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A drunken passenger who fell two decks from a staircase while aboard Royal Caribbean’s Monarch of the Seas asked Florida’s 3rd District Court of Appeal on Monday to reinstate his personal injury lawsuit against the cruise line. Last July, Miami-Dade County Circuit Judge Barbara Levenson dismissed the suit filed by Lawrence W. Hall, citing the state Dram Shop Act. That law affords broad immunity to anyone selling alcohol to adults. Hall, who is from Tennessee, suffered a severe concussion, was airlifted off of the ship and remained in a coma for several days in December 2001. He filed suit against Miami-based Royal Caribbean in 2002. In oral arguments before the 3rd DCA, Hall’s attorney, Michael D. Eriksen, claimed Judge Levenson applied the wrong law in her ruling and asked the court to reconsider the ruling based on federal maritime law. “The judge overlooked federal case law,” said Eriksen, a partner at Romano Eriksen Cronin & Mullins in West Palm Beach, Fla. “This is a pure contributory negligence case. We ought to encourage ship owners to act responsibly.” Royal Caribbean attorney Robert D. Peltz, a partner at McIntosh Sawran Peltz Cartaya & Petruccelli’s Miami office, disagreed. “There is no liability for selling alcohol,” he said. “There are no allegations that the plaintiff asked for help and no allegation that there is any defect in the setting.” Alan R. Schwartz, chief judge of the 3rd DCA, interrupted Peltz almost immediately, asking him to name a case holding that a ship owner owes no duty to protect its passengers. Peltz couldn’t. He said a video taken by two crew members showed that Hall was not obviously intoxicated, proving that no one could have known that the ship’s staff should have stopped serving Hall or should have helped him to his cabin. “So you’re going to win the case,” Schwartz said, suggesting that he’s going to send the case to trial and leaned toward reversing Levenson’s decision to dismiss the case. “As a matter of law, there is a duty.” Judges Linda Ann Wells and David M. Gersten were also on the panel.

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