June 28, 2015

Eight Holland American Line Cruise Passengers Tragically Die While on an Alaskan Shore Excursion Sight-Seeing Tour


Eight Holland American Line cruise ship passengers tragically died on Thursday, June 25, 2015 when a DeHavilland DHC-3 Otter float plane crashed, some 25 miles northeast of Ketchikan, Alaska. The crash occurred at approximately 2:00 p.m., at about 800 feet above a lake in the Misty Fjords area. Onboard the sightseeing flight at the time of the crash were the eight cruise passengers plus the pilot. Despite some investigation by authorities, the cause of the horrible crash into a cliff has not yet been identified. Alaska State Troopers, however, have identified the victims as: Hal Cheney, 71 and Mary Doucette, 59, both of Lodi, California; Glenda Cambiaso, 31 and Hugo Cambiaso, 65, both of North Potomac, Maryland; June Kranenburg, 73 and Leonard Kranenburg, 63, both of Medford, Oregon; Margie Apodaca, 63 and Raymond Apodaca, 70, both of Sparks, Nevada; and the pilot, Bryan Krill, 64, of Hope, Idaho.

All eight passengers were sailing on the MS Westerdam, a Holland American cruise ship that departed Seattle, Washington on Saturday, June 20, 2015 for a seven-day round-trip cruise. News outlets have reported that the sightseeing airplane ride was a shore excursion sold through the cruise line Holland American Line. The actual float plane is owned by a company named Promech Air, self-identified as the largest "air taxi" operating in southeast Alaska for 30 years. According to the Alaska Dispatch News, just two years ago in 2013, another Promech Air float plane crashed on Prince of Wales Island, injuring four people. It is unknown whether Holland American Line was aware of this prior incident.

Generally, shore excursions sold through a cruise line contain exculpatory clauses that purport to relieve a cruise line and/or a shoreside excursion company from any liability resulting from an accident or injury that may occur during a shoreside excursion. While narrow and unambiguous exculpatory clauses have been enforced by certain courts in favor of cruise lines and shore excursion operators, cruise lines may still be held responsible for the negligent selection of a shore excursion company. We will continue to follow the investigation into this devastating crash, including whether Holland American Line was aware of Promech Air's prior incident but nevertheless continued to offer and sell the company's tours to its cruise ship passengers.

Our deepest sympathies and condolences go out to the families of the crash victims.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:

http://www.cnn.com/2015/06/26/us/alaska-plane-crash/

http://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/plane-missing-in-alaska-with-nine-on-board/

June 3, 2015

Caribbean Cruise Lines Allowed to Challenge Better Business Bureau's "F" Grade in Court

Florida Carribean Cruise.jpgAfter receiving an "F" grade from the Better Business Bureau of Palm Beach County (BBB), Caribbean Cruise Lines filed a complaint against the consumer protection organization alleging defamation and violation of Florida's Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act (FUDTPA). The trial court dismissed both claims finding the letter grade is pure opinion which is protected by the First Amendment and therefore cannot a claim for deformation cannot stand as well as the cruise line did not have standing to bring a FDUTPA claim. Caribbean Cruise Lines appealed the decision.

In a multiple paged opinion, the Florida appellate court affirmed the trial court's dismissal of the defamation claim but reversed the dismissal of the FDUPTA claim. The appellate court, without making a determination as to whether the BBB violated the Act, found the trial court erred in its legal finding that Caribbean Cruise Line had not standing to sue. "Standing" is the legal principal that affords a person or company the right to bring a lawsuit. The BBB argued that only consumers of BBB's services have standing, and since the cruise line cannot be a consumer of its services, has no standing to bring a claim. The appellate court found this to be an incorrect statement of law. In doing so, it compared a previous version of the statute which read, "In any individual action brought by a consumer who has suffered a loss as a result of a violation of this part, such consumer may recover..." with the current version which reads "In any individual action brought by a person who has suffered a loss as a result of a violation of this part, such person may recover..." The appellate court reasoned that by rewording the statute, the Florida legislature no longer intended FDUPTA to apply to only consumers, but to other there persons and legal entities who were damaged and could prove the elements of the claim as well. As such, Caribbean Cruise Lines has the right to challenge its "F" grade placed by the BBB and remanded the case back to the trial court for further proceedings.

Caribbean Cruise Lines is headquartered in Ft. Lauderdale and operates cruises from Palm Beach County Florida to the Bahamas. The company made widespread headlines last year when its cruise ship, the Bahamas Celebration, ran aground Free Port causing several hundred people to be evacuated.

