Benson v. Norwegian Cruise Line Limited

859 So. 2d 1213 (2003)

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Benson v. Norwegian Cruise Line Limited

Florida District Court of Appeal
859 So. 2d 1213 (2003)

Facts

Patricia Hardy-Smith (plaintiff) and her 13-year-old son, Noah Benson, took a cruise from Miami to Key West on a ship owned and operated by Norwegian Cruise Line Limited (Norwegian) (defendant). While on board, Noah suffered an anaphylactic allergic reaction, causing his throat to swell shut. The ship’s onboard doctor, Carla Von Benecke (defendant), a South African national, attempted to insert a breathing tube, but Noah died before he could be successfully intubated. Hardy-Smith and Roger Benson (plaintiff), Noah’s father, brought a wrongful-death suit against Norwegian and Benecke based on alleged medical malpractice. Hardy-Smith and Benson claimed long-arm jurisdiction over Benecke based on Benecke committing a tortious act within Florida’s territorial waters. Benecke moved to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. Expert evidence submitted during the legal proceedings established that (1) the medical malpractice occurred when the ship was 11.7 nautical miles off the east coast of Florida; and (2) on the relevant day, the Gulf Stream was located 14 nautical miles off the east coast of Florida. The trial court dismissed the wrongful-death claim against Benecke, holding that the long-arm statute did not apply because the incident occurred outside of Florida’s territorial waters. Hardy-Smith and Benson appealed, arguing that the ship was within Florida’s territorial waters at the time of Noah’s death.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Cope, J.)

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