Florida Personal Injury Attorney: Are Cruise Ship Liability Waivers Enforceable

by Carmen Dellutri on January 26, 2012

Naples accident attorneySince the Costa Concordia ran aground in Italy, many people are understandably concerned about the safety of cruise ships. While the Costa Concordia accident is a rare worst-case scenario, thousands of people suffer injuries on cruise ships every year.

If you have been on a cruise, you have likely been asked to sign an "Onboard Activities Waivers" before participating in certain activities. For instance, these waivers are required before using Royal Caribbean’s popular FlowRider, in which passengers “surf” simulated waves.

While these waivers are commonly used by cruise ships to help avoid liability for passenger injuries, many personal injury attorneys have questioned their enforceability. Thankfully, a recent court decision has brought much needed clarity to the issue, striking down the waiver used by Royal Caribbean

The Facts of the Case

As detailed in the court opinion, Charlene Johnson was a passenger on the Oasis of the Sea cruise ship owned by Royal Caribbean. Before purchasing a ticket to participate in the FlowRider attraction, Johnson was instructed to sign an electronic "Onboard Activity Waiver.” The waiver purported to release Royal and its employees from actions "arising from any accident [or] injury. . . resulting from . . . [her] participation in any or all of the shipboard activities [she] has selected."

While riding the FlowRider, Johnson received instructions from a Royal employee ("Mike") that deviated from the regular use of the body boards, which are different from the surfboards. Mike instructed Johnson to stand on the body board while he was holding it. However, when he let go, Johnson fell off the board and suffered a fractured ankle.

As noted by the court, “The maneuver attempted by Mike with Johnson was in violation of Royal's safety guidelines for the FlowRider attraction. These guidelines specifically state that the boards for the surfing portion can be stood upon, while the boards used for the body boarding portion should only be used while lying down."

The Court Ruling

The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeal ruled that the Royal Caribbean waiver was unenforceable. Specifically, it found that it violated a federal law (46 U.S.C. § 30509), which prohibits contractual provisions that 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." In addition, court held that the statute was clear and unambiguous, and that it applied to recreational, inherently dangerous, or ultra hazardous activities.


The Dellutri Law Group is focused on making bad situations better and putting lives back together. If you or someone you love has been seriously injured in a Florida car accident caused by someone else’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation.

To learn more about your legal options, contact our experienced Florida injury attorneys for a free consultation. 

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