January 29, 2015

Royal Caribbean's Effort to Overrule Decision Making Cruise Lines Liable for Medical Malpractice Thwarted

Royal Caribbean Cruise Injury Law.jpgWe reported last November that the Federal Eleventh Circuit issued a landmark opinion called Franza v. Royal Caribbean. This ruling found cruise lines can be held vicariously liable for the medical malpractice of their ship board doctors. Prior to the Franza decision, trial courts would routinely dismiss passenger claims brought against cruise lines for doctors' malfeasance finding they are independent contractors. Being that most cruise ship doctors are from foreign countries, it was very difficult to obtain jurisdiction over their tortious acts in the United States. This caused devastating results for passengers who suffered at the hands of substandard doctors and for the families of loved ones who died because the cruise ship doctors provided poor care. Many truly hurt people were forced to go without just compensation as they were not allowed to sue the cruise lines for medical malpractice or unable to obtain jurisdiction over culpable foreign doctors. Franza changed this.

The Eleventh Circuit's opinion rejected the Fifth Circuit's 1988 Barbetta opinion which found cruise lines could not be sued for medical malpractice as they had no legal duty to provide their passengers with medical services of contracting doctors. The Eleventh Circuit, on the other hand, commented that there is a long history of precedent within maritime law that holds ship operators liable for the bad acts of their agents. The Eleventh Circuit then commented that given the cruise line charges for the doctors' services, have them ware uniforms and can terminate their services, a jury should make the factual determination of whether those doctors are no independent contractors.

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January 28, 2015

Sick Child Rescued from Carnival Cruise Ship

Houston area news outlets are reporting that the Coast Guard rescued a sick 8-month-old baby girl from the Carnival Triumph Monday. Sources say the emergency call went out because the small passenger was experiencing seizures and had difficulty breathing. A MH-65 Dolphin helicopter was dispatched from Air Station Houston to medevac the child, the child's mother and ship's nurse to Memorial Hermann Hospital.

The cruise ship was approximately 40 miles southeast of Galveston, Texas when the rescue occurred. Petty Officer 3rd Class Daniel Grow stated "It was very rewarding to be able to start a search-and-rescue career helping out a mother and her 8-month-old who really needed us at the time."

The child's condition has not yet been released. Below is footage of the rescue at sea.

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January 26, 2015

New Cruise Line Sexual Assault and Rape Reporting Law Champions Openness

New Cruise Saftey Law.jpgA new federal law passed earlier this month that requires the Department of Transportation to report crimes allegedly committed onboard a cruise ship. The new law is quite a departure from its predecessor, the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act (hereinafter "Act"), which only made incident data available if the alleged crime was "no longer under investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation."

Opponents of the law maintain it is not necessary, arguing that the major cruise lines began providing crime data on their respective websites in 2013. However, it is important to note that the data provided on these websites cannot be relied on as a representative figure insofar as the total number of crimes that occur aboard cruise vessels. Specifically, the major cruise lines only report incidents that meet the requirements of the Cruise Vessel and Safety Act, which limit reporting to incidents involving "homicide, suspicious death, a missing United States national, kidnapping, assault with serious bodily injury ... firing or tampering with the vessel, or theft of money or property in excess of $10,000." Thus, if a crew member stole something from a passenger not in excess of $10,000, then the cruise lines were not required to publicly disclose it. The above may be characterized as an illustration of the lobby efforts by the Cruise Lines to modify the Act in a way that only certain crimes require disclosure.

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January 25, 2015

Miami Boat Accident Sends Passenger to the Hospital

Miami law enforcement is investigating a boat accident that sent one passenger to the hospital. It appears from facts reported from various new sources that nine people -- five women and four men between the ages of 18 and 24 -- were aboard a 19 foot jet-boat when it crashed into a wood piling about 8:30 PM on the night of January 24th. 911 was called on scene by one of the passengers.

