Recently in Cruise Ship Passenger Injury Law Category

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.

Our firm receives several calls each month were passengers tell us that the ships' doctors misdiagnosed and mistreated their injuries which cause greater medical problems. These passengers are shocked when we tell them the law holds cruise lines not responsible for the medical negligence of the ship's doctors.

The legal toehold allowing cruise lines to make money from their medical facilities and escape liability for negligent medical care evaporated on November 10, 2014. The Eleventh Federal Circuit in Franza v. Royal Caribbean determined the old maritime law decided by Barbetta simply does not reflect modern reality. In an astounding 63 page opinion a three judge panel unanimity finally found cruise lines are now accountable for the negligence of the doctors they hire. In arriving at this conclusion the court undertook a review of recent cases throughout the nation which hold hospitals and medical centers liable for the doctors who practice there. Given that cruise ships have evolved into floating cities and make money from their medical facilities, there is no legal reason to give cruise lines preferential treatment.

The Franza case provides passengers legal rights that they never possessed before. If you or a loved one was injured by the medical negligence of a cruise ship's doctor within the past year and would like to learn how this case impacts your rights, feel free to contact our Board Certified maritime lawyers.

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.

The recent case of Royal Caribbean v. Clarke is a prime example of what can go wrong when one fails to read and comply with the cruise ticket provisions. Royal Caribbean requires its passengers to file a lawsuit within 1 year of the accident in federal district court located in Miami Florida. Near the end of the 1 year filing period, the attorney for Ms. Clarke filed a lawsuit in Miami state court not federal court as required. The cruise line moved to dismiss the lawsuit and the appellate court found Royal Caribbean's clauses enforceable and dismissed the case.

Besides reading the ticket, injured cruise passengers may also be better served by hiring attorneys experienced with suing cruise lines. Such attorneys are familiar with the various ticket provisions and tend not to get tripped up on such procedural issues. The partners at Brais, Brais & Rusak's Miami office are both board certified by the Florida Bar in the area of admiralty and maritime law and have extensive experiences in cruise line litigation. If you have been injured on a cruise and have questions about your obligations under the ticket, feel free to contact us for a free consultation.

August 27, 2014

Cruise Tender Injuries and the Law

Cruise Tender Injury Lawyer.jpgOur law firm is receiving an increasing number of inquires about cruise passengers injuries occurring on tenders. Generally, when a cruise liner is too large to dock at a pier, it requires tenders to shuttle passengers back and forth from the ship. With ships increasing in size each year, tendering is becoming more and more prevalent. There are two basic ways passengers are tendered. One option is to lower the cruise ship's life boats and use them as the tenders. The other option available to cruise lines is to contract with local tendering services which use small boats to shuttle the passengers.

The Cruise Line's Legal Responsibility to Passengers

A Cruise line has the non-delegable legal obligation to provide their passengers safe ingress and egress, under adequate supervision, to and from the ship. This legal duty remains the same no matter if the cruise line decides to use its own life boats or contract with local boat companies to provide tender services. As such, if a passenger is injured due to the unsafe operation of a tender, that passenger has a legal claim for negligence against the cruise line even though the tender was not operated by the cruise line. Given the legal duty to provide passengers safe ingress and egress to and from the ship, United States law precludes a cruise line from exculpating or limiting its liability for injures arising from negligent tendering.

Legal Differences Between Tendering and Boating Excursions

There is a significant difference between a cruise line's duty to its passengers regarding tendering and boating excursions. Unlike tendering, boating excursions and are not technically part of a cruise line's obligation under the cruise ticket contract. These activities are purchased separately either on-line or on the cruise ship. Since excursions are not part of a cruise line's obligation to carry passengers to foreign ports in a reasonably safe manner, courts allow cruise lines to exculpate their liability for injuries occurring on excursions. These exculpations are found in the cruise ticket contracts of all major cruise lines. Similar exculpations are usually found on the back of the excursion tickets issued to the passengers.

If you would like to learn more about a cruise line's obligation to passengers during tendering operations, feel free to contact our Florida Board Certified Maritime and Admiralty attorneys.

June 5, 2014

Slippery Decks on the Carnival Paradise

Carnival Paradise Slippery Deck.jpgOur law firm receives many calls from vacationers who were injured after slipping and falling aboard the Carnival Paradise. Currently home ported in Tampa, Florida, the Carnival Paradise is a 17-year-old cruise ship - a veritable dinosaur in this day-in-age where cruise lines pump out new ships each year. The exterior decks are mostly made of wood. It seems water tends to pool in certain areas after rain or washing causing the unsuspecting passenger to hydroplane when walking across the deck. This often times results in slip and fall injuries.

