Plaintiffs have set 'a banquet of consequences' in class action against cruise line, magistrate judge says

By Karen Kidd | Dec 18, 2018

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MIAMI — The families for autistic children suing a luxury cruise liner after being tossed about during passage through rough weather in 2016 have set themselves "a banquet of consequences," a magistrate judge said while recommending motions in the class action be denied.

In his 37-page omnibus report and recommendation issued Dec. 11, U.S. Magistrate Judge Jonathan Goodman, on the bench in Florida's Southern District, Miami Division, quoted 19th-century "Treasure Island" author Robert Louis Stevenson. Stevenson, the judge wrote, "provided insight that could easily apply to a failure to follow rules: 'Everybody, sooner or later, sits down to a banquet of consequences'."

Goodman applied the Stevenson quote to the families who filed the class action. "As outlined in this report and recommendations, plaintiffs appear to have set their own banquet of consequences by failing (once again) to comply with Local Rule 7.1.," Goodman wrote.

Goodman recommended that U.S. District Court Judge Jose E. Martinez deny the plaintiff's motions to exclude defense expert testimony, at least in part, for repeated failure to comply with the local rule. Goodman also recommended Martinez deny in part similar motions filed by defendant in the case, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Jonathan Goodman

The class action originally was filed in March 2016 by 40 families of autistic children following rough passage aboard the Anthem of the Seas during a winter storm that kicked up hurricane-force winds off the Carolina coast the previous February. The families, including lead plaintiff Donna Incardone, claimed the luxury cruise company's officials had been negligent in deciding to sail the vessel into the storm despite forecasted turbulent weather.

The families claimed in their initial lawsuit that passengers were "hurled against cabin walls, floors and furniture, sustaining bodily and psychic injuries" and that the children were "severely battered and traumatized."

Royal Carribean claims the storm had been "an unexpected Act of God" and that the families cannot recover damage under maritime law.

As part of more recent developments in the now more than 2-year-old case, both sides have moved to exclude or limit the other side's expert testimony. Plaintiffs filed to strike expert testimony of two rebuttal defense experts while Royal Caribbean Cruises, filed a motion to strike or limit the testimony of five plaintiffs' expert witnesses.

Plaintiffs' repeated failure comply with Local Rule 7.1 is enough to merit denial of their motions and their counsel has been admonished for their failure to comply, Goodman wrote in his report and recommendations. Plaintiffs also accused Royal Caribbean of not complying with the same rule, which "does not excuse plaintiffs' own violations," Goodman wrote.

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