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Passenger claims on cruise ships - most appropriate forum for brining disability claim (UK or China)

A few months ago, China got its first ever case concerning cruise passenger injury on high seas. In The Saphire Princess a Chinese passenger (8 yr old) suffered a 1st level disability after falling in the pool which was unattended. Questions were (a) whether English law applied (since vessel’s flag state was UK and owners were also based there) or Chinese law; and (b) can liability limits be broken. Claim fell under the 'Athens Convention'.

Chinese law was held to be applicable for reasons such as cruise ship and operators had sufficiently close connections with China and the result (i.e. hospitalization etc) took place in China. The place of the accident wasn't given due weight. Total compensation was calculated to be RMB 2.9m which could be reduced to RMB 0.43m if limits were applicable.

For limits to be broken the convention requires that the act or omission must be reckless and there must be some kind of awareness or knowledge that damage will be caused. Court disregarded the latter requirement and said that ship should have taken positive measures to avoid drowning accidents in accordance with the Chinese passengers’ cognition. Worth mentioning that mother’s contributory negligence was also factored in and the final compensation was reduced by 20%.

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