An 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.
Certainly, the crewmembers aboard the Insignia, or their estates possess claims under the Jones Act for negligence (a Federal Statutory claim) and unseaworthiness (a general maritime law claim). Generally speaking, the Jones Act imposes liability upon a seaman's employer for defective or dangerous conditions of which the employer either knew of or should have known of. The doctrine of unseaworthiness, requires a ship owner to maintain a seaworthy vessel or a vessel that is free of unreasonably dangerous and/or unsafe conditions. A Jones Act seaman who suffers injuries will also have a cause of action for maintenance and cure (another general maritime law claim). Maintenance effectively represents wages, both unearned (through the end of a contract of employment) and sick. Maintenance also includes wages for substitute food and lodging while the seaman is convalescing. Cure represents payments for medical care and treatment needed as a result of a shipboard injury or illness. Cure payments are owed by the employer until the seaman is diagnosed as having reached maximum medical improvement. Another Federal Statue that may apply depending upon the location of a maritime tort is the Death on the High Seas Act ("DOHSA").
In contrast, when dealing with a non-crew member or non-Jones Act employee, such as a contractor, the Longshoreman and Harbor Worker's Compensation Act ("LHWCA") may apply. The application of the LHWCA to you or a loved one's claim means that, by law, a cause of action will exist if there was any negligence on the part of the vessel that caused the victim's injuries or death.
Thus, in this case and as a matter of first impression, it is plausible that the LHWCA may apply to any case arising out of any death or injuries involving the contractors harmed in the Insignia fire. In regard to the crew member injury and death, these claims will be governed by the Jones Act and General Maritime Law.
Witnesses to this tragedy or persons with information are urged to contact the firm through this blog post or via the firm's website.
The maritime and board certified attorneys of Brais, Brais & Rusak possess the requisite expertise and skill necessary to handle these types of claims. Two partners within the firm are board certified in the field of Admiralty and Maritime law and have collective trial experience spanning nearly 40 years. Based upon blind peer review ratings the firm achieved and has maintained for more than 15 years an "AV" Preeminent Rating with Martindale Hubbell (< 5% of all attorneys). The firm is also a member of the Million and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates forum (< 1% of all attorneys), with collected recoveries exceeding $20,000,000.00 (20 million) in 2014 alone. Notwithstanding which set of laws apply, the lawyers at Brais, Brais & Rusak are prepared to handle your maritime claim and have the experience to protect your rights, the compassion to serve your needs, and the skill to obtain the compensation you deserve.