Carnival fails to secure favorable judgment in burn injury lawsuit

By Carrie Salls | Mar 10, 2018

MIAMI — Carnival Corp.’s motion for summary judgment in a burn injury case was denied on Feb. 26 by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

According to the court’s order, which was isssued by U.S. District Judge Federico A. Moreno, plaintiff Valissia Richard alleges that “a waiter spilled hot water on her during dinner” when she was on a cruise on the company’s Carnival Breeze ship in October 2016.

Moreno wrote in the order that Richard alleged that she ordered a cup of hot tea during the course of her meal in the ship’s dining hall, and that the waiter brought the hot water to the table in a teapot that was “designed with a non-locking, non-sealing hinged lid.”

When the waiter brought the pot to the table, Richard alleged that Sherrie Dawson, another woman sitting at her table, was using a maraca.

“As (waiter) Wayon Setiawan approached the table to serve Richard, Dawson hit his hand—the teapot then fell off the saucer, spilling hot water onto Richard’s chest, right shoulder and right arm,” Moreno said in the order. “Richard suffered severe injuries from the accident, including second degree burns on her right chest, breast, and upper and lower right arm,” which she claims “left her with permanent scarring or disfigurement.”

Richard claimed in her lawsuit that “Carnival was negligent in the manner, method and mode of serving Richard hot water for tea,” according to the district court order, and that “Setiawan owed a duty to exercise reasonable care and avoid actions that foreseeably could cause injury to passengers.”

Specifically, Moreno said, Richard alleged that the waiter could have placed the teapot on the table in a different manner to avoid spilling the hot water on her.

“She alleges that had Setiawan held the teapot by the handle, and not by the saucer, it would have prevented the teapot from falling off the saucer and dumping the water on to Richard,” the district court order said.

Meanwhile, the court said Carnival argued that Dawson’s location next to Richard at the table made her “an unforeseeable intervening force, and that her actions—not those of Setiawan—proximately caused Richard’s injuries.”

The district court said the company did not agree with Richard’s claims.

“According to Carnival, ‘it is purely speculation, and otherwise impossible, for [the] plaintiff to assert that a different model teapot, or holding the teapot with two hands instead of one, or holding the teapot by its handle, or even serving the hot water at lower temperatures would have not harmed or injured plaintiff,’” Moreno said in the order.

Moreno wrote in the order that Carnival’s argument fell short of proving that the summary judgment should be granted in its favor.

“Although the parties concur about many of the events preceding Richard’s injuries, their dueling statements of facts illuminate several genuine and material factual disputes,” Moreno wrote, adding that Richard’s “version of the disputed facts offer substantial support for her argument that Carnival and Carnival’s employees should have taken further precautions to prevent the precise incident that occurred.”

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