “As he meticulously planned the Las Vegas attack, the man responsible for the worst mass shooting in modern American history took elaborate steps to stymie the inevitable law enforcement investigation, according to federal court documents unsealed on Friday. The F.B.I. documents shed new light on the degree to which the gunman, Stephen Paddock… planned the attack and prepared for the aftermath. One of the warrants described how Mr. Paddock ‘destroyed or tried to hide digital media devices’…He spent ‘significant times and expense prior to the attack purchasing and caching weapons’ and other items, such as glass cutters and suitcases…The F.B.I. said there were hundreds of rounds of spent ammunition as well as ‘preloaded high capacity magazines’ found in suitcases… Investigators also fund body armor, range finders and a homemade gas mask…In September, the court records suggested Mr. Paddock ordered from Amazon a holographic weapon sight that investigators believe he ultimately used during the assault…The price is $429, according to the listing, which said the sight ‘improves target acquisition, boosts accuracy and increases control’”.

Santiago, Chile

In Bonnefoy, Pope Faces Turmoil in Chile Over Indigenous Group and Sex Abuse, nytimes (1/12/2018) it was noted that “Firebombs exploded before dawn on Friday at three churches in Santiago, Chile’s capital, an act of violence aimed at Pope Francis, who is to begin a weeklong visit to Chile and Peru on Monday. The police defused two other explosive devices that failed to detonate outside other churches later in the day…No organization immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks, but pamphlets left at the sites of the first three bombings alluded to several issues, including the plight of the Mapuche, an indigenous people who have been battling loggers and farmers in the impoverished region of Araucania in southern Chile”.

Iran Protester “Suicides”?

In Erdbrink, In Iran, Protester ‘Suicides’ Stir Anger and Calls for Accountability, ntyimes (1/14/2018) it was noted that “Two of the detained young men killed themselves, and another was a terrorist who died in a clash with security forces. Iran’s government officials have declared with finality. But in an extraordinary display of audacity, many Iranians, including a number of lawmakers and a top entertainment star, have assailed such conclusions. The three young men were among more than two dozen Iranians who died in the wave of antigovernment protests that swept the country a few weeks ago, the most serious unrest to confront the Islamic republic’s political-religious hierarchy in nearly a decade”.

Nuclear Attack Alert In Hawaii

In Oppel, Sender of Hawaii’s False Alarm Is Reassigned, but not Named, nytimes (1/15/2018) it was noted that: The Hawaii emergency management employee management employee who set off a statewide panic on Saturday morning by sending out a false alarm about an incoming ballistic missile has been temporarily reassigned, but there are no plans to fire him or identify him publicly, a state official said”. Stay tuned.

In How to survive a ballistic missile attack of Hawaii?, travelwirenews (1/15/2018) it was noted that “What should a tourist or resident of Hawaii do when receiving this emergency reverse 911 alert warning of a nuclear attack? There are 15 minutes to act-there is no time to waste. The short answer is. Tourists stay in your hotel and close the windows. Escape into solid brick buildings. Residents seal your windows and doors. Have enough water, food and don’t forget your medication. Have a battery-operated radio and your mobile phone charged”.

In Fisher, Hawaii False Alarm Hints at Thin Line Between Mishap and Nuclear War, nytimes (1/14/2018) it was noted that “Nuclear experts are warning, using some of their most urgent language since President Trump took office, that Hawaii’s false alarm, in which state agencies alerted locals to a nonexistent war with North Korea…’Today’s false alarm in Hawaii a reminder of the big risks we continue to run by relying on nuclear deterrence/prompt launch nuclear posture’”.

In Escaping death beyond horror in Hawaii: People running for shelter refused at Walmart, but welcomed at Home Dept., travelwirenews (1/14/2017) it was noted that “Tourism

has changed yesterday in Hawaii. Yesterday’s nuclear threat in the Aloha State was an eye-opener for everyone…Yesterday a father put his daughter in a manhole to protect her, Pearl Harbor went on alert with the false alarm…The situation in Hawaii yesterday was chaos, confusion and panic. There were no shelters to go to, there were no clear instructions what to do with your last 15 minutes before the bomb went off”.

