Articles Tagged with “Maritime Attorney”

On December 9th, 2019, the volcano on White Island, New Zealand, erupted while 47 tourists were visiting the Island at the time.  Of those, 18 have officially been declared dead, 17 sustained serious burns, and 8 people are missing and presumed dead per publicly available reports. The small Island volcano is privately owned by an Auckland family trust, and as such, only operators with permits were authorized to accompany tourists on guided tours of the Island.  White Island Tours was reportedly one of the main authorized tour companies on White Island at the time. The only way to and from the Island is via small inflatable dinghies with tour costs ranging from $229 per adult by boat, to $730 a passenger by helicopter. Tourists on the Island at the time were from Germany, Australia, the UK, China, Malaysia and New Zealand – and 9 people from the United States. New reports indicate that an estimated 38 guests and crew from of the mega cruise ship, Royal Caribbean’s Ovation of the Seas, were on the Island at the time of the disaster. Last week a New Zealand police Commissioner announced they had launched a criminal investigation into the disaster.

This disaster raises serious question why tourists and passengers were allowed, and even encouraged (through brochures and advertising, etc.), to visit this active volcano under existing circumstances. To answer this question, below find historical facts and recommendations from recognized experts (both before and after the December 9th, 2019 eruption).

In a recent article, Monash University professor, Ray Cas, reported Whakaari-White Island is too risky for tourists. “White Island has been a disaster waiting to happen for many years. Having visited it twice, I have always felt that it was too dangerous to allow the daily tour groups that visit the uninhabited Island volcano by boat and helicopter… In a big volcanic incident, it would be impossible to get people off quickly,” says Professor Cas.

Shrimp Boat.jpgIn the landmark decision of Curd v. Mosaic Fertilizer, LLC., the Florida Supreme Court recently determined commercial fishermen have both statutory strict liability and common law negligence claims to recover damages caused by discharge of pollutants into Florida’s waters. Given the recent events in the Gulf of Mexico, marine pollution is on the forefront of the Nation’s mind. As explained below, this case provides recourse to those whose lives and businesses were harmed by the pollution of Florida’s waters.

 

Strict Liability

 

The Florida Supreme Court first determined Florida’s Pollutant Discharge, Prevention & Removal Statute gives fishermen who lost revenue as a result of pollutant discharge a strict liability cause of action against the polluter. This means fishermen need only prove:

  1. The defendant discharged pollutants which entered Florida’s waters; and
  2. The pollutants caused the fisherman economic damages.

The fishermen need not prove the polluter was negligent in the care, handling or disposal of the pollutants in order to recover. This is a major victory for fishermen because they have a relatively light legal burden of proof and can more easily recover damages from polluters than they would under a common law negligence claim.

Common Law Negligence

In addition to finding commercial fishermen have a strict liability claim under the Florida statute, the court also determined they have a common law cause of negligence. The court held Florida common law implies that companies owe a duty keep, store and dispose of pollutants in a reasonably safe manner so as not to economically harm the state’s fishermen. Should a company breach this duty, it will be liable for the economic damages of the fishermen.

Broader Application

Though this case deals with commercial fishermen, it has a boarder holding. As worded, the opinion provides these rights to any person or company damaged by the discharge of pollutants! Theoretically this means:

  • Hotels,
  • Boat and personal water craft rental businesses,
  • Recreational fishing guides,
  • Charter boat companies,
  • Nautical and marine sightseeing businesses,
  • Seafood restaurants,
  • Beach concessionaires, and,
  • Any other business that lost revenue due to the pollution.

Given the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, this holding provides many of Florida’s gulf coast business affected by the spill recourse against BP and Transocean.
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Needle.jpgAll major cruise lines have doctors aboard their cruise ships. In fact, cruise lines turn a profit from charging passengers for doctor visits and dispensing needed medication. However, if a passenger suffers an injury or dies as a result of the medical malpractice of these ship doctors, the cruise lines are generally not liable.

Most passengers don’t know that despite wearing cruise line uniforms and name badges, ship board doctors are hired as independent contractors. This fact is often buried in the cruise boarding pass booklet. By hiring these doctors as independent contractors, cruise lines can shield themselves from liability should they commit medical malpractice.

Another secret the cruise lines like to keep from their passengers is the medical staff are often foreign and have never attended American medical schools! This further frustrates the rights of passengers who suffer as a result of medical malpractice because these doctors are generally not subject to the U.S. courts.