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On Christmas Eve 2014, Joyce Higgs, a 67-year-old grandmother, tripped over a mop bucket while aboard a Costa Cruises ship, fracturing her arm and shoulder. At the time of the accident, Higgs was walking from the crowded breakfast buffet to her family’s table. In her suit against Costa, Higgs claimed the bucket had been negligently left in the dining area without caution signs to alert guests.
Costa argued that Higgs could not prove what actually caused her fall, claiming it was due to her own inattention rather than the bucket. Defendant also argued that Higgs has a tendency to trip because she walks by putting her toe down first instead of her heal. However, the judge dismissed these arguments, noting that an eyewitness testified to the fact that Higgs did, in fact, trip on a bucket. A maritime safety expert also opined that Costa should have at least placed a caution sign in front of the bucket.
After a four-day trial, the jury found Costa negligent and awarded Higgs $800,000 for future damages, $500,000 for past damages and $16,000 for past medical expenses. However, the jury also found Higgs 15% liable for the fall, so the final award was reduced to a total of $1.1 million.
The case is Higgs v. Costa Crociere S.P.A. Company, No. 0:2015cv60280
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