Heart-Stopping Skid In Turkey

In Plane Skids Off Runway in Turkey: ‘It’s a Miracle We Escaped’, nytimes (1/14/2018) it was noted that “A passenger plane trying to land in Turkey this weekend made a heart-stopping skid off a runway, ending up halfway down a steep slope at a perilous angle, feet from the Black Sea. No passengers or crew members on the Pegasus Airlines flight were seriously injured, Turkish officials reported on Sunday”.

Deadly Mudslides In Montecito

In Arango, In Montecito, Enclave of Wealth and Fame, Unimagined Tragedy, nytimes (1/14/2017) it was noted that “Unimaginable tragedy struck this small, exclusive enclave, nestled between the mountains and the ocean and home to many celebrities, last week when a torrential downpour-a ‘once in 200 years’ storm, officials are quick to say-set off deadly mudslides in a landscape that, just last month, was scorched from the state’s largest wildfire on record. With more than 2,000 rescue workers from across the state combing through the thick mud, two more bodies were discovered over the weekend, bringing the death toll to 20. Four people remained missing on Sunday”.

Private Home School, Anyone?

In Keene, Medina & Mazzei, Horror of 13 California Siblings Hidden by Veneer of a Private Home School, nytimes (1/16/2018) it was noted that “The private school had a welcoming name. The principal was scientifically minded. But the Sandcastle Day School was a nightmare for the six students enrolled there. David A. Turpin created the school inside his nondescript stucco home southeast of Los Angeles. But the only ones enrolled there were the six of his 13 children who were school age. And what took place inside was not teaching but torture, the authorities said, after they raided the house over the weekend and found a horrifying scene of emaciated children chained to furniture. The putrid smell overwhelmed them”.

Minister Of Loneliness

In Yeginsu, U.K. Appoints a Minister for Loneliness, nytimes (1/17/2018) it was noted that “Since Britain voted to leave the European Union more than a year ago, Europeans have mockingly said that the decision will result in an isolated, lonely island nation. But Britain, in fact, already has a serious problem with loneliness, research has found. More than nine million people in the country often or always feel lonely, according to a 2017 report published by the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness. The issue prompted Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday to appoint a minister for loneliness”.

Bus Crash In Kazakhstan Kills 52

In Bus catches fire in Kazakhstan, killing 52-Ministry, travelwirenews (1/18/2018) it was noted that “A bus caught fire in a remote part of Kazakhstan on Thursday, killing 52 citizens of neighboring Uzbekistan, the Kazakh Ministry said on Thursday”.

Avoid Madrid Nightclub, Please

In 26 injured after ceiling collapses in Madrid nightclub, travelwirenews (1/14/2018) it was noted that “A total of 26 people received injuries after a section of a false ceiling fell on revelers at a nightclub in the Carabanchel district of Madrid…11 people were taken to hospitals with ‘bruises and minor injuries’”.

Welcome To Murder City, USA

In Williams, For One Baltimore School, 7 Killings in Just 15 Months, nytimes (1/16/2018) it was noted that “Last year, the city had the highest murder rate in its history and by far the highest among the nation’s 30 largest cities. That statistic has not been the only blow to Baltimore’s image. In recent days, children shivered in city schools with no heat and a hospital deposited a woman in socks and a medical gown at a bus stop on a winter night. Even Chicago which has shared Baltimore’s notoriety for violence in recent years, saw homicides fall last year, while Baltimore’s numbers continue to rise, Ane nobody is sure what to do about it”.

Avoid Fires In Portugal, Please

In Fire kills eight, wounds 50 in northern Portugal, travelwirenews,com (1/14/2018) it was noted that “The fire broke out near Tondella, which lies between Coimbru and Viseu-towns badly hit by a series of deadly wildfires in October”.