The two most common injuries we see from Carnival Paradise passengers are torn menisci and broken wrists. A meniscus is a piece of cartilage that protects and cushions the knee joint surface as well as the upper ends of the femur and tibia. This cartilage is torn when the knee is hyper or hypo extended which occurs with regularity when someone is falling down after their feet fly from underneath them. Fractured wrists many times occur when the passenger extends their arms to break their fall.

Both injuries sometime could be treated without surgery but often times require an outpatient procedure, rest and rehabilitation to heal. Our attorneys have helped many people who suffered injuries aboard the Carnival Paradise. If you wish to learn more about our services, feel free to contact us for a free consultation.

June 1, 2014

Two Arrested for Raping Royal Caribbean Cruise Passenger

Galveston Cruise Rape.jpgJamaican news outlets are reporting two men were arrested for raping a fellow passenger aboard the Royal Caribbean Navigator of the Seas. The rape is reportedly to have occurred approximately 50 miles outside Jamaican waters on Thursday morning (5/29) while the cruise ship was approaching Falmouth. The men (both Americans) were supposedly partying with the victim the night before. The Navigator of the Seas conducts weekly voyages to the western Caribbean from Galveston, Texas.

Rapes and sexual assaults unfortunately occur with regularity aboard cruise ships. Our law firm is routinely contacted by cruise rape and sexual assault victims. Our attorneys are currently representing a victim of sexual assault which occurred in a ladies room aboard the Carnival cruise ship Magic which also leaves from Galveston.

May 31, 2014

Boy Found on Bottom of Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship Pool Fights for Life

Royal Caribbean Drowning.jpgA six-year-old boy was discovered unconscious at the bottom of one of the Royal Caribbean owned cruise ship Independence of the Sea on May 27th. When the boy was found his heat had already stopped. The shipboard doctor (a non-Royal Caribbean employee) was able to restart his heart beating through CPR. The drowning victim was then airlifted by the French navy and is currently treating at a hospital in Brest. The incident happened while the cruise ship was passing northern France near the city of Breton. At the time of the incident the Independence of the Seas was on a six-night Western Europe voyage leaving from Southampton, England.

Pools are considered attractive nuisances for children and child drownings are becoming more and more common on cruise ships. The reason for these tragic events is there are no kiddy fences or life guards. Often times children just wonder in the pools and drown without anyone bring aware. This problem is known industry wide. However, only Disney Cruise Lines currently has life guards assigned to all ship pools and spas. It appears unconscionable for a billion dollar cruise line such as Royal Caribbean to not hire life guards to protect their passengers. Hopefully the bulk of the cruise lines will change their policies and spend the extra money to employ life guards to protect the children aboard their ships.

May 22, 2014

Miami Fire Rescue Evacuate Injured Passenger from the Majesty of the Seas

First responders from Miami's Fire Rescue evacuated an injured passenger from the Royal Caribbean cruise ship Majesty of the Seas Monday evening. The cruise line's Director of Communications Cynthia Martine stated the passenger is a 32-year-old Swedish man who sustained a head injury. He was and was initially treated by the on board medical facility but required additional care. The ship stayed close to shore to facilitate the at-sea rescue before traveling to Key West. There is no word on the passenger's medical condition at this time. The Majesty of the Seas conducts regular voyages to Nassau and the Royal Caribbean private island Coco Cay.
WSVN-TV - 7NEWS Miami Ft. Lauderdale News, Weather, Deco

May 22, 2014

Passenger Medevaced from the Bahamas Celebration Cruise Ship

Bahamas Celebration Passenger.jpgThe Coast Guard reports a 56-year-old passenger was medically evacuated from the Bahamas Celebration cruise ship this week after experiencing severe pain. The passenger was transferred to St. Mary's Hospital in West Palm Beach. His condition is currently unknown. The Bahamas Celebration conducts cruises from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida to the Bahamas.

May 12, 2014

Two Vacationers Evacuated off the Carnival Splendor Cruise Ship

Coast Guard Rescue Cruise Passenger.jpgThe Coast Guard reports two passengers were evacuated from the Carnival Splendor cruise ship off the coast of North Carolina. It appears the two vacationers became extremely sick aboard the ship prompting the captain to request medical assistance. The Splendor, at the Coast Guard's request, deviated its course closer to shore so the passengers could be picked up by helicopter. Information about the passengers' medical condition is not currently available.