The boating accident happened in Biscayne Bay several hundred feet from Sea Isle Marina near 16th Street and North Bayshore Dive. The crash caused the passengers to be thrown inside the boat. Luckily no one was ejected. A woman passenger, however, was taken to Ryder Trauma Center for her injuries. Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Captain, Ignatius Carroll stated, "The other eight people that are here on scene seem to be okay, but obviously they are very shaken up by what happened and they are being interviewed by FWC, who will determine the cause of this incident and how it could have been prevented."

Alcohol is suspected to be involved. The boat's operator was charged with boating under the influence after given a field sobriety test. This is another in a long string of accidents which occurred in Biscayne Bay where the operator was suspected of boating under the influence. Under Florida law, to be convicted for boating under the influence, the operator must have a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or higher.

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January 23, 2015

New Law Forces Cruise Lines to Conduct Lifesaving Drills Sooner

Cruise Life Saving Law.jpgCruise lines operating international passenger voyages are now required to conduct muster / lifeboat drills before or shortly after the voyage begins. The Convention of the Safety of Life at Sea (commonly known as SOLAS) requires such drills so that passengers are made aware of their muster station location and instructed on the proper use of life preservers. Instruction on the procedures to be followed in the event of an emergency is also provided.

The prior regulation required cruise ships to hold a lifesaving drill within twenty-four hours from the embarkation of the voyage. SOLAS was amended in reaction to the Costa Concordia disaster where thirty-two died as a result of the captain's negligence and poor lifesaving planning. One of the biggest lessons learned from this tragedy is that the passengers did not know where to go when the ship started to sink. This confusion perhaps caused loss of life. Having the muster drill before, or shortly after, the voyage begins will arm passengers with the requisite knowledge of what to do and were to go should an emergency arise while at sea.

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January 22, 2015

Americans Traveling on Foreign Cruises Reap Benefit from Athens Convention Overhaul

Athens Convention Damages.jpgMost American are unaware that international law caps damages for passengers who are hurt or die on cruises that leave from, call on and return to foreign ports. Adopted in 1974, the Athens Convention was intended to consolidate two earlier conventions addressing passenger injuries and luggage losses. Nearly every American cruise line adopts the Athens Convention for their wholly foreign cruises. For example, the below language is found in Royal Caribbean's ticket contract:

ON CRUISES WHICH NEITHER EMBARK, DISEMBARK NOR CALL AT ANY PORT IN THE UNITED STATES, CARRIER SHALL BE ENTITLED TO ANY AND ALL LIABILITY LIMITATIONS, IMMUNITIES AND RIGHTS APPLICABLE TO IT UNDER THE "ATHENS CONVENTION...

Carnival, Princess, NCL and Holland America have similar ticket provisions.

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January 6, 2015

Boy Who Nearly Drowned Aboard a Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship Left in Critical Condition

A 4-year-boy nearly drowned in a wave pool aboard the Royal Caribbean cruise ship Oasis of the Seas is in critical condition at a Broward hospital. The cruise ship was less than two hours into its voyage when the boy wandered into the wave pool located on one of the top decks. The child was under water for an estimated five to ten minutes before being rescued by a passenger. Once he was taken out of the water, the ship's medical team resuscitated the boy. The ship returned to Port Everglades where firefighters and paramedics were standing by to provide emergency additional medical care while transporting the child to an area hospital.

Children wandering into cruise ship pools occurs regularly. The reasons why these accidents occur are largely because cruise lines are not strictly regulated and have decided not to follow logical protocols in regard to pool safety. Cruise lines do not have to follow many pool safety regulations that land-based resorts are required to follow. For example, land based hotels and spas must have fencing around the pool child proof gates. Cruise lines, on the other hand, are not required to have barriers to access cruise ship pools. This leaves the attractiveness of a pool wide open for a child who is separated from his or her parents to enter. Cruise lines could adopt the land based safety standards; however, they do not.

