A number of newspapers are reporting that a resident of New York is suing Celebrity Cruises after he scalded his feet on a hot deck on one of its cruise ships several years ago.
The 66 year-old passenger, who apparently suffered from pre-existing neuropathy of his feet, was sailing aboard the Celebrity Silhouette when the incident occurred. The cruise ship had docked in Greece and, after briefly leaving the ship, he returned to the Silhouette after deciding that it was too hot and he would rather spend time in the cruise ship pool.
The New York Post explains that he reportedly parked his scooter cart near a swimming pool on deck 12 (not sure exactly which one), took off his shoes (and apparently his socks) and walked bare-footed the rest of the distance, around 10-12 feet, to the pool. Because of the nerve damage to his feet, he did not realize the scalding heat of the pool deck surface or the burns to his feet. But when his spouse and another traveling companion joined him in the pool, they noticed that his feet were severely burned and “from toe to heel, the skin was just hanging off,” according to the new accounts. He reportedly declined an offer by the cruise line to fly home for medical treatment. His feet later became infected and he ended up having one of the toes amputated.
He located a lawyer who filed suit against the cruise line in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, seeking $5,000,000 in damages for his injuries and $1,000,000 for his wife’s loss of consortium claim. The lawsuit alleged that Celebrity should have warned passengers about the “extremely hot” deck. The newspaper quoted him saying: “. . . I took off a pair of shoes and left them in the cart to go to the pool. If they had just given a hint that it was that hot…”
The popular cruise blog, Cruise Radio, asked the questions every cruiser wants to know: “Do you believe the cruise line had a responsibility to post warnings about the hot deck? . . . Or should someone with his condition have been more cautious given he returned to the ship due to the heat?”
Of course, the answer to both questions should be “yes.” Any time that a simple warning can avoid serious injury, including the amputation of a portion of a guest’s body, it should be provided. Only the most cynical person would not want to see such mental and physical suffering to be avoided. But at the same time, anyone suffering from peripheral neuropathy affecting his feet should obviously take special precautions to avoid this type of injury. There is no mention in the articles whether the passenger thought to simply touch the surface with his hand and then wear his shoes, or sandals, or flip-flops across the hot deck to the pool.
The news accounts of the lawsuit has generated considerable press, with most readers calling the injured cruise ship guest “stupid” and his lawsuit “frivolous.”
But there is no question that a pool deck can create second degree burns to a passenger on a hot summer day; the cruise lines are aware of this danger and can avoid injury to their guests with an effective warning. There have been a number of lawsuits filed against the Miami based cruise lines for burns due to hot decks.
The case of Gibbs v. Carnival Cruise Line involved an injury to a child, back in 1998, who suffered second degree burns on the soles of his feet when he stepped onto the hot surface of the deck of the Carnival Destiny. The child was under the care of Carnival employees in the cruise ship’s Camp Carnival child care program. His parents had to interrupt the family vacation and return home to New Jersey with their child to care for the boy’s injuries.
In 2012, an Orlando resident sustained severe burns on his feet caused by a hot surface of the Lido pool deck on a Carnival cruise ship. He sued Carnival for his physical injuries, as well as for pain, suffering and mental anguish related to the hot deck. He also alleged that his feet became severely infected due to the poor shipboard medical treatment. The Miami New Times commented on the lawsuit, stating that the “roasting deck surface led to nasty burns, as well as ‘serious and permanent scarring, disfigurement, and embarrassment.'” The New Times article gave the painful ordeal a comical spin in an article titled Lawsuit Claims Hairy Man Contest On Cruise Led To Burned Feet For Florida Man when it was learned that the guest was injured while participating in a “hairy chest” competition on a hot deck.
At least one hot Lido deck – burned feet case, very similar to the current Celebrity case, went to trial against Carnival last year. I heard that it also involved a guest with a pre-existing peripheral neuropathy involving his feet due to diabetes. The case ended with a jury returning a defense verdict against the passenger.
Carnival is not the only cruise line sued for super-hot pool decks. In 2016, a Norwegian Cruise Line passenger sustained second-degree burns on the bottom of his feet. He claimed that NCL failed to warn him that the deck near the pool area was hot enough to cause such an injury. The guest had gone swimming in the ship pool after taking off his flip-flops; but when it was time to get out of the pool, someone had removed his flip-flops, requiring him to step on the hot deck with his bare feet. He suffered from diabetic neuropathy and did not feel the severity of the heat as it burned his feet. His case settled at a mediation conference.
The curious thing about the recent Celebrity lawsuit is that is was filed in federal court in Brooklyn and that it was brought nearly four years after the incident in July 2014. The terms and conditions of all cruise passengers tickets require that lawsuits against Celebrity (as well as NCL, Carnival and Royal Caribbean) must be filed in federal court in the Southern District of Florida (a condition which has been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court (see Carnival Cruise Lines v. Shute).
Also, absent an agreement to extend the filing deadline, lawsuits against a cruise line must be filed within one year of the accident/injury. The docket sheet for the Celebrity lawsuit shows that the case was filed on May 10, 2018 (almost 3 years too late). The time for Celebrity’s response is not due until June 1, 2018.
Expect for the cruise line to move to dismiss the case for being filed too late and in the wrong courthouse.
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Photo credit: Top – Fred Hsu on en.wikipedia – CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia.