Jan 12, 2019

Recent Court Case and Cruise Ship Liability Problems for Passengers

Cruise ship on the blue ocean.
Is cruise ship going aground?

Surprisingly cruise ships and the cruise ship companies have been exempt from certain types of negligence like those that occur in hospital settings resulting in patients or their families being entitled to recover compensation.

The compensation is generally for medical expenses and pain and suffering. But cruise ship companies have been an exception for medical malpractice lawsuits. A recent decision by the Florida 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals may change the way cruise ship lawsuits are decided.

What Is the Court's Ruling?

The Florida 11th Court of Appeals ruled that the exemption for medical malpractice lawsuits was outdated involving cruise ships. The case involved an 82-year-old-year-old man, a New York resident that fell and stuck his head in Bermuda in 2011 while on a Royal Caribbean cruise. The nurse attending the man aboard the Royal Caribbean cruise ship told the man to rest.

The family of the man claims the nurse did not suggest the man have a diagnostic scan done. And it took hours before the ship’s doctor saw the man. During that period his condition became worse. The lawsuit states the man had internal bleeding in the skull by the time the doctor saw him and succumbed to the head injury.

The Royal Caribbean medical staff wore the same uniforms as other ship employees, and the medical staff was advertised as craft employees, and in promotional material, they were paid a tribute.

What the New Court Ruling Could Mean

If the decision of the 11th U.S. Court of Appeals is upheld, then it is possible for plaintiff’s alleging malpractice occurred on cruise ships to have their cases heard in court in the state of Florida (Read more.) In a statement by a Royal Caribbean representative, it claims rules remain on the books.

They disagree with the new ruling by the Court of Appeals. This rule is based on the factor cruise lines offer vacations. A vacation is not primarily to provide health care for passengers so they argue.

Common Defense Used in Medical Cases

Defense in medical malpractice lawsuits occurring aboard cruise ships has commonly been rendered not the best in rulings by courts. In other words, the medical care provided to passengers on a boat is different than the scope of attention to be paid on land. Meaning, according to this type of ruling, passengers should not expect to receive the same standard of care onboard a luxury liner as they do from their private physicians.

What About the Missing Passengers?

While health care onboard cruise ships is a concern and the new ruling by the Court of Appeals could make a difference in how future cases are looked at by courts, another problem that has grown from this, is the incidence of missing passengers.

These are passengers and crew members that have fallen overboard ships, since as early as 2000. According to CruiseJunkie.com, there have been:

  • 244 passengers and crew that have fallen overboard; and,
  • Approximately 20 passengers annually that have gone missing from the ships.

What Do The Cruise Ship Lawyers have to Say?

Our attorneys believe that no matter where doctors and nurses work they do have a solemn duty. This includes the best possible care on cruise ships. Contact the maritime law firm here, or call toll free at (213) 596-9642 to learn what your legal options are and the best way to proceed.