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December 15, 2014

What to Do When You have a Cruise Ship Slip and Fall Accident

Cruise Slip and Fall Accident.jpgCruise ship slip and fall injuries occur with regularity. These accidents occur so often that cruise lines have investigation procedures in place designed to gather evidence and information in a way to help them should they be sued.

The process starts at the ship's medical facility. It is very common for a passenger to be given a statement form at the medical facility to fill out. Within the statement form is usually a question asking "What could you have done to prevent the accident." This whole purpose of this question is to get the injured passenger to admit he or she was at fault. If the passenger indicates that he or she could have done something to prevent the accident, the cruise line's lawyers will use that statement against the passenger. The cruise line's efforts to gain evidence to support their defenses do not end there.

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December 12, 2014

Oceania Cruise Ship Claims Three Lives

Oceania Insignia Fire.jpgAn engine room fire aboard the Insignia--a cruise ship belonging to Norwegian Cruise Lines' subsidiary, Oceania Cruises--claimed three lives yesterday morning. A total of five individuals were caught in the blaze, specifically, three contractors and two crew members. According to reports, all five were taken to a medical facility in St. Lucia, where the vessel was docked at the time of the accident. One eye-witness to the tragedy stated that one individual passed away before even making it to the dock. Two of the contractors and one crew member died as a result of their injuries while another crew member remains hospitalized. No passengers were harmed. To date, the cause of the fire remains unknown.

General maritime law and perhaps select Federal Statutes intended to protect maritime workers will govern the liability and damage aspects of any lawsuits filed by injured workers or the estates of loved ones lost in this tragedy.

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November 30, 2014

Rescue Mission Ends for Missing Princess Cruise Passenger

Sun Princess Cruise Ship.jpgAustralian authorities call off a search for an elderly man who fell off and went missing from the Princess cruise ship Sun Princess. CCTV footage retained by the cruise line shows an 84-year-old passenger falling of the liner into the water on the night of November 24th. Princess stated the cruise ship turned around to look for the missing passenger after the man could not be found on board. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority stated survival was very slim given the man's age and weather conditions. This is not the first time in recent memory that a passenger fell off the Sun Princess. In October last year another elderly man went missing from the deck of the ship while it was off the northern Australian coast.

November 16, 2014

Cruises Passenger Medical Malpractice Victims Receive New Rights

Cruise Medical Malractice.jpgIt is no secret that cruise lines are for-profit businesses. Companies such as Royal Caribbean, Carnival, NCL, Celebrity, Disney and Princess constantly look for ways to add revenue and limit costs in order to increase their bottom lines. Some areas where cruise lines make money from their passengers are obvious. Casinos, bars, ticket sales for excursions are all well-known profit centers. One location aboard the ships where cruise lines make money that is less obvious to those who are not industry insiders are the ships' medical facilities.

Cruise lines dedicate space aboard their ships for medical facilities. They stock those facilities with drugs, bandages, x-ray machines and hire doctors to treat ill or injured passengers. Passengers who use these medical services are charged on their shipboard accounts and must pay those charges before leaving the ships. What is not known by many is that if the ship doctors are negligent in their care, cruise lines disavow liability. In essence, the cruise lines found a loophole in the law to make money but not be assessed with liability should their doctors commit medical malpractice. This loophole is found in the 1988 case of Barbetta v. S/S Bermuda Star decided by the Fifth Federal Circuit wherein it was determined that since cruise lines have no obligation to provide onboard doctors for their passengers they should not be liable for the negligence of those doctors.

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November 13, 2014

Run Over Haulover Snorkeler Brings Maritime Tort and Lien Against 43' Midnight Express Named The Golden Rule

Golden Rule Midnight Express.jpgThe Florida Admiralty and Maritime Board Certified attorneys of Brais, Brais & Rusak filed a verified complaint in rem against a 43' Midnight Express go-fast boat for allegedly running over Marc Craddock while snorkeling more than 1 mile off Haulover Inlet. The all gold colored speed boat, aptly named The Golden Rule, equipped with five outboard engines is technically owed by FLC Marine LLC., a Florida limited liability company, whose managers are Adam Gordon and his father Michael Gordon.