June 2, 2015

Ft. Lauderdale Intracostal Boat Accident Law

Fort Lauderdale Intracostal Waterway Boat Accident Lawyer.jpgWe have been following the tragic story of Dalton Joseph Shirley who lost his life when a center console boat he was riding on crashed into a concrete dock in the Intracoastal Waterway behind a house located on Northeast 38th Street, in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. We learned from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission that two others aboard the boat, Justina Coronez and Austin Lail were also seriously injured.

Though the accident occurred in the highly populated intarcostal waterway within the city limits of Ft. Lauderdale, federal maritime law governs the actions of the boat operator and dock owner which lead to this most unfortunate event. Often incorrectly called a collision, when a moving boat strikes a stationary object on the water it is called an "allision". Under maritime law, the moving object, here the center console boat, is presumed at fault under what is called the "Rule of the Oregon". This presumption may be rebutted in certain situations.

After a boat accident such like this, there are many unanswered questions. Was there something wrong with the boat, was the operator impaired, was the dock properly lit, did another boat contribute to the accident? One thing is for sure, the insurance companies for the boat operator and dock owner will hire seasoned maritime investigators to interview witnesses and gather documents. Often times, the investigators lead the witnesses into making statements helpful to their client should a lawsuit be filed. The insurance companies will also hire experienced maritime attorneys to defend the boat operator and dock owner. These attorneys are very skilled in maritime law and will use the law to their clients' advantage. One possibility is that a Petition for Exoneration From or Limitation of Liability may be filed asking a federal court to exonerate the boat owner or limit his liability to the post-accident value of the vessel. This is all orchestrated to lessen the potential recovery for the victims. The insurance companies' best efforts, however, may be overcome by a skilled lawyer representing the victims.

The maritime board certified attorneys at Brais, Brais, Rusak & Cerda-Collazo are fully aware of the tactics employed by insurance companies and their lawyers. Each of our partners have started their practice in maritime firms routinely appointed by insurance companies in such situations. We now ONLY represent victims. Our knowledge of how insurance companies handle Florida boat accident claims, as well as experiences handling boat crash lawsuits first as defense attorneys now as plaintiff attorneys, gives us unique insight in such legal matters. If you were injured or a loved one died as a result of a Ft. Lauderdale boat accident, feel free to contact us. In such traumatic times, we are more than willing to travel to you for a face-to-face consultation where we could discuss your rights.

May 31, 2015

Boating Accident Along the IntraCoastal Waterway in Ft. Lauderdale, FL Leaves 1 Dead and 2 Seriously Injured

Multiple news sources are reporting that at approximately 8:00 p.m. on Saturday, May 30, 2015, a boat carrying five people crashed into a concrete dock near the 3200 block of Northeast 38th Street, along the Intracoastal Waterway in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. The boat that crashed into the dock is believed to have been traveling with a second boat, apparently carrying another five people. One person was thrown from the boat. Although this person was pulled from the water and efforts were made to resuscitate him, the person did not survive. Two others were transported to Broward Health Medical Center with what have been described as "potentially life-threatening injuries." None of the identities of the boaters have been released. However, neighbors who were interviewed after the crash reported that the boaters appeared to be in their early twenties or possibly late teen years.

An investigation is underway by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission ("FWC") and the Ft. Lauderdale Police Department. Details including the cause of the crash are not known. It is also unknown what types of boats are involved or whether the second boat was involved in any way with the collision. We will continue to follow the joint investigation by the FWC and Ft. Lauderdale Police Department.

May 22, 2015

Near-Drowning of 4-year-old girl reported at Orlando, FL Resort

News sources have reported the near-drowning of a 4-year-old girl this week at the Bluegreen Vacations Fountains Resort in Orlando, Florida. The girl's family found her at the bottom of the resort's 6,000 square foot swimming pool. It is unknown whether the resort had lifeguards on duty at the time of the tragic discovery. Thankfully, an off-duty Lake County, Florida firefighter was vacationing at the resort and was able to revive the girl with cardiopulmonary resuscitation ("CPR") efforts. The off-duty firefighter identified as Lt. Shannon Bush has been quoted describing the 4-year-old girl as "lifeless and unresponsive". Shortly after Lt. Bush administered CPR and was able to obtain a pulse, the girl was transported to a local area hospital for treatment. She was reportedly released from the hospital the next day.

This near-drowning once again raises concerns about pool safety and more specifically the high rate of child drownings in Florida. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, Florida has been ranked as having the nation's highest drowning rate for children under 14 years of age. This statistic is quite disturbing, especially when many of these drownings and near-drownings can be easily prevented with basic safety measures and precautions, including the posting of lifeguards to supervise and watch over children at public and private pools.

