Back in October, a six-year-old boy drowned in a pool on the Carnival Victory. Earlier this month, it was reported that a four-year-old boy drowned and a six-year-old boy was revived, both on the Norwegian Breakaway. Apparently, the ship’s emergency medical team responded and administered CPR, but only the older child was able to be revived. It is unclear at this time whether the boys were under supervision by their parents or under the care of the “Splash Academy” (a child-care equivalent).
Except for Disney Cruise Line, most cruise lines do not offer lifeguards, and swimming is usually at the swimmer’s own risk. Members of the Cruise Lines and Passenger Ships Committee of the Maritime Law Association have stressed the importance of the foreseeable risk of drowning around pools and have been lobbying for the cruise lines to supply qualified lifeguards at all pools. However, the cruise industry does not wish to increase its liability by undertaking the duty of providing safety measures.
This is due to what is termed the “undertaker’s duty.” In simple terms, the undertaker’s duty is a theory in tort law that one who undertakes a duty must do so reasonably under the circumstances. In 1996, in Union Park Memorial Chapel v. Hutt, 670 So.2d 64 (Fla. 1996), the Florida Supreme Court upheld the undertaker’s duty as alive and well in Florida. The issue, in that case, was whether a funeral director had a duty to a member of a funeral procession who was injured in an intersection accident when her vehicle in the procession ran a red light. The Court held that a funeral director, who voluntarily undertakes (I realize this is a pun, and so did the Court in its opinion) to organize and lead a funeral procession, owes a duty of reasonable care to procession participants.
The cruise industry does not want to be held liable for deaths due to drowning in their pools. If they start to staff lifeguards at these pools, they will be held liable for these deaths due to the undertaker’s rule. Parents and all passengers should be aware of this and act accordingly. Keep an eye out and watch your children. Be careful and stay safe when around the pool areas.