Cruise passenger in wheelchair slams into another passenger: Is cruise line liable?


In this week’s article, we examine the case of Perez, as Personal Representative of the Estate of Hortensia Santos v. NCL (Bahamas) Ltd. D/b/a Norwegian Cruise Line, Case No. 17-22018-CIV-MORENO (S.D. Fla. 2017) wherein the Court noted that “This tragic case arises out of the death (of) Hortensia Santos, a passenger onboard the Defendant’s cruise ship, the Getaway… Plaintiffs allege that on May 31, 2016, Ms. Santos was injured while the ship was in U.S. territorial waters. Specifically, Plaintiffs allege that Ms. Santos was seated in the ship’s dining area when another passenger, who was being escorted in a wheelchair by a Norwegian employee, slammed into Ms. Santos, pinning her torso against the table she was seated at. Shortly thereafter, Ms. Santos was escorted to her cabin where she…began vomiting. Ms. Santos was then taken to the ship’s clinic where she was intubated. Norwegian’s onboard physician recommended that Ms. Santos undergo hemoglobin testing every six hours and that an endoscopy should be performed at the nearest hospital when the ship docked at Costa Maya, Mexico, the next port of call. Upon arrival in Costa Maya, Norwegian’s medical staff and crew directed Ms. Santos to a local hospital. The attending physician at the hospital ordered a sonogram, but neither the sonogram, nor the endoscopy urged by the onboard physician were performed…Ms. Santos was discharged and boarded a plane to Miami where her condition deteriorated while on the flight. Upon arrival, Ms. Santos was taken to the hospital where she was ultimately pronounced dead”. Defendant’s motion to dismiss denied.

Terror Targets Update

Kabul, Afghanistan

In Faizi & Mashal, Afghan Forces Retake Control of Kabul Hotel After Deadly Siege, nytimes (1/21/2018) it was noted that “Afghan officials declared that a 12-hour gun battle at Kabul’s largest hotel had ended in Sunday after security forces killed fur assailants, a siege that left five civilians dead, trapped more than 100 guests and terrorized the country’s capital…160 people had been rescued, including 41 foreigners”.

Nimes, France

In Man, 33, charged in France with planning to carry out terrorist attack, travelwirenews (1/21/2018) it was noted that “A man who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State…in a video has been charged with plotting to carry out a terrorist attack in France. This is believed to be the first attack foiled in the country in 2018″.

Hawaii Response Time Not Impressive

In Stevens, Hawaii Governor Learned Missile Alert Was False Within Two Minutes, nytimes (1/20/2018) it was noted that “The leader of the Hawaii National Guard told lawmakers on Friday that he informed the governor that a panic-including missile alert was a false alarm two minutes after it had been sent to cellphones statewide…The Leader…made the revelation about the Jan. 13 episode at a hearing during which legislators raised concerns about why that critical information was not conveyed to the public more quickly. Amid the chaos and confusion, it took officials 38 minutes to send a second message saying the original message was an error”.

No More Sugar Gliders, Please

In Josephs, Delta cracks down on passengers’ emotional support animals, msn (1/18/2018) it was noted that “Passengers who wish to take support animals on board a Delta Air Lines plane will have to show proof of health and vaccinations 48 hours in advance, as well as other requirements, the airline said Friday. Travelers with a psychiatric services or support animal will have to have a signed document ‘confirming that their animal can behave to prevent untrained, sometimes aggressive household pets from reveling without a kennel in the cabin”, Delta said…‘Customers have attempted to fly with comfort turkeys, gliding possums known as sugar gliders, snakes, spiders and more” Delta said. ‘Ignoring the true intent of existing rules governing the transport of service and support animals can be a disservice to customers who have real and documented needs’”.

Tour Van Crash In Cebu

In Editorial: Safety first in , travelwirenews (1/22/2018) it was noted that “Six of the passengers were declared dead on arrival at a hospital in Alegria and another died in a Malabuyoc hospital. Three other companions were rushed to a hospital in Cebu City…The driver of the van was charged. He denied using illegal drugs, but admitted he lacked sleep after driving for four days…The van was taking the passengers, Filipinos with US citizenship for a medical mission in Camiguin, from whale (and) shark watching in Oslob to Kawasan Falls when the accident took place in Legaspi”.