April 17, 2014

Coast Guard Targeting Potentially Hazardous Cruise Ships

Cruise Ship Hazards.jpgLast month the Coast Guard started surprise inspections of cruise ships it has flagged as potentially hazardous to passenger safety. The Coast Guard's reason for stepping up inspections of problem cruise ships is because the regular twice-a-year inspections of 140 cruise ships based at the various United States ports in 2013 found 351 deficiencies. The most frequently safety issues aboard these ships dealt with lifeboats and fire doors. Captain Eric Christensen, the officer in charge of oversees ship inspection policy, told the National Transportation Safety Board, "There was a population of cruise ships that had the lion's share of deficiency. You want to focus your efforts on those vessels." Specific ships or cruise lines, however, were not identified.

What does this mean to the hundreds of thousands of American cruise travelers? It appears the cruise ships based out of the United States will become safer in the sense that should a Costa Concordia type catastrophe take place, the life boats and watertight doors will likely work. However, the increased Coast Guard inspections will do nothing to protect passengers from the several shipboard hazards caused by the cruise lines' failure to properly maintain their ships. Most cruise passengers are injured due to the failure to maintain decking surfaces whether it is carpet, wood, marble or steel. These decks experience a significant amount of wear and tear due the large number of people walking on the ships each day causing slipping and tripping hazards. The Coast Guard inspectors do not pay much attention to deck surfaces and thus those hazards will remain.

April 11, 2014

Carnival Sunshine's Pool Deck Unreasonably Slippery?

Carnival Sunshine Slip Injury.jpgWe have received multiple calls from passengers who have slipped and fallen on the Carnival Sunshine cruise ship in recent months. The Sunshine was launched in 1995 under the name Destiny. The ship was in service since 1995 before being refitted, renamed and relaunched as the Sunshine in May 2013. It appears when the ship was being refitted, the coating placed on the Lido / Pool deck made the deck unreasonably slippery. The popular cruise forum "Cruise Critic" has a post reviewing the Sunshine under the title "Problem Ship". The entry states many people were observed slipping and falling when entering the pool deck. This is remarkable given the ship was relaunched less than a year ago. This law firm has handled a multitude of passenger slip and fall cases occurring on cruise ships and have learned the main causes of these accidents are improper selection of decking materials, improper application of coatings and lack of maintenance. As the Carnival Sunshine has recently been refitted, the likely reason for the slip and falls appear to be an improper decking material selection and/or improper application.

Once Carnival is made aware of an unreasonably slippery deck, it incumbent upon the cruise line to make the deck safe. If it doesn't rectify the unsafe condition, it may be held liable for any accidents resulting from people slipping. Given the high amount of slip and falls on the Lido / Pool deck, Carnival is obviously aware of the problem. It is perplexing why the largest cruise line in the world hasn't fixed the problem. The Sunshine is currently making weekly sailing from New Orleans to the Western Caribbean and Mexico. If you have slipped or have seen someone slip on the Carnival Sunshine, we ask that you please contact us so we could better represent our clients.

April 7, 2014

Royal Caribbean Passenger Flown to Miami Children's Hospital

Royal Caribbean Coco Cay Injury.jpgThe Coast Guard responded to an emergency concerning an infant passenger from the Royal Caribbean Enchantment of the Seas while the ship was calling on the private Bahamian island Coco Cay. It is reported the 10-month-old passenger was experiencing breathing difficulty Sunday prompting the rescue. The ship's medical personnel stabilized the infant before flying with the baby to Miami. The child arrived at Miami Children's Hospital Sunday night. The child's respiratory condition is unknown at the time of this report.

The Enchantment of the Seas is currently making weekly sailings from Cape Canaveral, Florida to the Bahamas. Royal Caribbean's age policy for the subject cruise is that a child must be at least 6 months old as of the first day of the voyage.

April 3, 2014

Knee Injuries Caused by Slippery Cruise Ships

Slippery Cruise Ship Knee Injury Lawyer.jpgThis law firm received several calls a week from passengers who have injured their knees from slipping on a cruise ship. There is a very specific reason why this happens.