Lolita Stays In Miami Seaquarium

In Stempel, Captive orca Lolita can stay at Miami Aquarium: U.S. appeals court, ruters (1/12/2018) it was noted that “A federal appeals court on Friday rejected efforts by animal rights advocates to force the Miami Seaquarium in Florida to release Lolita, a killer whale it has held in captivity for nearly half a century. By a 3-0, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Miami rejected claims by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and others that keeping Lolita in captivity violated the federal Endangered Species Act. ‘The evidence, construed in the light most favorable to PETA, does not support the conclusion that the conditions of her captivity pose a threat of serious harm to Lolita’, the court said”. The 11th Circuit’s decision is available at

Avoid Smog In Beijing, Please

In ‘Orange’ alert issued as smog engulfs Beijing, travelwirenews (1/14/2018) it was noted that “Air quality was classed as ‘unhealthy for sensitive groups’ in Beijing on Sunday, as the population braced for several days of chocking smog. An ‘Orange’ alert, the second highest in China’s four-tier warning system, was put in place on Thursday”.

Avoid Cholera In Zambia, Please

In Zambia making progress in its fight against cholera?, travelwirenews (1/14/2018) it was noted that “Zambia’s government plans to open its international school and a few shopping centers after saying it has made progress in its fight against cholera, which has killed at least 72 people since September 2017…More than 3,100 cases have been reported nationwide over the last four months with the capital city of Luisaka the highest affected by the water-borne disease”.

Avoid Measles In Newark Airport, Please

In Newark Airport issues warning on highly contagious disease, travelwirenews (1/14/2018) it was noted that “Health officials in New Jersey are warning passengers who traveled through Newark Liberty International Airport earlier this Saturday morning that they may have been exposed to measles. The New Jersey Department of Health says an international traveler with a confirmed case of the highly contagious disease arrived in Terminal C on Jan. 2, departed for Indianapolis from a domestic terminal, and may have gone to other areas of the airport”.

‘Canned’ Lion Hunting Unethical?

In American trophy hunters condemn South African Lion Hunting, travelwirenews (1/15/2018) it was noted that “The Dallas Safari Club, one of the largest trophy hunting organizations has come out strongly against captive-bred lion hunting, otherwise known as ‘canned’ lion hunting as unethical and not contributing to the conservation of wild lions. Captive-bred lion hunting is legal in South Africa despite reservations from many trophy hunters and conservationists…The South African Department of Environmental Affairs believes trophy hunting captive-bred lions helps towards the conservation of wild lions by deflecting trophy hunters away from vulnerable wild populations”.

Saudi Posh Prison To Reopen

In Gladstone, Riyadh Ritz, Converted to Posh Prison by Saudis, Is Reopening to Guests, nytimes (1/15/2018) it was noted that “The Ritz-Carlton is Riyadh, the 492-room hotel converted into a posh prison for privileged Saudis swept up in what the government calls an anti-corruption campaign, appears set for a public reopening next month. The hotel’s website showed on Monday that it was accepting reservations beginning Feb. 14, with double-occupancy rooms starting at 2,439 riyals, or $650″.

Are Wars Killing Animals?

In Nuwer, War’s Other Victims: Animals, nytimes (1/12/2018) it was noted that “Many case studies have demonstrated that war can affect the survival of local populations, sometimes threatening entire species…Now researchers have published a quantitative study of war’s consequence for African animals-the first multi-decade, continentwide analysis. The findings, published in Nature, are both surprising and encouraging. Compared to all other measured factors, conflict is the most consistent predictor of species decline. Yet the northern white rhino is the exception. War rarely leads to extinction, a finding that underscores the importance of post-conflict restoration efforts…’There are really two alternative hypotheses you can imagine’, he added, ‘One is that war is just a disaster for everything, including environments. And the other is that pretty much anything that causes people to clear out from an area can be beneficial for wildlife’”.