Court documents state The Golden Rule was returning from the Bahamas on October 17th when it ran over Mr. Craddock causing life-threatening injuries. Mr. Craddock was airlifted to Ryder Trauma Center in Miami and underwent multiple emergency surgeries before being transferred to an Orlando hospital.

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October 23, 2014

Snorkeling Accident Near Haulover Inlet

Midnight Express Runs Over Snorkler .jpgJust last week, on October 17, a snorkeler was involved in a tragic accident when a speed boat struck him at the Haulover Inlet. According to Officer Jorge Pino of the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, the victim, who has not been identified, suffered "critical" injuries from being run over by a go fast boat. According to reports, the individual was snorkeling with a friend in the water when they saw a golden speed boat--equipped with five motors--heading towards them. Officer Pino added the snorkelers tried to make their way back into their boat when the victim was struck by one of the boat's multiple motor propellers. The victim was immediately taken to the Ryder Trauma Center at Jackson Memorial Hospital.

Officer Pino stated the FWC is now determining exactly how this run over incident happened. The speed boat's operator was interviewed at the scene and later taken to FWC's headquarters. The operator's father later appeared at the Haulover Marina with an attorney. The attorney gave a statement that the divers did not display the proper flags. This statement conflicts with the information gathered in the FWC's investigation.
The use of a diving flag and the location of said flag in relation to the parties involved will be material issues for a trier of fact in the event that a civil suit arises from this tragic event. Section 327.331(5) of the Florida Statutes states, "Divers must make reasonable efforts to stay within 300 feet of a divers-down flag or buoy on all waters other than rivers, inlets, and navigation channels. A person operating a vessel on waters other than a river, inlet, or navigation channel must make a reasonable effort to maintain a distance of at least 300 feet from any divers-down flag or buoy." No information or evidence has been released regarding the location of the victim or speed boat driver in respects to the diving flag.

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October 20, 2014

Cruise Ticket's Hidden Provisions Can Be Costly

Miami Cruise Ticket Provision.jpgCruising is wildly popular. Each year, hundreds of thousands of people cruise from the several ports that line the United States coast. Often times, people have a good time on their vacations without incident. However, sometimes, vacations can go horribly wrong. Our law firm receives multiple calls each week from passengers who unfortunately were injured or from family members whose loved one tragically died while cruising. From our conversations, we have found that nearly all passengers have little or know knowledge about the provisions found within their cruise ticket.

The cruise ticket is a contract between the passenger and the cruise line that sets forth the obligation of both parties. As such, it is VERY IMPORTANT to save and read your ticket if you think you may want to sue a cruise line for its wrongdoing. Cruise lines for years have hired very capable attorneys to insert contract provisions into the tickets designed to limit liability and your recovery. Three important provisions are the six month or 180 day written notice provision, the 1 year suit time provision and the federal court provision. Failure to comply with these terms can be very costly.

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October 19, 2014

Five South Florida Drownings in Three Weeks

Florida Canal Drowning Death Attorney.jpgUnfortunately, South Florida's sunny climate is accompanied by a number of natural and man-made bodies of water that claim lives every day. Making matters worse--the victims are normally our most prized and precious possessions--our children. Just this week, five individuals drowned in a canal, pool or lake. Four of the five individuals were children under the age of ten years old.

One of the children, Jac'Quez Osborne, 9, drowned at a pool party in Southwest Ranches. According to Capt. Engle of the Davie Police Department, Jac'Quez "didn't know how to swim and somehow ended up in the pool." Sadly, there was no one within reach that could administer CPR in time.

Another child, Leila Fleming, 4, left with her grandmother, Laura Zulema Fleming, 59, to go feed ducks by a lake in their Silver Shores gated community. They did not return. Both of their bodies were eventually found and recovered from the lake. Autopsies revealed that both Leila and her grandmother drowned. Unfortunately, neither of them knew how to swim.

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