Articles Tagged with “Ira Leesfield”

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Pitfalls for Passengers:

Disney Cruise Lines re-opens June 26 with all major cruise lines to follow.

Beware of injuries on Inaugural cruises. . . The cruise industry is re-opening with a fury. There is no certainty on how they will handle COVID, or how well their reinstated crew is trained. Remember, even before COVID, numerous cases of Norovirus were reported annually as ships came to port. So, Sanitation and safety issues must be paramount along with crowd control and CDC compliance.  Will your co-passengers be vaccinated?  Are you willing to spend days or weeks with those likely to spread the virus?  Or, worse yet, confined in a ship’s infirmary?

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trunks_birdsThe cruising industry has more than doubled in the last two decades. In the last 15 years alone, the number of cruise passengers has increased from 15 million to 30+ million. To satisfy the demand, cruise lines have built increasingly large ships that can host over 5,500 passengers and over 2,300 crew-members. Consequently, the number of injuries sustained by passengers and crew-members has also increased.  As a result, Leesfield Scolaro’s general maritime attorneys have been retained to represent injured passengers and crew-members for the last 20 years.

If you are an adult, how long do you have to file a lawsuit?

Your ticket contract is where you will find the answer. Typically, cruise line ticket contracts will disclaim that a lawsuit against them for an injury claim must be filed within one year from the date the incident occurred.

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Cruise lines and recreational activity providers market their products as gateways to fun and adventure, but when injury occurs, they will vigorously fight to avoid liability. But there are ways to overcome their defenses.

By Ira H. Leesfield and Adam T. Rose

Leesfield-Scolaro-Petition-2-300x188Outdoor recreation is a titanic industry, enticing millions of people annually to travel close to home or pack their bags for a faraway adventure. Entrepreneurs across the world capitalize on their regions’ natural beauty and create exotic excursions to attract vacationers. Meanwhile, corporate powerhouses—major resorts and cruise lines—recognize the allure of exciting experiences in unfamiliar environments, and they aggressively advertise and oversee these adventures. But when tragedy strikes—such as jet ski crashes, scuba diving drowning, all-terrain vehicle accidents, etc.—the same tour operators and vacation providers who courted your client fervently try to avoid accountability.

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Tour-bus-crash-01With the main cruise ship companies based in Miami, Leesfield Scolaro has represented countless families of cruise passengers who lost their lives or who were gravely injured while on a cruise excursion.  Whether a son killed in a bus accident in front of his parents on their way to an excursion, or a mother fatally injured and daughter sustaining extreme brain damage during a parasailing excursion, or a husband drowning during a snorkel excursion, the pattern of negligence is often the same in each and every case.  Cruise lines will advertise their ships as the safest floating cities on the planet, but the truth is the excursions cruise lines select for their passengers are less than safe, if not downright dangerous.

Cruise lines will sell excursions to their passengers, either during the booking process on the internet, or directly on the ship.  Excursions represent a major selling point and entice most passengers to purchase excursions as a way of visiting far away countries and islands while the ship is docked.  Unfortunately, passengers are led to believe that cruise lines are in charge of running these excursions and maintaining the equipment pertaining to, or the transport to and from a cruise excursion.  However, that cannot be further from the truth.

In the last 24 hours, Royal Caribbean (owner of Celebrity Cruises) has confirmed that several cruise passengers (Celebrity Equinox & Serenade of the Seas) were fatally injured in a bus crash in Eastern Mexico.  The bus company selected by Royal to transport its passengers, Costa Maya Mahahual, confirmed that they had just picked up passengers who had boarded off two cruise ships that had just docked in the coastal town of Mahahual.  The excursion sold by Royal was a guided tour of the Mayan Ruins located in Chacchoben, which is approximately 100 miles west from the port.

