McAlpin Tanner Marcotte receives Favorable Summary Judgment Ruling Enforcing Liability Release

McAlpin Tanner Marcotte Partners Richard McAlpin and Kassandra Taylor recently secured a partial summary judgment in a wrongful death case enforcing the terms of a pre-activity release in the District Court for the U.S. Virgin Islands. The decedent, who traveled to St. Thomas on a cruise ship, signed a waiver releasing the tour operator from liability for its own negligence during a shore excursion. The defense team successfully argued that the waiver applied with equal force to the tour operator expressly named in the release and to the second defendant tour operator as an “affiliated and related company” given the express language of the release.

Since the Court ruled that the release barred the plaintiff’s negligence claims against the defendants, the plaintiff was forced to proceed only on her claims that the defendants had been grossly negligent in causing the decedent’s death. After three days of trial and the close of plaintiff’s case in chief, McAlpin Tanner Marcotte moved for judgment as a matter of law under Rule 50. The Court heard oral arguments from counsel on the motion before adjourning for the day at nearly 8:00 p.m. The case was resolved on positive terms for both defendants before trial resumed the next morning.

Everyone on the defense side was quite pleased with the result. Rich and Kassie were honored to appear pro hac vice before the District Court in the U.S. Virgin Islands and proud to represent the defendants, both local tour operators in St. Thomas.

This case was originally filed in the Southern District of Florida against the two tour operators and a third defendant, a major cruise line headquartered in Miami. The tour operators were dismissed following McAlpin Tanner Marcotte’s motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. McAlpin Tanner Marcotte also moved to dismiss the claims filed against the cruise line. Although most of the claims against the cruise line were dismissed, the Court allowed a couple counts against the cruise line to move past the pleading stage. However, the remaining claims against the cruise line were resolved on favorable terms shortly after the tour operators were dismissed.