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Heinen v. Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.

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

August 28, 2019

THOMAS HEINEN, et al,, Plaintiffs,



         The Plaintiffs, prospective passengers, sued the cruise line Defendant for its late decision to cancel a cruise due to a hurricane. The Court, for the second time, finds that the Plaintiffs fail to allege sufficient specific injuries and causation for the negligence and negligent infliction of emotional distress claims, which they allege were due to the untimely cancellation of the cruise.

         I. Background

         This action involves claims brought by nineteen Plaintiffs against Defendant Royal Caribbean Cruises. The Amended Complaint alleges two causes of action: (I) negligence and (II) negligent infliction of emotional distress. The claims relate to the cancellation of a cruise aboard the Liberty of the Seas cruise ship, which was scheduled to depart from the port of Galveston, Texas on August 27, 2017. Plaintiffs, who had all purchased tickets for the cruise, allege that Defendant issued notices in the days leading up to the departure that informed Plaintiffs that the cruise was still on schedule and there would be no refund. The Plaintiffs contend that Defendant's decision not to timely cancel the cruise until the day it was set to sail, despite the impending landfall of Hurricane Harvey in the Houston, Texas area, along with the notices, forced the would- be passengers to travel to Houston and therefore spend time in post-hurricane conditions. Plaintiffs assert that as a result of Defendant's negligence, they were trapped in Houston, Texas in post-hurricane conditions and suffered physical and emotional damage. As to the injuries, the Amended Complaint contains a long list of grievous injuries ranging from bodily harm to the loss of enjoyment of life.

         The Court granted the first Motion to Dismiss and dismissed the Original Complaint because of the absence of allegations identifying the particular injuries that each Plaintiff supposedly suffered. The Court instructed the Plaintiffs to specify each Plaintiffs injury, however, the Amended Complaint still fails to do so.

         II. Legal Standard

         "A pleading that states a claim for relief must contain ... a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). 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, 954 (11th Cir. 1986). To survive a motion to dismiss, a "complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). Detailed factual allegations are not required, but a pleading must offer more than "labels and conclusions" or "a formulaic recitation of the elements of the cause of action." Twomblv, 550 U.S. at 555; Jackson v. BellSouth Telecomm.. 372 F.3d 1250, 1263 (11th Cir. 2004) ("To survive a motion to dismiss, plaintiffs must do more than merely state legal conclusions; they are required to allege some specific factual bases for those conclusions or face dismissal of their claims."). In short, the complaint must not merely allege misconduct, but must demonstrate that the pleader is "entitled to relief." Iqbal 556 U.S. at 677-78.

         III. Legal Analysis

         At the hearing on the Motion to Dismiss the Original Complaint, this Court explained to the parties that grouping all of the Plaintiffs and then using an extensive list of injuries, without indicating which of the individuals suffered which harms, was insufficient to state a claim for negligence. In this Motion to Dismiss the Amended Complaint, Defendant contends that the negligence claim is still insufficient, because none of the Plaintiffs identify any of the specific injuries that they supposedly suffered or how any of their injuries were caused. In response, Plaintiffs assert that the Amended Complaint properly alleges a negligence claim because it separates and indicates each Plaintiffs injury and provides Defendant with adequate notice of the claim. To state a negligence claim, Plaintiffs must allege that Defendant had a duty of care, Defendant breached that duty, that such breach was the actual and proximate cause of Plaintiffs' injuries, and that the Plaintiffs suffered damages. See Chaparro v. Carnival Corp., 693 F.3d 1333, 1336 (11th Cir. 2012). The Court holds that the Plaintiffs have failed to allege a negligence claim.

         The Amended Complaint is unclear as to what specific injury each Plaintiff suffered as a result of Defendant's negligence. The Amended Complaint's allegations are identical to the allegations in the original complaint, except for the paragraphs that give details as to each Plaintiff. These paragraphs are Plaintiff-specific and identify when each Plaintiff allegedly travelled to the Houston area, the number of days they were subjected to post-hurricane conditions, the out of, pocket expenses that they incurred, and how and when they received information directly from Defendant indicating that all passengers were required to travel to the port for departure or their pre-paid cruise fare would be forfeited.

         In regard to their injuries, not one Plaintiff identifies any specific personal injury that they suffered, nor what exactly caused their injuries. Plaintiffs only allege that they "suffered physical and emotional damage." Furthermore, just like the Original Complaint, the Amended Complaint contains the same extensive list of injuries the Plaintiffs supposedly sustained; the list does not indicate which Plaintiff supposedly suffered which injury and what caused each injury. The list only indicates that the injuries were caused "as a result of the negligence of RCCL (Defendant)." The Amended Complaint is not sufficient to provide notice to Defendant of Plaintiffs' claim for negligence, and the factual basis upon which the claim is predicated.

         A. The Allegations are Conclusory

         While Plaintiffs need not set forth detailed factual allegations, they must allege sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face. Formulaic recitations of the elements of a claim and legal conclusions without adequate factual support are entitled to no assumption of truth. See Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678; Mamani v. Berzain, 654 F.3d 1148, 1153 (1 lth Cir. 2011). Plaintiffs assert little more than mere labels and conclusions while reciting the elements of negligence. The Complaint states that "as a result of the negligence of RCCL, Plaintiffs were injured," and each Plaintiff generically states that they "suffered physical and emotional damage." The conclusory allegations in the Amended Complaint are insufficient and do not explain how Plaintiffs were damaged nor what caused the damage. The allegations also make it impossible for the Defendant to formulate an answer.

         B. Plaintiffs Fail ...

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