civil case | 

Dublin woman who was removed from cruise ship after ‘sarcastic’ suicide remark loses claim

Caroline Fanning (49), a solicitor from Foxrock Avenue, Dublin, claimed she was falsely imprisoned

Solicitor Caroline Fanning. Photo Collins Courts

Royal Caribbean International's Oasis of the Seas© Michel Verdure


A woman who claimed she was falsely imprisoned after making a comment about suicide while on board a cruise ship has lost her High Court action.

Caroline Fanning (49), a solicitor from Foxrock Avenue, Dublin, claimed she was falsely imprisoned after she made a “sarcastic” comment that “there may be a suicide”, while on the phone with a Royal Caribbean ship receptionist in the early hours of August 9, 2015.

She brought proceedings against Trailfinders Ireland Limited, the Dawson Street-based travel agent through whom she booked the €3,700 package holiday. RCL Cruises Limited was a third party in the action.

A jury of six women and six men spent several hours deliberating on Tuesday about three questions in the civil case.

They found those exercising authority on board the ‘Oasis of the Seas’ vessel believed the detention of Ms Fanning was necessary prior to a decision being made to disembark her in the Bahamas.

Asked if the detention for this period was necessary, the jury found that it was.

The jury was also asked whether Ms Fanning was detained for the period while she remained on the ship after a decision was made to disembark her. The jury answered no.

During the trial, the court heard Ms Fanning, who was feeling sea sick, phoned the ship’s reception hoping she could move to a room less affected by the motion.

Ms Fanning claimed the receptionist mentioned a medical emergency, to which Ms Fanning responded: “there may be one tomorrow” and “there may be a suicide”. She told the court the remark was “pure sarcasm”.

Royal Caribbean International's Oasis of the Seas© Michel Verdure

Several members of staff from the cruise ship told the court they believed Ms Fanning’s suicide comment was a “threat”.

The receptionist claimed Ms Fanning repeated the comment three or four times during the phone call, while the ship’s deputy security officer alleged she later made another suicide threat to him. Ms Fanning denied this.

The ship’s suicide prevention protocol was triggered and security personnel arrived at Ms Fanning’s cabin, which she was sharing with her 13-year-old daughter.

Security personnel brought Ms Fanning and her daughter to a cabin without a balcony, which had been stripped of cutlery, hangers and other sharp objects. A female security guard was stationed outside the room, the court heard.

Ms Fanning claimed she and her daughter were still in their pyjamas when they were twice brought, in view of other passengers, to and from the ship’s medical centre.

At about 9am a psychiatrist found she was fit to travel. The ship’s captain, Cptn Trym Selvag, told the court he then made a decision to disembark Ms Fanning on the advice of Royal Caribbean’s global security team. He said the company takes “no risks” in situations of self-harm or violence.

Ms Fanning was given access to a computer to book alternative accommodation. She was not refunded for the trip. The court heard she later complained to Trailfinders saying she felt she had been in “Guantánamo Bay not on a luxurious cruise”.

The jury found in favour of Trailfinders and RCL Cruises, which were represented by David Conlan Smyth SC, Darren Lehane SC, Adrianne Fields BL, instructed by Noble Shipping Law.

Mr Justice Alexander Owens thanked the jury members for their service and exempted them from having to serve on another jury for 15 years.

He scheduled the proceedings for mention later this month. He has to decide, as a judge sitting alone, some other issues in the case, including whether there was a breach of contract.

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