Uber And The Hacker

In Perlroth & Isaac, Inside Uber’s $100,000 Payment to a Hacker, and the Fallout, nytimes (1/12/2018) it was noted that “‘Hello Joe’, read the November 2016 email from someone identifying himself as ‘John Doughs’… ‘I have found a major vulnerability in Uber’…Yet the note and Uber’s eventual $100,000 payment to the hacker, which was initially celebrated internally as a rare win in corporate security, have since turned into a public relations debacle for the company. In November, when Uber disclosed the 2016 incident and how the information of 57 million driver and rider accounts had been at risk. The company’s chief executive…called it a ‘failure’ that it had not notified people earlier…The hacking is now the subject of at least four lawsuits, with attorneys general in five states investigating whether Uber broke laws on data-breach notifications. In addition, the United States attorney for Northern California has begun a criminal investigation into the matter. Most of all, the hacking and Uber’s response have fueled a debate about whether companies that have crusaded to lock their systems can scrupulously work with hackers without putting themselves on the wrong side of the law”.

Avoid Fake Uber App

In This fake Uber app hijacks your password and covers its tracks, fastcomany (1/3/2018) it was noted that “A new imposter app for Android pops up a screen that resembles a user’s Uber login screen in order to steal their username and password, before automatically spawning the real Uber app so the user won’t realize anything’s amiss. The security firm Symantec, which discovered the fake Uber app, says it’s a variant of a type of malware it calls Android.Fakeapp. Earlier versions have impersonated other popular apps. The creators of this version ‘got creative’, Symantec’s researchers write, with the use of a deep link into inner screens in other apps”.

Disclosing Resort Fees

In Soloway & Mohler, Disclosing Resort Fees: Transparency Is Essential to Avoid Liability, newyorklawjournal (1/9/2018) it was noted that “In their Hospitality Law column, Todd E. Soloway and Bryan T. Mohler explore the current legal landscape in New York and nationwide for hoteliers disclosing resort fees and consider best practices for hotels doing business in New York to protect against potential liability under the state’s statutory scheme…The charging of resort fees-also known as facility fees, destination fees, amenity fees or urban fees-at hotels is becoming increasingly common. In exchange for paying this generally mandatory fees, assessed by hotels in addition to the costs of the hotel room, hotel guests are supposedly provided access to a variety of goods and services such as gym facilities and swimming pools, luggage storage, ‘complimentary’ happy hours, parking and wireless Internet…In charging these fees, hotel owners, operators and brands face the dilemma of how and when to present the existence of a resort fee to travelers booking hotel stays, and the manner in which hotels choose to disclose such fees varies widely. In some states, resort fees are incorporated into the total per might price quoted to a prospective guest, enabling the consumer to easily compare prices across hotels. In other instances, resort fees are poorly disclosed or not revealed at all during the booking process, appearing only in the fine print of a reservation or on the final booking confirmation screen”.

4.4 Billion Dollars, Anyone?

In Conde Nast Traveler (1/2/2018) p. 111 it was noted that “That’s how much airlines may have collected in baggage fees over the course of 2017. The Department of Transportation is still tallying the total. But the carriers notched $2.2 billion in these charges in the first half of 2017, putting them on pace to top their previous record of $4.2 billion set in 2016″.

Travel Law Case Of The Week

In the Caron case the Court noted that: after an evening of drinking with fellow passengers, Caron was intoxicated to the point that he felt ‘completely disoriented’. At some point Caron wanted to go back to his room but, it appears, he got lost and ended up in one of the ship’s crew areas instead. The door Caron opened and walked through to get from the passenger to crew area of the ship was clearly marked ‘Crew Only’…Caron proceeded down a hallway…ultimately reaching another door which led directly into an escape hatch. This door was also marked ‘Emergency Exit…’Only authorized crew beyond this sign’…after opening and then proceeding through the marked doorway, Caron fell through the opening in the floor…hitting the deck below. About four-and-a-half later, Caron emerged, injured, from the hatch and was attended to by crew members and Norwegian medical staff”.

The Amended Complaint

“In his amended complaint, Caron lists twenty-one separate ways in which he alleges Norwegian was negligent. Most of them relate to the alleged dangerousness of the emergency hatch itself (which the complaint describes as an ‘open manhole’) as well as other ‘holes, areas, crevices, floors, walkways, and/or thresholds’ on the ship. According to Caron, these areas were unsafe for a litany of reasons. For example, he says they were not properly inspected, cleaned, maintained, lighted, designed, protected or covered. The complaint also alleges that Norwegian was negligent in allowing access to the area where he fell and failing to properly warn of the area’s hidden dangers”.