If you or a loved one has lost someone as a result of a drowning, contact a skilled attorney to assist you. The pool drowning attorneys at Brais Brais Rusak & Cerda-Collazo are here to help.

May 21, 2015

Boston Based NCL Norwegian Dawn Cruise Ship Runs Aground

Norwegian Dawn Grounding.jpgHow does a modern cruise ship run aground? That is what maritime investigators will be trying to sort out over the coming months in the case of Boston based Norwegian Dawn grounding on a charted reef off the Bermuda coast. The liner had just left King's Wharf on Hamilton Island to start its last leg of its voyage back to Boston when it grounded. Though no reports have been made as to the exact number of people who were aboard, the Norwegian Dawn can carry more than 2,000 passengers and up to 1,059 crew members. What makes this grounding noteworthy is that this ship is not a rust bucket in its last stages of useful life owned by a nearly defunct shipping company. On the contrary, this cruise ship is equipped with sophisticated electronic navigational and steering equipment as well as depth recorders which sound warnings when entering dangerously shallow waters. Again, how does a modern cruise ship run aground?

Typically there are three reasons: environmental, equipment failure, and human error. NCL (Bahamas) Ltd., the ship's operator which is based in Miami, blames the marine casualty on an equipment failure, more specifically, a malfunction of the steering system. The Norwegian Dawn is no stranger to equipment failures. In 2013, a power failure left the ship dead in the water for hours and in 2009 a power failure left the cruise liner without running water, air conditioning and working toilets. Though NCL blames the grounding on equipment failure, it fails to mention whether the navigational officers could have prevented the incident when they knew or should have known the steering system was not properly working. These issues will be investigated and a governmental report will follow.

More worrisome than the ship's checkered past regarding power failure are the reports of how the crew reacted in the moments after the grounding. The Associated Press reports that passengers observed some "crew members running around in a panic". This suggests a lack of training in emergency situations on the part of NCL. Lack of crew training was a significant contributing factor to the loss of life in the Costa Concordia disaster as several news outlets reported that the crew admitted they were not trained to evacuate passengers. It would stand to reason, that in the wake of such a maritime disaster as Costa Concordia, a major cruise line would conduct regular crew training for emergency situations.

Cruise lines owe their passengers the legal duty of reasonable care. This means performing periodic systems checks and emergency drills to determine whether the ship is sufficiently seaworthy to safely carry passengers and its officers and crew properly trained to act in a reasonable prudent manner when an emergency occurs. Time will tell if NCL met this legal standard.

Photo Credit: International Business Times

May 18, 2015

Girl Drowns in NCL Cruise Ship Pool

Norwegian Gem Pool.jpgTragedy has struck. It is being reported that a 10-year-girl has drown in one of the swimming pools aboard the NCL operated Norwegian Gem cruise ship. Coast Guard Spokesperson, Nate Littlejohn, stated the cruise ship was 75 miles off the coast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, when the girl drowned. The ship's medical staff administered CPR, but the girl could not be revived, according to the statement released by Norwegian Cruise Lines. The Norwegian Gem was on a seven day voyage from New York to Florida and the Bahamas. The Coast Guard is investigating the death.

We have written extensively on aquatic safety not only aboard cruise ships but at resorts and sadly our attorneys represented families of drowning victims. Often times we have proven that pool drowning deaths are 100% preventable. There is no reason why many cruise lines do not staff their ships with life guard and do not have childproof barriers. Such safety precautions are uniformly followed by shore side resorts. These precautions are relatively inexpensive and save lives.

We invite you to read our other articles about pool safety.

Toddler's Pool-Drowning Underscores Need for Pool Safety Procedures (Published on Apr. 30, 2015)

Two Passenger Drowning Incidents Occur at Disney's Castaway Cay (Published on Mar.6, 2015)

Boy Who Nearly Drowned Aboard a Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship Left in Critical Condition (Published on Jan. 6, 2015)

Five South Florida Drownings in Three Weeks (Published on Oct. 19, 2014)

Boy Found on Bottom of Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship Fights for Life (Published on May 31, 2014)

Child Drowns in NCL Ship's Pool (Published on Feb. 4, 2014)

Florida Boy Drowns in Carnival Cruise Ship's Pool (Published on Oct. 15, 2013)

Judge Rules Sandals Resorts & Pool Component Manufacturers Must Stand Trial in Miami, Florida for Bahamas Entrapment Drowning Death (Published Mar. 27, 2013)

May 14, 2015

Legal Issues Concerning Cruise Ship Sexual Assaults

Miami Cruise Ship Sexual Assault.jpgA sexual assault occurs in the United States every 2 minutes. Often times these attacks are unreported. Like most sexual assault situations, victims raped aboard cruise ships most often do not inform authorities. Sometimes, however, the victim does come forward. Last summer a student was raped aboard a Celebrity cruise ship. According to media reports, the incident occurred on the night of July 23, 2014 aboard the Celebrity Reflection. It is alleged that a man spiked the girl's drink, sexually assaulted her then tried to rape her. She was found in her cabin is a compromising position. Upon returning to port, the police interviewed the victim and gathered evidence to prosecute her attacker. An arrest warrant has been issued. As of the date of this blog post, no arrest has been made.