Protests In Bucharest

In Scuffles in Bucharest as thousands protest corruption, travelwirenews (1/21/2018) it was noted that “Some 50,000 Romanians braved the sleet and snow on Saturday to protest against corruption in Bucharest. Brief scuffles broke out between the demonstrators and riot police during e march. The event kicked off at the city’s landmark University Square where protesters joined in blowing whistles, waving flags and chanting ‘Thieves’ and ‘Resign’. People also held rallies in other Romanian cities including Cluj, Timisoara, Constanta, Bacau, Sibiu and Iasi”.

Bombs At Buddhist Pilgrimage Site

In Bombs found new Buddhist pilgrimage site, security beefed up, travelwirenews (1/20/2018) it was noted that “Patna: Security was beefed up in Bodh Gaya in Bihar after two cane bombs of high intensity were found near the Buddhist pilgrimage site on Friday evening, bringing to fresh memory the 2013 serial blasts which partially damaged the sanctum sanctorum of the holy Mahabodhi temple”.

2018 Best Frequent Flyer Programs

In Comoreanu, 2018’s Best Frequent Flyer Program-Custom Calculator, wallethub,com (1/22/2018) it was noted that “To help you earn more free flights and other assorted perks, WalletHub compared the 10 largest domestic airlines’ loyalty rewards programs across 23 key metrics, ranging rom the value lo rewards point or miles to blackout-date policies”.

$99 Flights To Europe?

In Nelson, This New Airline Has $99 Flights to Europe in the Summer, msn (1/16/2018) it was noted that “Budget airline Primera Air is coming to the U.S. and it’s bringing $99 fares with it…Primera Air is set to begin flights between the US and Europe in the late spring and the flights are very affordable”.

Las Vegas Massacre: Is The Mandalay Bay Liable?

In Dickerson, Las Vegas Massacre: Is The Hotel Liable?, newyorklawjournal (1/18/2018) it was noted that “Mr. Paddock’s Actions Were Unique. While hotels and concert venues are favorite targets for terrorists both home [Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida [50 dead, 53 injured (Santora, Last Call at Pulse Nightclub, and Then Shots Rang Out, nytimes (6/12/2016)] and abroad [Taj Mahal Palace & Tower Hotel and the Oberoi Hotel in Mumbai, India [61 dead, 100s injured (Sengupta, At Least 100 Dead in India Terror Attacks, nytimes (11/27/2008)]; Nasa-Hablod Hotel in Mogadishu, Somalia [23 dead, 30 injured (Mohamed, In Mogadishu, Truck Bomb and Gunmen Kill at Least 23 on hotel attack, nytimes (10/29/2017); Concert in Manchester, United Kingdom [23 dead, 500 injured (Callimachi & Schmitt, Manchester Bomber Met With ISIS Unit in Libya, nytimes (6/3/2017)]; Concert at Balacian Theatre in Paris, France [89 dead, 100s injured (Nossiter, Breeden & Bennhold, Three Teams of Coordinated Attackers Carried Out Assault on Paris, nytimes (11/14/2015)][see also Dickerson, Avoiding Dangerous Vacations 2017 at, the Las Vegas incident appeared to be unique featuring a VIP hotel guest turning his suite into a shooting platform to kill and wound hundreds of non-guests enjoying a concert across the street from the hotel…”

Nevada Hotel Law

“Nevada Public Accommodations statute [NRS-651] sets forth the modern statutory analogue of the common law duties of hotels. NRS 651.015 [Civil liability of innkeepers for death or injury of person on premises caused by a person who is not an employee] states, in part, “2. An owner or keeper of any hotel…is civilly liable for the death or injury of a patron or other person on the premises caused by another person who is not an employee under the control and supervision of the owner or keeper if: (a) The wrongful act which caused the death or injury was foreseeable and (b) The owner or keeper failed to take reasonable precautions against the foreseeable wrongful act….3. For purposes of this section, a wrongful act is not foreseeable unless: (a) The owner or keeper failed to exercise due care for the safety of the patron or other person on the premises; or (b) Prior incidents or similar wrongful acts occurred on the premises and the owner or keeper had notice or knowledge of those incidents”.

