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Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals rules that district court properly exercised admiralty jurisdiction over medical negligence complaint involving care rendered on cruise ship because providing care and comfort to passengers is a traditional maritime activity

On March 29, 2021, in Buland v. NCL (Bahamas) Ltd., No. 19-13012, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals made several notable rulings and in an admiralty case involving a cruise ship passenger who allegedly was injured due to medical negligence by the cruise ship medical staff. First, while the case was tried to a jury by the parties’ consent, the Eleventh Circuit noted in dicta that since the case falls only within the district court’s admiralty jurisdiction the parties were not entitled as of right to a jury trial, citing Fed. R. Civ. P. 9(h)(1) and 38(e). That parties in this case had both requested a jury trial under the assumption that the district court also had diversity jurisdiction, but the Eleventh Circuit’s intervening decision in Caron v. NCL (Bahamas), Ltd., 910 F.3d 1359, 1365 (11th Cir. 2018), clarified that diversity jurisdiction was unavailable because the defendant’s status as a company incorporated in a foreign county defeated diversity jurisdiction since the plaintiff was also a foreign citizen. Second, the Court ruled that the district court properly exercised admiralty jurisdiction over medical negligence complaint involving care rendered on cruise ship because providing care and comfort to passengers is a traditional maritime activity, citing, inter alia,” Jerome B. Grubart, Inc. v. Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co., 513 U.S. 527, 534 (1995). Third, the Eleventh Circuit determined that the district court did not err in disqualifying the plaintiff’s economist expert as to the loss of future earning capacity. Applying the Daubert standard, the Eleventh Circuit concluded that the expert’s conclusion that the plaintiff did not have post-incident career opportunities more lucrative than working as a part-time university teacher or member of a corporate board was entirely speculative since it was based mostly on a discussion with the plaintiff. The Eleventh Circuit also noted that there is a significant gap between the 10-hour workweek the plaintiff testified he could handle and the 60-hour workweek his medical experts testified he could no longer handle, thereby falling short of the “reasonable degree of certainty” required to prove damages under the law, citing Guyana Tel. & Tel. Co. v. Melbourne Int’l Commc’ns, Ltd., 329 F.3d 1241, 1248 (11th Cir. 2003).

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