Is Royal Caribbean Committing Fraud by Requiring Cruise Passengers to Sign Legally Unenforceable FlowRider Waivers?
If you want to participate in the FlowRider attraction on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship, the cruise line requires its passengers to sign an electronic waiver. The waiver purports to relieve the cruise line of any and all liability arising out of use of the FlowRider. However, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeal ruled last year that the waiver violates U.S. Maritime Law and is legally unenforceable.
In a case our firm handled, the appellate court held that the Royal Caribbean waiver violated 46 U.S.C. § 30509 which prohibits contractual provisions which attempt to limit the liability of the owner of ships for "personal injury or death caused by the negligence or fault of the owner or the owner's employees or agents." The court held that the statute was clear and unambiguous, and there was no exception for recreational, inherently dangerous, or ultra hazardous activities. Although waivers of this type may be enforceable on land under certain circumstances, such waivers are illegal and unenforceable on the high seas.
The legal decision is significant because there has been at least one death and many serious injuries to cruise passengers on the Royal Caribbean FlowRiders.
Below you can see an example how the cruise line electronic waiver works. The participants usually are in a long line near the "Wipeout Bar!" with music blaring when they have to sign the waiver. Quite often, the passengers don't read anything and are led through the waiver by a cruise line employee very quickly. The waivers are not only legally unenforceable, but it seems like no one reads them anyway.
Ever since the Eleventh Circuit struck the waiver down, the cruise's line's requirement to force passengers to sign the waiver appears fraudulent to me. The waiver is unenforceable. Period. Executing an unenforceable waiver is meaningless. There is a danger that a passenger may not assert their legal rights after they were seriously injured on the FlowRider because the cruise line tricked them into believing that they waived their rights. This constitutes fraud.
If you were injured on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship, and you didn't file suit timely (one year) because you believed that you waived your rights, you may still have a basis for a lawsuit against the cruise line.
If you have a question about the Royal Caribbean Flowrider waiver, please contact our office.