Nevada Supreme Court Analysis

“In Smith v, Mahoney’s Silver Nugget, Inc., 265 P. 3d 688 (2011), a case in which a patron of hotel/casino bar was fatally shot and the estate sued the alleging negligence and wrongful death, the Nevada Supreme Court noted that NRS 651.015(3)’s definition of “foreseeable” provides the appropriate framework for (determining responsibility) in the context of innkeeper liability by codifying the common-law approach [see Doud v. Las Vegas Hilton Corp., 864 P. 2d 796 (1993)]. The Nevada Supreme Court concluded “that the district court properly determined that the fatal shooting was unforeseeable under NRS 651.015(3)(b) ‘because there were no prior incidents or similar wrongful acts [that] occurred on the premises’. However, as discussed in Dowd, proof of prior incidents of similar wrongful acts are sufficient, but not always necessary, for establishing the existence of a duty…the circumstances surrounding the commission of a wrongful act may provide the requisite foreseeability for imposing a duty where no prior incidents of similar wrongful conduct have occurred on the premises”. The Nevada Supreme Court’s analysis of NRS 651.015 seems to apply only to the hotel’s duties to guests and accidents to them on the premises”.

Hotel Liability Problematic

“The liability of the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino for the tragic events in Las Vegas will certainly depend upon the facts that are developed through discovery. However, the uniqueness of Mr. Paddock’s reign of terror combined with no prior instances of similar misconduct may also have some impact upon the issue of liability”.

Manhattan’s Pay-To-Drive Plan

In Dwyer & Hu, Driving a Car in Manhattan Could Cost $11.52 Under Congestion Plan, nytimes (1/18/2019) it was noted that “Driving a car into the busiest parts of Manhattan could cost $11.52 under a major proposal prepared by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo that would make New York the first city in the United States with a pay-to-drive plan. Similar traffic charges are already used in cities like Singapore, Stockholm, London and Milan, but New York has rejected or ignored versions of them dating to at least the 1970s. The newest plan embraces the twin goals of easing Manhattan’s chocking traffic while raising badly need revenue for the city’s failing subways and buses. Trucks would pay $25.34 and taxis and for-hire vehicles could see surcharges of $2 to 5$ per ride. Te pricing zone would cover Manhattan south of 60th Street”.

Human Depravity In California

In Medina, California Girl’s Escape From ‘Human Depravity’ Led to Rescue of 12 Siblings, nytimes (1/18/2018) it was noted that “She had been physically tortured-chained and deprived of sleep. And she had been psychologically tortured too-apple pies and unopened toys left out in the open that she and her 12 brothers and sisters were forbidden to touch…On Thursday, after the teenager successfully alerted the authorities to her family’s dark secret, her parents were charged with dozens of counts of torture and abuse…The teenager grew up cowering in fear…she told authorities what her parents had done to her and her brothers and sisters. How they beat them, forced them to urinate in their beds and allowed them to bathe only once a year”.

Airbnb’s Lawsuit Against Santa Monica

In Mitchell, Short-term rental giant amends lawsuit against Santa Monica, smdo (12/29/2017) it was noted that “Airbnb has shifted its strategy to overturn Santa Monica’s restrictive short-term rental ordinance amending a legal complaint against the city to focus on the California Coastal Act in addition to Federal law. The legal maneuver came as the Coastal Commission overturned Laguna Beach’s outright ban on Airbnb rentals in residential neighborhoods. Lawyers for Airbnb say Santa Monica’s ordinance, which only allows home-sharing when the host is present, severely restricts the supply of lower-cost vacation rentals, making it harder for low and moderate-income Californians to access the coast. Under the ordinance, home-sharing sites are responsible for collecting Transit Occupancy Taxes and can be held accountable for illegal listings”.

Snatched Tortoise Millennium Returned

In Haag, He Traded a Tortoise for a Turtle. He Got 6 Months in Jail, nytimes (1/19/2018) it was noted that “Mr. Waters, 37, got in trouble the last time he came in contact with a large tortoise. That episode led to the six month jail term to which Mr. Waters was sentenced on Thursday. The reptile was a 95-pound African spurred tortoise named Millennium, the star attraction at Alley Pond Environmental Center, a Queens nature center popular with children. On July 17, someone cut a hole in the fence around his enclosure and snatched him. According to his mother Mr. Waters did not steal Millennium but was approached on the street after the theft by men carrying the mammoth reptile…(Mr. Waters) found a way to offload Millennium, a two-and-a-half foot long, two-foot wide behemoth who loves watermelon. A man in Stamford, Conn., had placed an advertisement on Craigslist offering to sell a musk turtle. Mr. Water called and offered to swap reptiles, according to the Queens County District Attorney’s office”.