We regularly receive inquires as to whether cruise lines could be found legally responsible for shipboard sexual assaults and rapes. Cruise lines may be required to pay for victims' pain and suffering, loss of income and medical expenses in certain situations. What complicates the answer is that courts apply different legal standards depending upon whether the attackers are crewmembers or fellow passengers.

Cruise lines are strictly liable for passengers victimized by their crew members. This means that it is no defense that the attack occurred without the cruise line being provided an opportunity to prevent it from happening. It is also no defense that the crew member had a clean background check and did not show a propensity for aggression. Furthermore, the damages cap imposed by the Athens Convention for completely non-United States voyages does not apply.

The imposition of strict liability is not applied when the attackers are fellow passengers. In such situations, maritime law applies a reasonable care under the circumstances standard. This means, victims must show that the cruise lines knew or should have known the other passengers would commit attacks or that the cruise lines cultivated an atmosphere wherein sexual assaults or rapes would likely occur. The Doe v. NCL case highlights a situation where a passenger participated in a pub crawl organized by the cruise line and was thereafter raped. This event took passengers to multiple bars aboard the ship where certain games were played. The group at the end of the crawl won a shot of tequila. The passenger became intoxicated during the cruise line sponsored pub crawl. She then went into a public restroom aboard the cruise ship and was raped by a fellow passenger. The legal theory advanced was that the cruise line created an atmosphere which left its female passengers defenseless and prime targets for sexual perpetrators without so much as a warning to its passengers of the history of prior instances of sexual assaults aboard the cruise line's ships. The court in that case allowed the passenger's claim to proceed after the cruise line tried to dismiss the proceedings.

As shown, the civil law is complex regarding protection of passengers who were victimized on the high seas. Deciding whether or not to bring a sexual assault claim is a very big decision. We have helped many victims against large cruise lines. Should you like to learn more about your rights, you may contact our Board Certified Admiralty and Maritime attorneys for a free and confidential consultation.

April 30, 2015

Toddler's Pool-Drowning Underscores Need for Pool Safety Procedures

On April 25, 2015, a 20-month-old toddler tragically drowned in an inflatable pool in Ocala, Florida. Media reports claim that the toddler's mother found him floating face down in the water, on his side. The risk of drowning is a real danger as children can drown in just one to two inches of water, according to the Florida Department of Health in Marion County, Florida. Also according to Florida's Department of Health, drownings are the number one ranked "unintentional injury cause of death" for children ranging from the ages of one to four.

In Florida, the local building code requires that swimming pools constructed after October 1, 2000 be fitted with at least one "approved safety measure." Florida's administrative regulations also place the responsibility for the supervision and safety of any public swimming pools and bathing places on "[a]ll owners, manager, lifeguards or swimming instructors in charge of, or working at, public swimming pools." However and according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, temporary or small, inflatable pools are not subject to the local building code requirements.

Supervision and compliance with pool rules and regulations are key to fostering pool safety and should not be ignored. Our condolences to the family of the child who lost his life.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:

http://www.ocala.com/article/20150427/ARTICLES/150429682?p=2&tc=pg

https://www.flrules.org/gateway/ruleno.asp?id=64E-9.008&Section=0


April 21, 2015

Three Passengers Medevaced Off Holland America Cruise Ship to Miami Area Hospitals

Three passengers aboard a Holland America cruise ship Ryndam were medevaced to Miami-area hospitals Monday night due to unrelated medical emergencies. Miami-Dade Fire Rescue revealed that one passengers sustained a leg injury, another suffered a head injury and the third had a heart related condition. Holland America, based in Seattle, Washington, confirmed the passengers aboard the Ryndam required medical evaluations, but did not provide additional details. It is very unusual to have three passengers medevaced off a cruise ship at one time. Local Miami Fox News affiliate reports that one of the passengers was airlifted to Jackson Memorial Hospital and another taken to Mercy Hospital.

