A federal judge has ruled that two expert witnesses for the plaintiff will be allowed to testify in a negligence lawsuit against Carnival Cruise Lines and its partners.
In 2015, David Carideo was on an electronic music themed “Groove Cruise” run by Carnival Cruise Lines and Whet Travel Inc. During this cruise, alcohol was sold both on the ship and during shore excursions. Carideo alleges that he was attacked by two of his fellow passengers. Carideo claims that his attackers threw him to the ground and beat him, resulting in a fractured skull and permanent injury to his head. A Carnival security officer who was patrolling the deck above heard the altercation and responded to the scene, but by the time he arrived, Carideo had already been beaten.
Carideo filed a negligence suit against Carnival and its partners in the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Florida. Carideo claims that the attack was fueled by alcohol. He alleges that Carnival and Whet Travel benefited financially from selling alcohol in profuse quantities and that security measures were insufficient to ensure passenger safety. Carideo claims that the Groove Cruise was “three days of partying, billed as an electronic music dance party” where passengers “became intoxicated to the point of vomiting around the ship and reaching points of inebriation, such that they became physically ill.”
Carideo retained Dr. Ross Klein and Howard Wood to testify as expert witnesses. Dr. Klein is sociologist who the plaintiff retained to testify as an expert on the cruise industry and plans to offer testimony on the foreseeability of crime on a cruise ship. Wood is a security and counterterrorism expert who will testify about Carnival’s security measures and its ability to prevent crime onboard its ships.
Carnival filed a Daubert motion, challenging the testimony of both proposed experts. In the motion, Carnival argued that Dr. Klein and Mr. Wood’s opinions were not supported by a reliable methodology and that they were based on lack of applicable expertise. Carnival noted that Dr. Klein did not have any academic training in law enforcement, criminology, security, criminal investigations, or tourism. Carnival challenged Mr. Wood’s opinions because his report did not explain how or why his experience led to an acceptable and reliable methodology and because his report was full of advocacy.
Carnival essentially asked the court to rule whether a person can testify as an expert witness if he or she has no formal academic training or actual work experience in the field, but instead obtained knowledge through research and review.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Jonathan Goodman ruled that Dr. Klein and Mr. Wood will be allowed to testify and stated that any doubts that the defendants have about the expert’s credibility are best addressed during cross-examination. In his order, Judge Goodman stressed that “a less-than-perfect expert opinion may still be admitted, even if it contains gaps” and noted that the court “must be careful not to conflate questions of admissibility of expert testimony with the weight appropriately to be accorded such testimony by the fact finder.”