Drones To The Rescue In Australia

In Kwai, A Drone Saves Two Swimmers in Australia, nytimes (1/18/2018) it was noted that “A practice session for Australian lifeguards who were testing a new drone turned into a real rescue when the drone helped save two swimmers at a beach in New South Wales. In Thursday morning, Jai Sheridan, a lifeguard supervisor who was operating the drone, was alerted to two young men caught in turbulent surf with 10 foot swells. Mr. Sheridan then steered the drone toward the swimmers. In video of the incident of the incident taken from the drone, it can be seen releasing a yellow ‘rescue pod’ that inflates in the water. The two swimmers grabbed the pod, and with its support they made their way to shore. They were fatigued but not hurt…The rescue took just 70 seconds…The drone used for the rescue, known as a Little Ripper unmanned aerial vehicle, is also part of a shark spotting program being rolled out across Australian beaches this summer”.

Airport Candy Thief In Dubai

In Airport porter to be deported for pilfering candy from bags, travelwirenews (1/20/2018) it was noted that “Dubai: An airport porter, who opened passengers’ luggage and stole candy while transporting bags to aircraft, was handed a three-month suspended imprisonment. The 22 year old Pakistani porter had repeatedly tampered with passengers’ luggage in April, took away candies and sweets”.

Philippine Volcano Ready To Rumble

In Villamor, Philippines Raises Alert Level as Mayon Volcano Eruption Intensifies, nytimes (1/22/2028) it was noted that “Philippine officials raised the alert level on Mayon volcano on Monday as it began spewing an ash plume more than 4,000 feet high from its summit in a spectacular show of destructive power. The Philippine Institute of Volcanology…has raised the alert level to four-the highest is five-meaning the cone-shaped volcano was in a stage of ‘intense unrest’ that could set off a hazardous eruption at any time”.

Turkish Tour Bus Crash Kills 17

In Turkish tour bus crashes into trees killing 11 passengers and injuring 46, travelwirenews,com (1/20/2018) it was noted that “The tour bus crashed into trees en route from the capital Ankara to Busra province”.

Manhattan’s Pay-To-Drive Plan

In Dwyer & Hu, Driving a Car in Manhattan Could Cost $11.52 Under Congestion Plan, nytimes (1/18/2019) it was noted that “Driving a car into the busiest parts of Manhattan could cost $11.52 under a major proposal prepared by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo that would make New York the first city in the United States with a pay-to-drive plan. Similar traffic charges are already used in cities like Singapore, Stockholm, London and Milan, but New York has rejected or ignored versions of them dating to at least the 1970s. The newest plan embraces the twin goals of easing Manhattan’s chocking traffic while raising badly need revenue for the city’s failing subways and buses. Trucks would pay $25.34 and taxis and for-hire vehicles could see surcharges of $2 to 5$ per ride. Te pricing zone would cover Manhattan south of 60th Street”.

Cash Crisis In Venezuela

In Pozzebon, Venezuela’s cash crisis: You can’t get $1 from a bank. I tried, msn (1/18/2018) it was noted that “In most of the world, getting a little money out of the bank is an errand, something forgettable. In Venezuela, for millions of people, it is complicated, tedious and surreal, or just impossible…As Venezuela has sunk to new depths, prices have skyrocketed, and the currency, the bolivar, has become next to worthless…Inflation is so rampant–some experts say it ran above 4,000% last year–that it had devoured people’s salaries. As I write this, one dollar fetches about 191,000 bolivars according to the blackmarket exchange rate that everyone uses”.

Southwest Sues Airfare Tracker

In Josephs, Southwest sues startup that monitored airfare changes, msn (1/17/2018) it was noted that “This fall, two friends had an idea: Monitor Southwest Airlines’ fares and alert travelers when prices fell. Southwest sued them. Pavel Yurevich, an engineer, and his friend Chase Roberts, a coder, launched SWMonkey in November. For a $3 fee, they sent travelers an email when fares or mileage requirements dropped on Southwest’s website, so they could rebook at the lower fare. Southwest allows travelers to rebook at a lower price, and then holds the difference for future travel…Following cease and desist letters from the airline (they) ended their service…The suit raises the question of whether airlines’ fares are public information. While airlines are easily obtained, prices for certain schedules and city pairs aren’t generally published…Southwest…sells its tickets on its own website-you won’t find the fares on Priceline, Kayak or Expedia-keeping a tight control on its fare information…Airfare trackers such as Hopper don’t have access to prices from all airlines. Hopper, for example, doesn’t include Delta or Southwest fares”.

