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Unlocked Upper Bunk Strikes Passenger in Head, Passenger Hires Brais Law Firm & Sues Carnival Cruise Line for Traumatic Brain Injury

September 19, 2018 Cruise Ship Injury & Death

cruise ship bunk bedsOn January 25, 2018, while sailing aboard the Carnival Ecstasy with other family members, Eric Ewing decided to relax in his cabin and have a bite to eat.  Eric began to eat a slice of pizza while he sat comfortably on the edge of his bed. Per a Complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida dated April 25, 2018, suddenly and without warning, the upper bunk within his cabin came crashing down on Eric’s head. Per an announcement over the PA system, the Carnival Ecstasy had diverted off course to provide emergency medical care for a passenger having a medical emergency.  Eric noticed the vessel was no longer riding as smoothly after the change of course. Eric has now been diagnosed with a closed head traumatic brain injury, which now nine months later is causing him debilitating and life altering pain, and diminished cognitive abilities.

Eric is an honorably discharged U.S.M.C. veteran, father of two and was traveling aboard the Carnival Ecstasy with several direct and extended family members. Eric had sailed with Carnival on 27 occasions before the subject cruise and had earned the distinction of being a Platinum cruiser with Carnival.  Eric’s cabin, very similar to the above picture, had been configured by cruise staff to accommodate his wheelchair bound mother, who he and his family made it a point of traveling with as frequent as possible.  Unfortunately, and on the eve of the Cruise, Eric’s mother was unable to join her family on the cruise. Ordinarily, these cabins are configured with twin beds on each side and a nightstand between the beds.  An upper bunk is stowed above each lower bed and when not in use is folded up into the walls and out of the way.  If more than two passengers stay in a cabin, a Cabin Steward generally deploy or lowers any needed upper bunk while the room’s occupants are at dinner.  That way any needed upper bunk is ready and available for use after the cabin’s occupants return from dinner.  Conversely, the Cabin Steward folds up or raises any upper bunk the following morning while the cabin’s occupants are at breakfast.

Some things are very clear about this most unfortunate event, which has tragically robbed Eric of the life he once enjoyed.  Passengers don’t lower or raise upper bunks within their cabins aboard Carnival’s vessels.  In fact, passengers can’t.  The bunks have a locking mechanism that requires a special locking/unlocking tool or wrench.  Only Carnival personnel have the tool.  Without the tool, upper bunks cannot be unlocked and lowered at least when they are raised and locked in place when stowed.

Absent some negligence on the part of a Carnival employee, upper cabin bunks do not come crashing down onto a passenger’s head who happens to be seated on the edge of his or her bed.  If an upper bunk is raised, it’s supposed to be locked and unable to come crashing down without notice.  Shortly after Eric was struck in the head, he checked the upper bunk raised and stowed on the opposite side of his cabin.  To his dismay, he discovered the bunk was not locked.  At that moment, Eric realized the Cabin Steward who last raised the bunks in his cabin, did not lock them to prevent them from crashing down in moderate seas.

Defenses Routinely Raised by Cruise Lines

Defendant Cruise Lines raise the same defenses case after case.  They attempt to capitalize on the fact that no matter how legitimate the claim, jurors will never learn how often the same defenses have been raised.  These are:

  • The incident never happened,
  • The incident happened, but it is a fraud (i.e., staged or fake claim),
  • The incident happened, but it is entirely (100%) plaintiff’s fault,
  • The incident happened, but the Cruise Line did not create nor know of the alleged dangerous condition and, therefore, cannot be liable for any resulting harm,
  • The incident happened, but the alleged dangerous condition was open and obvious (or should have been) to the Plaintiff and, therefore, the Cruise Line cannot be liable for any resulting harm, and
  • The incident happened, but the alleged dangerous condition and/or negligence was as a consequence of an independent contractor and/or third party over whom the Cruise Line exercised no control and, therefore, the Cruise Line cannot be liable for any resulting harm.

Accident versus Negligence – Always a Choice

Defendants, in particular Cruise Lines, in civil lawsuits love to say, “It was an accident” or “It was just an oversight or mistake”.  In the event a jury is inclined to award money this characterization sounds much more forgiving.  Negligence is a matter of choices by the ultimately responsible party.  In Eric’s case, the choices made by Carnival will include:

  • Did Carnival provide its cabin stewards with sufficient training when it came to stowing and locking upper bunks?
  • Did Carnival have procedures in place to ensure compliance with training, assuming it was provided?
  • Did Carnival assign its cabin stewards with so many rooms and responsibilities, and so little time that it was inevitable that a safety policy or procedure would be compromised?
  • Did Carnival maintain the locking mechanism to the upper bunks, by periodic inspection and with sufficient crew?

When so called “accidents” are stripped of their veneer; bad choices most often motivated by corporate financial gain is at the heart of nearly every negligence claim for personal injury or wrongful death.

Witnesses to Prove “Notice”

As mentioned above, a defense often raised to passenger claims is “lack of notice.”  At a later point in these types of claims, the Cruise Line typically files a motion asking the Court to dismiss the claim, arguing the Plaintiff cannot prove the Cruise Line had either actual or constructive notice.  Constructive notice means the alleged dangerous condition existed for a sufficient period of time, such that the Cruise Line should have discovered it and warned of the condition until it could be remedied.

Mr. Ewing is asking that any passenger traveling aboard any Carnival vessel before January 25, 2018, who likewise discovered or suffered injury as a result of an unlocked bunk contact his attorneys.  These witnesses may be crucial to Mr. Ewing proving up his case.  Any such witnesses can contact Mr. Ewing’s attorneys by calling 1-800-499-0551 nationwide or (305) 416-2901 within Florida or writing to Brais Law Firm via email at

Brais Law Can Provide Legal Assistance

If you or a loved one have been injured while traveling aboard a cruise ship or private yacht, please feel free to call 1-800-499-0551 nationwide or (305) 416-2901 within Florida or submit an online case evaluation form through our Contact Us page to schedule a free and confidential consultation with a seasoned maritime injury lawyer here at Brais Law Firm.