(CN) – Holland American cruise line is not responsible for rough waves that took out a passenger who was wading in the Pacific Ocean and is now partially paralyzed, the 9th Circuit ruled Friday.
Gerald E. Samuels sued Holland American in Seattle after he was swallowed and tossed by Pacific Ocean waves at Lover’s Beach in Cabo San Lucas while on a seven-day cruise with his daughters in 2008. Waves knocked Samuels down as he waded, chest-deep, into the Pacific side of the beach, which sits at the tip of the Baja peninsula beside the Sea of Cortez.
Samuels hit his head on the ocean floor and had to be rescued by bystanders since there were no lifeguards. Doctors have classified Samuels as a “high-functioning quadriplegic with significant pain and mobility limitations,” according to the ruling.
Samuels, a California resident, claimed that ship employees should have warned him that the Pacific side of Lover’s Beach was dangerous. But Holland American argued that, in 27 years of sailing to Lover’s Beach, Samuels was the first passenger to be injured, and that some 96,000 cruise-line passengers visited Cabo San Lucas in 2008 without incident.
Though two travel industry professionals testified for Samuels that Lover’s Beach has a dangerous reputation, Chief U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik ruled for the cruise line, finding Samuels’s experts unqualified and lacking in real evidence to support their assertions.
Lacking evidence about the alleged dangers of Lover’s Beach, he agreed that the cruise line did not have a duty to warn its passengers about it.
The federal appeals court in Seattle affirmed Friday.
“The record does not include any evidence (particularly because the material portions of the declarations made by Samuels’s experts were properly stricken) that Holland American knew or should have known that the Pacific Ocean side of Lover’s Beach was so dangerous that it needed to warn passengers not to swim there,” wrote Judge Ronald Gilman for the unanimous three-judge panel (parentheses in original). Gilman sat on the panel by designation from the 6th Circuit.
“With the exception of Samuels, 96,000 Holland American passengers visited Cabo San Lucas in 2008 without a single report that any of those passengers who chose to visit Lover’s Beach were injured while doing so” the 11-page ruling states. “Nor was Holland American aware of any similar accident, or any accident at all, that had previously occurred while a Holland American passenger was swimming on the Pacific Ocean side of Lover’s Beach. Samuels has failed to provide any evidence to the contrary.”