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Eleventh Circuit rules in maritime premises liability case that cruise ship owner was vicariously liable for negligence of employee regardless of whether owner had actual or constructive knowledge of risk-creating condition

On July 12, 2021, in Yusko v. NCL (Bahamas) Ltd., No. 20-10452, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a passenger pursuing a maritime negligence claim against a shipowner based on an employee’s negligence under a theory of vicarious liability was not required to establish that the shipowner had actual or constructive knowledge of a risk-creating condition. The Court noted that although this case is governed by federal maritime law, when Congress has not spoken on a maritime matter, common law principles apply, citing Chaparro v. Carnival Corp., 693 F.3d 1333, 1336 (11th Cir. 2012). Common law recognizes vicarious liability and allows an employer to be held liable for its employee’s torts if committed during the scope of the employment. See Restatement (Third) Of Agency § 7.07 (2006). The Court held that when the alleged tortfeasor is an employee, the principle of vicarious liability allows “an otherwise non-faulty employer” to be held liable “for the negligent acts of [that] employee acting within the scope of employment,” quoting from Langfitt v. Fed. Marine Terminals, Inc., 647 F.3d 1116, 1121 (11th Cir. 2011).

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