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A carrier by sea is not liable to passengers as an insurer, but only for its negligence. The benchmark against which a shipowner's behavior must be measured is ordinary reasonable care under the circumstances, a standard which requires, as a prerequisite to imposing liability, that the carrier have had actual or constructive notice of the risk-creating condition, at least where the menace is one commonly encountered on land and not clearly linked to nautical adventure.
Appellee passenger slipped on a wet spot aboard appellant carrier's cruise ship and injured herself. Appellee's passage contract ticket contained a provision that limited any suits against appellant to within one year of the date of injury. Appellee filed a negligence action against appellant more than one year after the date of injury. The district court rendered judgment in favor of appellee.
Was the carrier’s liability sufficiently shown, thus, rendering the judgment in favor of the passenger proper?
The court reversed the judgment of the district court, holding that appellant's conduct was measured against the standard of ordinary reasonable care under the circumstances. Thus, appellant's liability hinged on whether it had actual or constructive knowledge of the hazard. The court held that the district court did not make findings as to how long the particular unsafe condition had existed before appellee's fall and that the absence of factual findings precluded a meaningful review of the district court's finding of negligence. Therefore, the case was remanded for additional factual findings on whether appellant knew or should have known of the hazardous condition.