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Disler v. Royal Caribbean Cruise Ltd.

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

April 23, 2018




         I. Introduction

         David Disler and his partner, Kurt Weber, filed this action against Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd. following a medical incident that occurred on a Royal Caribbean vessel. Plaintiffs contend that Disler suffered a stroke while aboard the Anthem of the Seas, and that Royal Caribbean's failure to authorize Disler's medical evacuation left him with permanent brain damage and partial paralysis. According to Plaintiffs, Disler would have made a full recovery had the Captain of the cruise ship properly ordered the medical evacuation. They filed a seven-count complaint which Royal Caribbean subsequently moved to dismiss. For the reasons discussed below, Royal Caribbean's motion to dismiss is denied as to Count IV, the assumption of duty claim, but granted without prejudice as to Counts I-III, the negligence claims, and granted with prejudice as to Count V, the punitive damages claim, Count VI, the unseaworthiness claim, and Count VII, Weber's loss of consortium claim. If Plaintiff Disler desires to file a second amended complaint for Counts I-III, in addition to Count IV, it must do so no later than May 4, 2018.

         II. Factual Background

         In October 2016, Disler and Weber took a vacation on Royal Caribbean's Anthem of the Seas cruise ship. At 8:00 AM on October 28, 2016, Disler suffered a stroke aboard the vessel and Weber immediately notified the ship's emergency personnel of Disler's condition. At the time of Disler's stroke, the Royal Caribbean vessel was approximately 24 hours away from returning to the Cape Liberty cruise port in Bayonne, New Jersey. When a medical evacuation was requested, [1] the Anthem of the Seas Captain denied the request and refused to provide Disler with any means of evacuating the ship to receive medical treatment. As a result, Disler allegedly did not receive proper medical attention for over 24 hours. Plaintiffs contend that, as a result of this delay, Disler sustained a severe brain injury that left him paralyzed in over half of his body.

         Following Disler's injuries, Disler and Weber commenced this suit against Royal Caribbean. In it, they bring the following seven causes of action: (1) Florida state common law negligence; (2) direct corporate common law negligence; (3) common law negligent training; (4) assumption of duty under Restatement (Second) of Torts; (5) common law punitive damages; (6) violation of general maritime law; (7) common law loss of consortium. Royal Caribbean moves to dismiss all seven claims.

         III. Standard

         "To survive a motion to dismiss, plaintiffs must do more than merely state legal conclusions, " instead plaintiffs must "allege some specific factual basis for those conclusions or face dismissal of their claims." Jackson v. BellSouth Telecomm., 372 F.3d 1250, 1263 (11th Cir. 2004). When ruling on a motion to dismiss, a court must view the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and accept the plaintiffs well-pleaded facts as true. See St. Joseph's Hosp., Inc. v. Hosp. Corp. of Am., 795 F.2d 948, 953 (11th Cir. 1986). This tenet, however, does not apply to legal conclusions. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009). Moreover, "[w]hile legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations." Id. at 1950. Those "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level on the assumption that all of the complaint's allegations are true." Bell Ail. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 545 (2007). In short, the complaint must not merely allege a misconduct, but must demonstrate that the pleader is entitled to relief. See Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1950.

         IV. Discussion

         A. Applicable Law

         The parties disagree about whether state and common law or general maritime law governs this case. To be sure, the Plaintiff correctly notes that "in the absence of a well-defined body of maritime law relating to a particular claim, the general maritime law may be supplemented by either state law or general common law principles." Wells v. Liddy, 186 F.3d 505, 525 (4th Cir. 1999). However, Plaintiffs urge the Court to apply state law and common law principles that conflict with well-developed areas of maritime law. In such situations, state law must yield. See Rinker v. Carnival Corp., 753 F.Supp.2d 1237, 1241 (S.D. Fla. 2010). Accordingly, general maritime law controls this case. Keefe v. Bahama Cruise Line, 867 F .2d 1318, 1321 (11th Cir. 1989).

         B. Counts I-III: State and Common Law Negligence Claims

         "To plead negligence in a maritime case, a plaintiff must allege that (1) the defendant had a duty to protect the plaintiff from a particular injury; (2) the defendant breached that duty; (3) the breach actually and proximately caused the plaintiffs injury; and (4) the plaintiff suffered actual harm." Franza v. Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd.,772 F.3d 1225, 1253 (11th Cir. 2014). "Under federal maritime law, the duty of care owed by a cruise operator to its passengers is ordinary reasonable care under the circumstances[.]" Gayou v. Celebrity Cruises Inc., No. 11-23359-CIV, 2012 WL 2049431, at 5* (S.D. Fla. June 5, 2012); see also ...

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