WSVN-TV - 7NEWS Miami Ft. Lauderdale News, Weather, Deco

April 19, 2015

Carnival Cruise Passenger Killed in Jet Ski Crash

Westin Jet Ski Accident.jpgIt is being widely reported that a Carnival cruise passenger was killed in a Jet Ski crash during an excursion in the Cayman Island. The passenger was 31-year-old Robert Cole from Virginia. Media outlets confirm Cole and his travel companion 37-year-old Amy Comer were passengers aboard the Carnival Conquest. Both were thrown into the water when the Jet Ski they were riding collided with another personal water craft operated by a 15-year-boy from New York who was also a Carnival Cruise Line passenger. The accident occurred on Wednesday 15 April just before 1pm near the Westin Resort Hotel. Eyewitnesses stated the teen may have t-boned Cole's Jet Ski.

Cole was provided life saving treatment on shore. Medical emergency personnel responded to the beach and transported Cole and Comer to the hospital. Cole later died. Comer was treated and release while the boy sustained only minor injuries.

April 14, 2015

Hundreds of Passengers Sick aboard Celebrity & Royal Caribbean Cruise Ships

Cruise Norovirus.jpgThe CDC is reporting that 112 passengers aboard the Celebrity Infinity have come down with an illness causing vomiting and diarrhea. CDC personnel boarded the cruise ship in San Diego on Monday wherein they confirmed the outbreak was caused by Norovirus. This marks the third time the Celebrity Infinity has had a gastrointestinal virus outbreak.

Celebrity's parent company, Royal Caribbean, is also having problems with one of its San Diego based cruise ships. The CDC has reported on Monday that 114 have falling ill with Norovirus like symptoms aboard the Legend of the Seas. The cruise liner is due back in port on Tuesday wherein the CDC will conduct an investigation and hopefully determine the cause of the outbreak.

March 29, 2015

Passenger Arrested for Assault aboard the Carnival Triumph

Carnival Passenger Assault Law.jpgThe FBI has arrested 44-year-old Carnival Triumph passenger Joseph Allen on assault charges resulting in substantial bodily injury as the cruise ship docked at its home port of Galveston, Texas. Carnival Cruise Lines, in a press release, stated this past Wednesday there was a domestic dispute between Allen and his 14-year-old stepson requiring ship security to intervene. Allen was confined to his cabin for the remainder of the cruise. The 14-year-old passenger, after being evaluated by the ship's medical doctors, was recommended to disembark in Cozumel for further medical treatment. The boy, however, finished the cruise. Texas news outlets are reporting that the assault happened on the third day of a six day voyage while the Carnival Triumph was docked in Progreso, Mexico. Allen, who according to the boy's mother was drinking, attacked his stepson in one of the ship's hallways. Other passengers reported the incident to ship security who intervened. Carnival security personnel stated the reason for the attack was that Allen claimed he was tired of being disrespected by the boy. The FBI has jurisdiction over maritime criminal matters occurring on cruise ships away from United States ports.

Photo Credit: KTRK Houston

March 29, 2015

Passengers & Crew Evacuated as Smoke Billows from the Carnival Liberty

Carnival Liberty Passenger Evactuation.jpgMultiple news sources are reporting that passengers and crew members were evacuated off the Carnival Liberty when smoke emerged from the forward section of the cruise ship. The incident happened last Friday while the 10-year-old, 2,974 passenger cruise ship was docked in St. Maarten. The smoke billowing from the Carnival Liberty sent fire crews racing to the cruise terminal. A spokesperson from the cruise line stated the smoke was caused by an over-heated bearing. The ship left port as scheduled. No injuries have thus far been reported. The Carnival Liberty currently sails from San Juan, Puerto Rico. The cruise ship is scheduled to replace the Carnival Triumph in Galveston,Texas in March 2016. Readers may remember in 2013 the Carnival Triumph lost all power while in the Gulf of Mexico due to an engine room fire and was towed to Alabama for repairs.

March 28, 2015

Royal Caribbean Cruise Passenger Feared Dead

Liberty of the Seas Accident Attorney.bmpThe Coast Guard has called off its search for Frank Slippo, a Royal Caribbean cruise passenger, who fell overboard the Liberty of the Seas. CCTV cameras confirm that the 43-year-old Slippo climbed over the railing at around 9:00pm last Sunday before falling off the cruise ship. The Liberty of the Seas was approximately 20 miles off the Florida Keys when the incident happened. As required by maritime law, Royal Caribbean began a search and rescue mission once it was confirmed the passenger fell overboard. Coast Guard Sector Key West was notified and conducted a 1,734 square nautical mile search lasting more the 57 hours. Slippo is feared dead.