SW Legal studies in Business

Third Party Not Liable for Worker’s Compensation Costs Incurred by Employer

Court held that a cruise ship operator was not liable for worker’s compensation costs incurred by an employer on behalf of an employee sent on a paid cruise who was injured during a fun outing. The cruise ship was not negligent in its behavior so was not responsible for the costs associated with the injury.

Topic Employment Law
Key Words Worker’s Compensation; Recovery; Third Party
C A S E   S U M M A R Y

John Morrell & Co. paid for twelve of its employees to go on a cruise on a Royal Caribbean ship. When the ship was in Cozumel, Mexico, the several employees, including Weiler, went on a dune buggy expedition that Royal Caribbean made available, but was owned and operated by a Cozumel company. Weiler was a passenger in a dune buggy driven by another Morrell employee that was hit by a moped driven by an unrelated party. The collision caused the dune buggy to swerve and flip, causing serious injuries to Weiler. Morrell paid $170,000 in medical benefits and disability benefits for Weiler. Morrell sued Royal Caribbean to recover those sums, alleging negligence in providing the dune buggy trip. Royal Caribbean moved for summary judgement.

Decision Motion granted. The ship operator was not negligent. Royal Caribbean had no interest in the dune buggy operation; its literature made clear that it was one entertainment option made available in Cozumel, but the ship did not supervise the operation and had no duty to warn passengers of possible dangers in such a trip, as the dangers are obvious. A reasonable person would understand dune buggy driving can be dangerous. No action taken by Royal Caribbean was the proximate cause of the accident, so it cannot be liable for the costs incurred by the employer under its worker’s compensation program that covered its employee on this trip.
Citation John Morrell & Co. v. Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd., ---F.Supp.2d--- (2008 WL 400244, S.D. Fla., 2008)

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