"The team at Irwin Mitchell has a ‘pre-eminent reputation’ for travel personal injury work"

Legal 500 (2016)

Royal Caribbean Pay Compensation For Spinal Injury Sustained On Board The Navigator Of The Seas

Cheryl Palmer-Hughes, specialist Travel Solicitor at Irwin Mitchell LLP, was instructed by Mrs Carolina Prestidge after she suffered a fractured vertebra as a result of an accident while on a cruise holiday.


Mrs Prestidge was on a cruise with her son in June 2011. She had booked her holiday through Virgin Holidays, whilst the cruise operator was RCL Cruises Limited (commonly known as Royal Caribbean Cruises).

She had booked a 7 night Mediterranean cruise and departed from Civitaceccia (Italy), before calling at Messina (Sicily), Piraeus (Greece), Kusadasi (Turkey) and Chania (Crete). The ship returned to Civitaceccia on 26 June 2011.

Rock Climbing Accident

On 24 June 2011, Mrs Prestidge, along with her son, decided to participate in a rock climbing activity by using the rock climbing wall on board the ship. Instruction and supervision as to how to use the rock climbing wall was provided by an employee of RCL Cruises Limited.

Mrs Prestidge was given a quick demonstration of how to use the equipment and told that when she wished to descend the wall, she was to indicate this to the instructor, who would then lower her back down safely, once she let go of the wall. Mrs Prestidge was then placed in a harness and provided with a helmet.

In accordance with her instructor’s instructions, after climbing part way up the wall, Mrs Prestidge indicated that she wished to descend. On his instruction, she let go of the wall. Unfortunately, the instructor lost control of the rope and Mrs Prestidge fell to the floor and landed on her back. As a result, she unfortunately suffered a wedge fracture of the first vertebrae in her lumbar spine.

Back Injury Suffered

In the first three weeks after the accident, Mrs Prestidge was mostly confined to a wheelchair, as her back injury prevented her from moving. During this initial period, she was unable to drive and needed help from her husband to get in and out of bed, to get dressed and to mobilise.

Mrs Prestidge’s fractured vertebrae was successfully treated conservatively, although she has been left with ongoing, residual pain. She required assistance from her son while on holiday and relied on family members to assist her at home to carry out the housework she normally undertook as a full time housewife.

Mrs Prestidge’s solicitor, Cheryl Palmer-Hughes, wrote to RCL Cruises Limited, who denied liability for the incident. Court Proceedings were therefore issued pursuant to the Athens Convention and although no formal admission from the Defendant was received, a five figure settlement agreement was reached between the parties in July 2013.

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