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.

March 23, 2015

Injured Carnival Cruise Passenger Airlifted After Fall

Carnival Cruise Fall Injury.jpgMultiple sources are reporting that a Carnival cruise passenger was airlifted after suffering a fall . The 69-year-old female passenger, whose name has not been released at this time, fell last Thursday night aboard the Carnival Imagination injuring her head. The decision was made to contact the Coast Guard who dispatched a MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter team. A rescue swimmer from the team was lowered down to secure the woman into the rescue basket before being lifted to the helicopter. The rescue occurred forty miles off the California coast. The passenger was transported to UC San Diego Medical Center for immediate care. It is reported that the passenger sustained significant head trauma from the fall. Though the passenger's head injury from the fall was significant enough to require emergency medical treatment, her condition is unknown at this time.

March 22, 2015

Miami Entrepreneur Michael Cappoini Crashes Boat into Biscayne Bay Seawall

Miami entrepreneur Michael Cappoini was operating his 25’ boat when it collided into a concrete seawall in Biscayne Bay. The crash injured both Cappoini and his guest Brooke Biederman. Cappoini is said to have sustained broken bones and is expected to make a full recovery. Biderman’s injuries were more severe. She was taken to Ryder Trauma Center where she underwent at least one surgery for significant head injury. At last report, Biderman is in critical condition. What makes this incident unique is that the boat is captured by surveillance video seconds before it crashed into the seawall near the Miami Beach Coast Guard Station. The collision, which happened last Friday just after 10 AM, drew the attention of several Coast Guard personnel who rendered immediate assistance. Florida’s Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission is the lead law enforcement agency tasked with investigating the incident.

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

March 18, 2015

Passenger Falls Off Galveston Based Cruise Ship

Carnival Triumph.jpgMultiple media sources are reporting that a passenger is believed to have died after falling off a Galveston based cruise ship operated by Carnival. On the evening of March 17, 2015 shipboard personnel aboard the Triumph were notified that a 57-year-old passenger fell overboard while the ship was off the northern coast of Mexico. CCTV video confirmed the passenger fell overboard. Cruise lines have a duty under maritime law to perform a search and rescue mission once it becomes known that someone, whether that person is a passenger or crew member, has fallen overboard. It is reported that the ship notified Mexican authorities and initiated a search and rescue operation. The next morning Mexican authorities found a body believed to be the passenger who fell off the cruise ship. The Triumph was returning to Galveston from a five day Mexican cruise.

March 8, 2015

Barge Sinks in Ft. Pierce Inlet Drowning Deckhand

A 100 foot barge built in 1957 sunk in the Ft. Pierce Inlet drowning a deckhand. The barge was being towed by a 54-foot Gulfstream from Key Biscayne to Georgia. The towing operation was performed by Reed Adams, Charles Griffin, Rodney Grambo and Dominick Tortorice. The decision to attempt the inlet was made when the barge began to take on water offshore. The fast outgoing tide through the inlet proved too much and the half century old barge causing it to break up and sank. Unfortunately, Tortorice did not make it off the barge in time. Reed Adam told media that the barge's superstructure collapsed on Tortorice moments before the vessel when down. Tortorice's body was later found offshore. Authorities suspect the outgoing tide carried his body away from the accident scene.

Ft. Pierce Inlet was closed after the event as the Coast Guard feared other boats may strike the sunken barge causing additional accidents. The inlet has been since reopened to recreational boats with drafts less than six feet upon clearance from an official managing vessel traffic in the area.

The barge has been reported to be in two pieces and has created a debris filed in and around the inlet. Given the swift current in Ft. Pierce Inlet, the depth where the barge sank and its weaken condition, Coast Guard indicated it will be difficult to remove the wreck. The salvage operation is being performed by Resolve Marine Group based out of Ft. Lauderdale. No time table has been set for when the barge will be removed and the inlet completely reopened.

A tug and barge owner owes the deckhands working for it the legal duty to provide a vessel that is seaworthy and reasonably fit for its intended purpose. Should a deckhand become injured or die as a result of an unseaworthy barge, maritime law allows the seaman or his estate to recover certain money damages. The amount of damages depend on the circumstances.