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Leesfield Scolaro reviewed more than 100 maritime/cruise ship cases during 2017 against all major cruise lines operating out of Florida, including Carnival Cruise Lines, Norwegian Cruise Lines, Royal Caribbean Cruise Line (Celebrity Cruises). We are now actively litigating many of these matters. The diversity of results is significant, including a $3 million dollar medical negligence recovery on behalf of a 16-year-old girl from Tennessee, a $2.5 million on behalf of a young boy from New Jersey injured on a ship basketball court. Our crew member cases include a $375,000 settlement for a 23-year-old professional diver who sustained catastrophic permanent injuries while performing in an aquatic show on board Allure of the Seas. Another recreational on board case involving injuries on the basketball court resulted in a $365,000 award for a 36-year-old passenger from Virginia.

docked-cruise-ship-300x169Cruise ships are now floating recreational and theme parks. Their activities range from basketball, tennis, dodge ball, to water slides, rock climbing, sky rides to jogging supplemented by exotic shore excursions. “The industry’s competitive nature has resulted in each cruise line adding more dangerous activities for passengers who are already exposed to shipboard negligence in the maintenance and care of walking surfaces and other pedestrian hazards,” according to Ira Leesfield, Chair of the American Association for Justice Resort Torts Litigation Group.

Often overlooked are the substantial recoveries on behalf of passengers injured during excursions away from the vessels. See prior blog.

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Port_of_Miami_20071208-300x176In the last few months, Leesfield Scolaro has resolved a number of claims on behalf of minor children’s families who became injured during a cruise. Injuries to children are often catastrophic and life-altering. They require thorough investigation, swift legal actions and a complete knowledge of the cruise industry’s ways of doing business.

Last Summer, Leesfield Scolaro reported that the number of catastrophic injuries to cruise passengers, including minors, had significantly increased in the last few years due to cruise lines increasing the number of “activities” offered on board. See our post here: More cruise ship injuries, deaths and incidents as safety practices become more lax.

Ira Leesfield noted in the article that “the experience is no longer the cruise, but rather the activities aboard the cruise ship.” With the cruise industry in a continuous boom, the race among the major cruise lines to offer more and more grandiose activities to keep passengers fully occupied rages on – unfortunately to the detriment of passengers’ safety.

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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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Sorrels.jpgWhile on a cruise ship owned and operated by Norwegian Cruise Line, Teresita Sorrels, was walking on the exterior pool deck after it had rained when she suddenly slipped and fell, suffering an unstable comminuted fracture of her wrist which required open reduction internal fixation surgery. The incident was captured by the ship’s closed-circuit surveillance system and preserved for purposes of litigation.

Sorrels and her husband hired Leesfield Scolaro, and sued Norwegian Cruise Line alleging that the dangerous surface of the pool deck lacked the appropriate coefficient of friction (the degree of slip-resistance). They also alleged that NCL failed to warn the passengers of such dangerous condition.

The trial court in Sorrels v. NCL (Bahamas) Ltd., ruled in 2014 that the testimony and opinions of the expert hired by Leesfield Scolaro ought to be excluded for several reasons. Yesterday however, on August 4, 2015, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the summary judgment finding that the trial court erred in excluding the expert testimony submitted by Sorrels.

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Last week, Theresa Meuers was untimely killed in a horrendous motor vehicle accident that occurred on George Price Highway in Belize. You may read Theresa’s obituary published in the Star Tribune.

Accident0009.jpgThat day, in the late morning hours, Theresa and Sam Schulte, her companion, were in the back seat of an SUV driven by Tour Guide, Leon Rodriguez (some have reported that the driver’s name is Leon Garcia of Big John’s Tours.) Before noon, Rodriguez overtook an 18-wheeler that was transporting oranges, and several seconds later returned in the same right lane. At this point, there are different witness accounts, mainly from Rodriguez, and the driver of the truck, Miguel Angel Arriaga. Rodriguez told the authorities that he slowed down to make a right turn, while Arriaga said that Rodriguez came to a complete stop in the middle of the road, with no turn signal indicating he was going to make a right. Arriaga told Police that he was unable to stop the truck in time and he rammed the 18-wheeler into the rear of the SUV at great speed.

Theresa and Sam were both stuck in the completely destroyed SUV for almost one full hour before an ambulance arrived at the scene of the accident. They were both taken to the hospital, but Theresa did not survive her injuries and was pronounced dead at the hospital later that day.

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On CBS This Morning, Leesfield Scolaro Maritime Law Attorney Carol Finklehoffe said that if Cruise Lines have deck attendants selling drinks and employees watching over the water slides, it is reasonable to have lifeguards around the pools as well:

This latest tragedy has placed Carnival Cruise Lines back in the spotlight. The loss of Qwentyn Hunter in one of the Carnival Victory’s pools prompts many to question whether conspicuous signage that there are “no lifeguards on duty” is realistically enough to fulfill the cruise line’s duty of care to provide a safe and proper place to bathe or swim.

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