Was There A Dangerous Condition?

“As a threshold issue, a plaintiff must establish that a dangerous condition existed. However, ‘[t]he mere fact that an accident occurs does not give ruse to a presumption that the setting of the accident constituted a dangerous condition’…In his attempt to establish that the ole in the floor just behind the escape-hatch door poses a danger, Caron focuses on the lack of locking mechanisms on the doors that led to both the crew area generally as well as the hatch itself/ He submits that it was unreasonable for Norwegian not to have locks on those doors and its failure to have them rendered the escape-hatch area dangerous. However, Caron did not present any evidence that not having a lock on the doors, where were covered in signs warning passengers to stay out, was unreasonable”.

Locking The Doors

“Instead, Caron’s expert…merely explained that, for example, ‘the door [to the escape hatch] could have been provided with a locking mechanism that could have prevented access from the corridor but still allowed escape in the designed direction of escape’. The expert’s opinion that ‘a better way of dealing with places…where you can be injured’ other than posting signs, ‘is to have the door locked’ does not establish that, by not having the locks, Norwegian necessarily acted unreasonably’”

Chaperones & Armed Guards?

“One can likely imagine any number of ways to more effectively protect passengers from their own carelessness and recklessness. For example, each passenger could be assigned his or her own chaperone. Or armed guards could be posted at each crew-area access point. Or maybe the signs could have been bigger, more colorful or included pictures depicting holes in the floor. That Norwegian didn’t have these things, and that one might argue these would be ‘better’ ways of securing passenger safety, does not alone lead one inexorably to the conclusion that the escape hatch from the bow-thruster room, located entirely within the crew-only area, unreasonably exposed Norwegian’s passengers to danger”.

Internal Standards

“Further, to the extent Caron claims Norwegian breached its own internal, or other, standards by not locking the doors to the passenger area or the escape hatch, supporting evidence is lacking. That Erwin Castro, an assistant carpenter for Norwegian, stated in his deposition that he believes emergency hatches on the ship are generally locked, preventing access from the corridor, is insufficient to raise a genuine issue of material fact regarding whether Norwegian in fact has such a policy”.

Just Not Dangerous

“In sum, other than the fact that he managed to fall through the hatch, Caron has not resented any evidence that the location and configuration of the emergency hatch was itself dangerous. Caron was in an area he was warned not to go into; once there, clearly marked signs advised him that he was opening a door that was itself an emergency exit; and once the door was opened, the hole in the floor was readily apparent. Additional warnings or safeguards, in this case, were not necessary when the hazard would ‘be appreciated by persons whose intelligence and experience are within the normal range’”.


“In fact, there have been no similar incidents on any ship within Norwegian’s entire fleet in the five years before Caron’s fall…Caron insists Norwegian’s crew members failed to exercise care when they came upon him in the crew-only area when he was ‘obviously visibly lost and intoxicated’. Even assuming Caron’s testimony is true, that he was clearly lost and drunk, Caron has not carried his burden raising a genuine issue of material fact as to the reasonableness of the crew’s handling of the situation…Caron has not presented sufficient evidence upon which a reasonable fact finder or juror could find on his behalf…there is no issue of material fact as to liability in this case and Norwegian is entitled to judgment as a matter of law”.

tom dickerson

The author, Thomas A. Dickerson, is a retired Associate Justice of the Appellate Division, Second Department of the New York State Supreme Court and has been writing about Travel Law for 41 years including his annually updated law books, Travel Law, Law Journal Press (2016), Litigating International Torts in U.S. Courts, Thomson Reuters WestLaw (2016), Class Actions: The Law of 50 States, Law Journal Press (2016) and over 400 legal articles many of which are available at For additional travel law news and developments, especially, in the member states of the EU see

This article may not be reproduced without the permission of Thomas A. Dickerson.

Read many of Justice Dickerson’s articles here.

Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.

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