The FlowRider looks fun because it has a lot of people trying it, falling and suingPosted: October 6, 2014 Filed under: Assumption of the Risk, Florida, Release (pre-injury contract not to sue) | Tags: #Cruise, #FlowRider, Cruise ship, Electronic Release, Florida, Ltd., Release, Royal Caribbean Cruises, Royal Caribbean International, Surfing, United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida, Wave Loch Leave a comment
Ignoring the risks that are presented by the defendant are not a way to prove your claim.
Magazine v. Royal Caribbean Cruises, LTD., 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 41092
State: Florida, United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida
Plaintiff: Mary Magazine
Defendant: Royal Caribbean Cruises, LTD. d/b/a Royal Caribbean International
Plaintiff Claims: “(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 plaintiff’s injury; and (4) the plaintiff suffered actual harm
Defendant Defenses: release
The FlowRide is a surfing simulator. It consists of a sloped surface with water shooting up to the top. The water flowing up is similar to a wave and used to learn to ride a wave or just have fun. You can find Flowriders in stores along the ocean and in this case on a cruise ship.
The plaintiff was a 59 year old attorney that signed up for the cruise. The cruise is a “Card Player Cruise.” These cruises are pushed to poker players. The plaintiff signed up for the cruise two weeks in advance and registered to participate in several activities: ice skating, rock climbing, zip lining and the FlowRider. In doing so she signed an electronic release.
The defendant argued the plaintiff was warned of the risks. There was a “Caution” sign was located in the FlowRider viewing area. There was also a five-minute video that played on television channels on the cruise. There was a list of warnings on the bulletin board.
The plaintiff watched another person on the FlowRider and watched that person fall. The plaintiff’s turn came on the FlowRider. She alternated with other riders and fell 10- to 12 times before falling and breaking her leg. The FlowRider lessons were videotaped including the plaintiff’s fall which broke her leg.
Summary of the case
The court refers to the plaintiff by her last name, Magazine and to the defendant Royal Caribbean Cruises as RCL.
Because the accident occurred on a ship, the standard of care is different. “…a shipowner owes the duty of exercising reasonable care towards those lawfully aboard the vessel who are not members of the crew.”
The judge first throughout the negligent design claims. To be liable for negligent design a “defendant must have played some role in the design.” Because the defendant did not design the FlowRider that claim was thrown out. Also, the negligent maintenance claim was also thrown out.
A shipowner does have a duty to warn passengers of dangers which the shipowner knows or should know about “and which may not be apparent to a reasonable passenger”.
The duty to warn does not extend to dangers that are “open and obvious.” “The obviousness of a danger and adequacy of a warning are determined by a ‘reasonable person’ standard, rather than on each particular plaintiff’s subjective appreciation of the danger.
Whether adequate efforts were made to communicate a warning to the ultimate user and whether the warning if communicated was adequate are uniformly held questions for the jury.
The plaintiff argued that she did not see any of these warnings. However, the plaintiff also stated that even if she had seen the warnings “…she would not have heeded warnings anyway.” The court also stated that the risk of falling was an open and obvious risk in this case.
The court also looked at the requirements the plaintiff had to meet to prove her case. “Thus, to prove that a defendant’s failure to warn caused an injury, the plaintiff must show that the risk about which the defendant failed to warn the plaintiff caused the injury.”
Therefore, to prevail on a negligence claim predicated on a defendant’s failure to warn, a plaintiff must identify a specific risk (1) of which the defendant had notice or constructive notice, (2) that is not open and obvious, (3) about which the defendant failed to warn the plaintiff, and (4) that actually caused the plaintiff’s injury.
The plaintiff argued that it was not falling that caused her injury, but the specific way she fell, which was not identified as a risk of the activity. However, the court did not agree with the argument.
First, any failure by RCL to warn of this general risk did not proximately cause Magazine’s injury. Magazine expressly testified that a warning sign referring only to a “risk of serious bodily injury or death” would not have stopped her from participating in the FlowRider and there is no indication in the record that such a warning might have reduced the severity of her injury. Therefore, any breach by RCL of a duty to warn Magazine of the risk of serious bodily injury or death did not proximately cause Magazine’s injury.
Second, the general risk of injury on the FlowRide is open and obvious. The FlowRider is a recreational activity, and the risk of which Magazine argues she should have been warned is created by the FlowRider itself, rather than by an anomalous condition in an otherwise safe area, such as a protruding nail or slippery substance on a walkway.
The court then stated, “Courts routinely recognize that sports and similar recreational activities pose an inherent risk of injury and that such inherent risk, in the absence of some hidden danger, is open and obvious.”
The court then looked at the various other arguments of the plaintiff stating that the surface was not as the plaintiff had imagined that the medical issues suffered by the plaintiff were not related to the warnings and the FlowRider, and the Defendant had a duty to inform riders of other injuries participants had received. The court found all of these arguments of the plaintiff all failed because the risks were open and obvious.
Put simply, while Magazine contends that certain warnings should have been more prominently displayed, she has not identified any risk about which she should have been warned differently such that a warning might have made a difference.
The court then reviewed the negligent instruction claim of the plaintiff. The plaintiff argued that how she was instructed, and the methods used to teach here lead to her injury.
While the Court is not deciding this issue of law at this time, in a paid lesson for a sport or similar recreational activity such as the FlowRider, reasonable care by an instructor may include not exposing a plaintiff to risks beyond those inherent in the recreational activity itself, at least not before the plaintiff is ready to handle those risks.
The court found that the plaintiff may have a claim based on negligent instruction.
The relevant risk is not of falling but of falling in a way likely to result in injury, such as by losing control of the board while falling. RCL’s argument that “there is no record evidence that RCL was on notice that the use of the balance rope was a danger to any passenger” is also not dispositive, because the requirement of notice applies to risks created by passive conditions such as slippery walkways or protruding nails, not to risks created by a defendant’s actions.
The court then found that:
to (1) whether the instructors’ handling of the balancing rope breached their duty of reasonable care under the circumstances and (2) whether any such breach actually and proximately caused Magazine’s injury.
However, the court found the plaintiff’s arguments to be thin and thought she would have a hard time proving those elements at trial.
So Now What?
If you have warning signs, videos, or information of the risks of your activity and are using a release, put in the release that by signing the release the signor states they have seen the warnings and videos and reviewed the website.
During registration for your activity, tell people to read the warnings, watch the videos and read all warning signs.
If you are using methods to teach or use a device that are not suggested by the manufacture or are different from the standard of care for the activity, this case suggests you should inform people of those differences.
What do you think? Leave a comment.
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