Articles Tagged with “cruise ship”

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In a special letter to the editor published on September 4, 2015, in the Miami Herald, Ira H. Leesfield revisits the importance of the decision reached by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, not only for the case of Teresita Sorrels, but for present and future injured cruise passengers.

“In reversing the trial court’s order, the Eleventh Circuit gave Teresita Sorrels her day in court and allows passengers injured by the alleged negligence of the cruise line the same rights as if they were otherwise the victims of land-based negligent businesses.” writes the senior managing partner of Leesfield Scolaro.

Click here to read the article written by Ira H. Leesfield for the Miami Herald.

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For the longest times, cruise ship passengers were not allowed to bring cruise lines as defendants in medical malpractice claims to recover for the negligent acts of a doctor or a nurse when they were committed aboard a cruise ship. In almost every single scenario, passengers were left without anyone to sue. Injustice remained served for years, until today.

In its latest ruling, judges of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the previous law, Barbetta, was outdated, and allowed the family of a deceased cruise passenger to continue on with a lawsuit for medical malpractice against the cruise line, in this case, Royal Caribbean.

The Barbetta ruling was justified in the nature of the relationship between the passenger and the physician, and the carrier’s lack of control over that relationship. The Fifth Circuit Court ruled that “the work which a physician or a surgeon does . . . is under the control of the passengers themselves. It is their business, not the business of the carrier. . . . The master or owners of the ship cannot interfere in the treatment of the medical officer when he attends a passenger. He is not their servant engaged in their business, and subject to their control as to his mode of treatment.” [Secondly] “[a] ship’s physician is an independent medical expert engaged on the basis of his professional qualifications and carried on board a ship for the convenience of passengers, who are free to contract with him for any medical services they may require.”

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Since 2010 and the passage of the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act, the cruise industry has a duty to report 8 crimes to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. They include: Homicide, suspicious death, missing U.S. National, kidnapping, assault with serious bodily injury, firing or tampering with the vessel, theft of money or property in excess of $10,000, and sexual crimes. Once the crimes are reported, the Coast Guard publishes the statistics on its website after the investigations are closed.

carnival-triumph-disabled.jpgOn December 20, 2013, the U.S. Government Accountability Office published its review of the first 3 years of compliance by the cruise ship industry of the new regulations imposed by the CVSSA. Senator Jay Rockefeller, chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation gave a sombering overview: “I’ll give the cruise ships some credit, because of the first bill we passed they raised the level of their railings . . . They’ve done a pretty good job on that, but when it comes to crime, no they have not.”

In its report, with respect to CVSSA crime-reporting requirements, the GAO noted that the FBI and the USCG have implemented these provisions as required. The crimes that occur on cruise ships and that fall within one of the 8 crimes listed above have been published when they are no longer under investigation. However, the GAO noted instrinseque limitations on how the statistics would provide any measure of usefuleness to prospective cruise passengers. Specifically, the GAO raised three specific areas of concern:

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You are on your cruise, walking around and enjoying the amenities. Then, all of a sudden, without warning, you are on the ground. You realize you have slipped and fallen, seriously injuring yourself. However, just because you are injured, don’t expect the cruise line to take responsibility for its negligence and compensate you.

Slip and fall accidents can happen anywhere on cruise ship. Such accidents can be caused by any number of reasons: a foreign substance on the ground, wet floor from mopping, a spill that was not properly detected and cleaned up, lack of anti-slip or anti-skid material on the flooring, defective or missing treads on stairs, lack of warning of a dangerous condition, or even insufficient lighting.

deck cruise ship.jpgUnder the law, a cruise line owes its passengers a duty of “reasonable care under the circumstances.” That is, the cruise line must take reasonable measure to ensure that the floors are free from foreign substances, spills promptly and timely cleaned up, physical or verbal warnings provided and ensure that the floor is otherwise maintained in a safe, clean, and dry condition. This duty requires a cruise line to take affirmative steps, such as have a reasonable inspection process in place, to timely detect and correct a dangerous condition.

To be found liable, a cruise line must have actual or constructive notice of a dangerous condition to allow the cruise line an opportunity to correct it. That means the cruise either knew about the condition or the situation existed for a sufficient period of time that the cruise line should have discovered it.

The cruise line will undoubtedly argue that fall was your fault. It is standard for the cruise line to blame the passenger and claim that any dangerous condition was an “open and obvious” condition which you should have seen and avoided. The cruise line will also argue that it had no notice of the dangerous condition or it did not exist for a sufficient time to enable it an opportunity to detect it.

So, what do you do if you fall while on a cruise ship?
Take stock of the situation. Look around and determine what caused you to fall: Was there a foreign substance on the floor? Are your clothes or shoes wet? If there is a foreign substance, how big is it, what color is it (water, soda, coffee)? Can you tell the cause of the foreign substance (is there a leaking beverage machine, is there melting ice, was it a high traffic area where a fellow passenger could have spilled something)? Where there any warning signs in place? Where there any mats or other non-skip material in place?

The second most important thing you must do next is gather evidence. Concretely, this means: Get the names of any witnesses; if there are any crew-members present get their name and/or position; take photographs of the scene.

You must make sure that you (or if you can’t, someone you are traveling with) reports the situation to the cruise line. The cruise line will give you a passenger statement form to complete. Be sure to indicate that your fall was a result of an accident and state the cause of the accident. For example: the floor was wet and I slipped, there were no warning signs present, etc. Once completed, demand a copy of your statement and medical records (if you were seen in the infirmary).

Next, demand the cruise line preserve surveillance footage. Cruise lines have security cameras throughout the vessel and will have likely captured your accident. This is important evidence which can help establish the cause of your accident, the length of time the dangerous condition existed, and the failure of the cruise line to take reasonable steps to detect and correct the dangerous condition. Remember to make this demand in writing.

These simple steps can help ensure the cruise line is held responsible for your injuries and that you are fully compensated.
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