Cruises are supposed to be fun. Cruise lines spend millions upon millions of dollars outfitting their ships with attractions designed to entice people to vacation with them instead of other places. Unfortunately, accidents happen. Often times these accidents could be avoided if the cruise lines place a little more emphasis on safety than bringing more and more passengers to their ships.

Exterior decks are an area aboard cruise ships which are particularly dangerous. Each ship has a lido deck which features the main pool, hot tubs, bars, buffets and stages. These decks are made of smooth steel that is treated with chemical coatings which are supposed to provide traction. Given the high amount of people walking theses decks day in and day out, the protective coating breaks down leavening nothing but smooth steel. Once this coating breaks down, the slickness of the deck is akin to ice. The breakdown of the coating, however, does not happen uniformly. The areas which experience higher concentration of foot traffic and where the coating is thinly or misapplied break down faster. This proves very dangerous as a person can walk without problem, sometimes for long distances, then hit an slick patch causing him or her to fall without warning. It would be better if the whole deck was slippery because the passenger would know quite quickly that he or she is dealing with a slippery condition. Instead, the passenger is lead to believe the deck is reasonably safe until he or she hits the ground.

These types of slips and falls often times result in knee injuries as a knee usually hyper-extends during the fall. The most common type of injuries are meniscus or ligament tears. Sometimes these injuries are treated with pain medication and physical therapy. Other times, surgery is necessary. In the most severe cases, a knee replacement is required.

If you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of sustaining a knee injury due to a slippery cruise ship deck and would like to know more about your legal options, feel free to call our Florida Board Certified Maritime Attorneys who will be more than happy to speak with you.

March 26, 2014

Injured Man Medevaced off NCL's Norwegian Gem

A man was medevaced off the 965-foot cruise ship Norwegian Gem yesterday. The ship's master radioed the Coast Guard reporting 35-year-old Brent Killian was in medical distress and in need of assistance. A MH-60 rescue helicopter was dispatched and met the cruise ship approximately 180 miles east of Nags Head, North Carolina. The rescues team transported Killian to Coast Guard Air Station located at Elizabeth City wherein he was then taken by ambulance to Albermarle Hospital. Killian's condition is currently unknown. The Norwegian Gem is operated by the Miami based cruise line NCL. The 2384 passenger cruise ship is currently making weekly sailing to the Bahamas from New York. Below is actual Coast Guard footage of the rescue at sea.

March 25, 2014

Protecting the Rights of Cruise Rape Victims

Cruise Rape Attorney.jpgRape and other types of sexual assaults occur on cruise ships with regularity. These horrific events are often times not told to passengers. Cruise lines have a financial interest in not sharing the facts about crimes that occur on their watch involving their employees against people who pay them to vacation on their cruise ships. In fact, the cruise industry spends millions upon millions of dollars in advertising for the purpose of portraying cruises as a safe family vacation option. The lack of warning of the real dangers associated with cruising combined with the portrayal of safety gives regular people the false sense of security while cruising. This often leads to passengers letting their guard down which in turn leads to victimization.

Brais, Brais & Rusak has an established history of protecting women who were raped while on vacation. In a case handled by the firm against Norwegian Cruise Line, our lawyers argued the cruise line had a duty to warn its passengers about prior sexual assaults that occurred on its cruise ship so guests could be aware of the potentially dangerous atmosphere aboard the ship. As part of that litigation a Miami federal judge ordered the cruise line to disclose the number of reported sexual assaults on its ships within a period of 15 months prior to the subject rape. The information revealed was shocking as there were 23 prior instances of sexual assaults in little over a year! From this rather high number of sexual assaults occurring on NCL cruise ships during the months leading to our client's rape, the court concluded there was sufficient evidence to establish it was foreseeable to the cruise line that other passengers would be raped thus triggering the requirement of warning vacationers of the potential danger.

Recently we were contacted by a passenger from South Carolina in need of assistance. This young woman was raped in a restroom by a male crewmember aboard the Bahamas Celebration on the way back to Florida from the Bahamas. This cruise ship is operated Celebration Cruise Lines headquartered in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. It appears that Celebration is intending to mount a vigorous defense as less than 24 hours after giving notice of Brais, Brais & Rusak's retention by the victim, we were notified a law firm was hired to represent the cruise line. Our firm is used to such tactics by cruise lines. In an effort to help represent our client, if you were on the Bahamas Celebration between March 8 - 10, 2014 and have information about a passenger being assaulted by a crewmember, please contact our firm toll free at (800) 499-0551.