Solicitor intends to seek mistrial in action over false imprisonment on cruise ship

Counsel for Caroline Fanning told High Court his client alleges a juror previously worked in cruise industry

A solicitor who failed to convince a jury she was unlawfully imprisoned while on board a cruise ship intends to seek a mistrial on the basis that she alleges one of the jurors previously worked in the cruise industry, the High Court has heard.

Caroline Fanning (49), of Foxrock Avenue, Dublin, alleged the false imprisonment happened after she made a “sarcastic” comment that “there may be a suicide” while on the phone with the ship’s receptionist early on August 9th, 2015.

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

A jury of six women and six men last month found those exercising authority on the Royal Caribbean ship believed the detention of Ms Fanning was necessary prior to a decision being made to disembark her in the Bahamas.


The jury found the detention for this time was necessary and that Ms Fanning was not detained while she remained on the ship after a decision was made to disembark her.

Her allegations of breach of contract, breach of the Package Holidays and Travel Trade Act and negligence have been left over for a judge to determine. Mr Justice Alexander Owens on Tuesday scheduled this element for hearing in July.


Ms Fanning’s proceedings seek damages against Trailfinders Ireland Limited, the Dawson Street travel agent through which she booked the €3,700 package holiday. RCL Cruises Limited is a third party in the action. They both deny her claims.

Barney Quirke SC, instructed by Conways Solicitors, for Ms Fanning, said there was a juror who heard her case who had an “undisclosed background in the industry” which manifests subjective and/or objective bias. The plaintiff will seek a mistrial on this basis, he told the judge.

Mr Justice Owens said such a challenge should “surely be the basis of an appeal”. He added that a background working on a cruise ship “wouldn’t necessarily exclude” a person from serving on a jury in such a case.

David Conlan Smyth SC, instructed by Noble Shipping Law, for Trailfinders and RCL Cruises, said he wants Ms Fanning’s lawyers to set out the law they say is relevant to their juror challenge.

During her trial, the court heard Ms Fanning was feeling sea sick and phoned the ship’s reception hoping she could move to a room less affected by motion. She claimed the receptionist mentioned a medical emergency, to which Ms Ms Fanning responded “there may be one tomorrow” and “there may be a suicide”. This remark was “pure sarcasm”, she said.

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

Protocol triggered

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 brought Ms Fanning and her daughter to a cabin without a balcony and 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 told the court he then decided to disembark Ms Fanning on the advice of Royal Caribbean’s global security team. The company takes “no risks” in situations involving self-harm or violence, he said.

Ms Fanning booked alternative accommodation from the ship and was not refunded for the trip, which she later complained felt like being in “Guantánamo Bay not on a luxurious cruise”.

Ellen O'Riordan

Ellen O'Riordan

Ellen O'Riordan is an Irish Times reporter