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Newell v. Carnival Corp.

United States District Court, S.D. Florida, Miami Division

November 16, 2017

MARIE NEWELL, Plaintiff,
v.
CARNIVAL CORPORATION, Defendant.

          FINAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          JAMES LAWRENCE KING UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         THIS CAUSE comes before the Court upon Defendant Carnival Corporation's Renewed Motion for Final Summary Judgment (DE #47), filed on October 9, 2017. Plaintiff has not filed any response in opposition, and the time for doing so has expired.[1] Upon review of the record and careful consideration, the Court finds that the Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment should be granted.

         I. Undisputed Facts[2]

         This negligence action arises out of personal injuries Plaintiff allegedly sustained in an accident after disembarking one of Defendant's cruise ships in April of 2012. Specifically, Plaintiff claims that she tripped and fell while walking through a pathway created by ropes and stanchions that led to U.S. Customs at the Port of Miami after the subject cruise.

         After disembarking the ship and retrieving her luggage in Cruise Terminal Building C, Plaintiff and her companion walked with other passengers along this rope-and-stanchion pathway inside the terminal building toward U.S. Customs. Plaintiff and the other passengers were all walking in the same direction, and the people walking ahead of Plaintiff were walking at a steady pace. Plaintiff had approximately an arm's length of space between herself and the passenger walking immediately in front of her.

         Plaintiff testified that the terminal building was well lit and there was sufficient light for her to see, that the ropes and stanchions were black in color, that she saw the ropes and stanchions before walking toward them, and that she was aware of them while she walked along the pathway. She further testified that she has encountered similar rope-and-stanchion pathways many times when going through security checkpoints at airports. Plaintiff was carrying three bags: a duffle bag in her right hand, her purse in her left hand, and a garment bag slung across her shoulders such that it hung on the left side of her body. Plaintiff and her companion walked side-by-side, with the ropes and stanchions approximately 11.5 inches away on her left, and her companion on her right. Plaintiff made sure that her garment bag did not catch on the ropes and stanchions while she walked.

         After passing by a number of ropes and stanchions, Plaintiff claims that the tip of her foot got caught "under something" and she fell, injuring herself in the process. While initially testifying that it was a stanchion that caught the tip of her foot, she later testified that she did not actually see what it was that tripped her. There is no evidence in the record of ropes and stanchions causing any similar accidents either on the date of Plaintiff s accident, or at any other time, and Plaintiff did not report the subject accident to Defendant's employees who were on site and supervising the debarkation process.

         II. Summary Judgment Standard

         "The Court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A party asserting that a fact cannot be or is genuinely disputed must support the assertion by "citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations (including those made for purposes of the motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers or other materials; or showing that materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact." Id. at 56(c)(1). "In determining whether summary judgment is appropriate, the facts and inferences from the facts are viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, and the burden is placed on the moving party to establish both the absence of a genuine material fact and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87(1986).

         In opposing a motion for summary judgment, the non-moving party may not rely solely on the pleadings, but must show by affidavits, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions that specific facts exist demonstrating a genuine issue for trial. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c), (e); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986). Further, the existence of a "scintilla" of evidence in support of the non-movant's position is insufficient; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the non-movant. Andersen v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252 (1986). Likewise, a court need not permit a case to go to a jury when the inferences that are drawn from the evidence, and upon which the non-movant reliesj, are "implausible." Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 592-94; Mize v. Jefferson City Bd. OfEduc, 93 F.3d 739, 743 (11th Cir. 1996).

         At the summary judgment stage, the judge's function is not to "weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter, but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial.*' Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249. In making this determination, the Court must decide which issues are material. A material fact is one that might affect the outcome of the case. Id. at 248. "Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment. Factual disputes that are irrelevant or unnecessary will not be counted." Id. The Court must also determine whether the dispute about a material fact is indeed genuine, that is, "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Id.; see, e.g., Marine Coatings of Ala., Inc. v. United States, 932 F.2d 1370, 1375 (11th Cir. 1991).

         III. Discussion

         General maritime law applies. See Keefe v. Bahama Cruise Lines, Inc., 867 F.2d 1318, 1320 (11th Cir. 1989). To establish a negligence claim, Plaintiff must show that Defendant had a duty of care, Defendant breached that duty, that such breach was the actual and proximate cause of Plaintiffs injury, and that Plaintiff suffered damages. Sorrels v. NCL (Bahamas) Ltd., 796 F.3d 1275, 1280 (11th Cir. 2015). A cruise ship only has a duty to warn passengers from dangers that it has notice of and may not be apparent to a reasonable passenger:

[T]he benchmark against which a shipowner's behavior must be measured is ordinary reasonable care under the circumstances, a standard which requires, as a prerequisite to imposing liability, that the carrier have had actual ...

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