Travel Law Case Of The Week

In the Perez case the Court noted that the “Plaintiff’s Complaint two counts. Count I is a wrongful death claim under the Florida Wrongful Death Act, Fla. Stat. 768.16-26, if the incident on the ship that led to Ms. Santos’s death took place in Y.S. territorial waters. Plaintiffs plead Count II, a wrongful death claim under the Death on the High Seas Act, 46 U.S.C. 30301-8, in the alternative, in the event that the ship was outside of U.S. territorial waters. Norwegian moves to dismiss Count I because the Death on the High Seas Act, rather than Florida law, should apply. Norwegian moves to dismiss Count II for failure to state a claim upon which can be granted”.

Which Law Applies?

“The parties quibble with whether Florida’s Wrongful Death Act or the Death on the High Seas Act applies…By its terms, the Death on the High Seas Act does not cover deaths resulting from incidents occurring within state territorial waters-up to three miles off a State’s shore. The distinction is crucial because recovery under the Death on the High Seas Act is limited to pecuniary loss, while claims for non-pecuniary loss are barred…In comparison, Florida law is more generous as it permits recovery of (non-)pecuniary loss. See Fla. Stat. 768.21(2)(“The surviving spouse may also recover for loss of the decedent’s companionship and protection and for the mental pain and suffering from the date of the injury”).

Affidavit Not Considered

“In support, Norwegian relies on the affidavit of Brett Berman, the Director of Passenger and Crew Claims, which states that at the time of the incident that resulted in Ms. Santos’s death, the ship was in international waters, thereby resulting in the application of the Death on the High Seas Act. The general rule is that ay the motion to dismiss stage, the Court’s review is limited to the four corners of the complaint and may not consider matter outside the pleadings without converting the defendant’s motion into one for summary judgment….This Court could rely on Mr. Berman’s affidavit of Plaintiffs had referenced it in their Complaint but they did not…Norwegian’s motion to dismiss Count I is denied”.

Failure To State A Claim

“The essence of Norwegian’s argument is that Plaintiffs failed to properly allege a claim of negligence under the Death on the High Seas Act. 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 beached that duty; (3) the breach actually and proximately caused the plaintiff’s injury and (4) the plaintiff suffered actual harm”.

Duty Of Reasonable Care

“First, Plaintiffs allege that Norwegian had a duty to exercise reasonable care in: (1) properly monitoring or assisting in transporting wheelchair-bound passengers; (2) properly training and supervising its crew in operating motorized wheelchairs; (3) implementing appropriate policies and procedures for addressing passengers who suffer onboard injuries; (4) properly treating and tending to injured passengers while aboard the ship; and (5) assuring that the hospital and physicians to which it refers its passengers meet the same standard of reasonable case to which its own medical professionals are subject..Second, Norwegian purportedly breached said duties by, inter alia, failing to properly monitor and assist in the transportation of the wheelchair-bound passenger that slammed into Ms. Santos and properly treat Ms. Santos which she was aboard the ship”.

Causation & Damages

“Third, Plaintiffs allege that ‘[Norwegian’s] negligence proximately caused great bodily harm to Ms. Santos, and ultimately proximately caused her death, in that, but for [Norwegian’s] negligence, Ms. Santos’ debilitating injuries would not have occurred’. Fourth, Plaintiffs allege that Ms. Santos suffered ‘severe bodily injury resulting in her death, and [her] family has suffered the loss of support and services from the date of the incident to her death, and future loss of support and services since her passing”.


“Whether Norwegian breached the alleged duties is a question that cannot and should not be answered at this stage”. Norwegian’s motion to dismiss is denied in its entirety.


The author, Thomas A. Dickerson, is a retired Associate Justice of the Appellate Division, Second Department of the New York State Supreme Court and has been writing about Travel Law for 41 years including his annually updated law books, Travel Law, Law Journal Press (2016), Litigating International Torts in U.S. Courts, Thomson Reuters WestLaw (2016), Class Actions: The Law of 50 States, Law Journal Press (2016) and over 400 legal articles many of which are available at For additional travel law news and developments, especially, in the member states of the EU see

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