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Eleventh Circuit reverses summary judgment for defendant cruise line in maritime-negligence case

On June 16, 2020, in Amy v. Carnival Corporation, No. 18-14917, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a summary judgment entered by the district court for the defendant cruise line in a maritime-negligence case. The case arose out of an accident at sea when a three-year-old child either fell over or through a guard rail onto a lower deck and suffered head injuries. The child’s mother sued Carnival for negligent creation and maintenance of the guard rail and failure to warn of the danger posed by the guard rail. The Eleventh Circuit ruled that the district court erred when it concluded that there was no genuine issue of material fact as to Carnival’s notice of the alleged risk-creating condition because it failed to view the evidence in a light most favorable to the plaintiff and to draw reasonable inferences in her favor. The Eleven the Circuit cited testimony in the record that Carnival warned passengers not to “climb up rails,” “try to sit on them,” “try to get selfies [or] lean[] over” them because “accidents can happen” and “there have been passengers [who] have fallen off.”  The Eleventh Circuit also ruled that the district court erred when it resolved the failure-to warn claim based on the “open and obvious” defense,  notwithstanding the fact that Carnival did not raise this defense in its answer or its summary judgment motion and the district never provided the plaintiff notice or an opportunity to respond.

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