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As a maritime attorney who’s been handling catastrophic injuries and death cases since 1983, I have always been an advocate to overturn the archaic law referred to as the Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA), which places severe limitations on the amount of money family members can receive when a loved one is killed on the high seas aboard a vessel, including cruise ships. There is simply no basis to restrict recovery in cases involving DOHSA aboard a ship.

A similar restriction applied in cases of airplane crashes resulting in deaths was amended by Congress to remove the pointless limitations on recovery involving airplane crash cases. However, Congress has always refused to do the same for Death on the High Seas cases involving ships, including cruise ships. It has been believed that the main reason is the strong lobbying efforts of the cruise ship industry, which is known to spend millions of dollars in lobbying and contributions each year. The Death on the High Seas Act is another example of favorable laws that the cruise ship companies enjoy that results in denying victims of personal injuries and deaths on cruise ships.

25-year-old Casey Holladay was on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship, the Mariner of the Seas, enjoying time with his friends and girlfriend when, in an instant, the fun-filled vacation was tragically cut short.  Casey ended up at the Ryder Trauma Center in Miami, FL, undergoing major pelvic surgery, having sustained multiple pelvic fractures and a dislocated shoulder after falling over 20 feet to the deck of the cruise ship.  The injury occurred while he was suspended in the air in a bungee harness on board the cruise ship in a popular attraction called the Sky Pad. The Sky Pad is described by the Royal Caribbean Cruise Line in their literature as an “out-of-this-world bungee trampoline experience.” Continue reading

doctor-300x225A recent case involving  Holland America cruise line being sued by a passenger from Illinois illustrates how important it is that a passenger know what may happen if faced with a medical emergency during the cruise. The cruise ship companies often promote their medical facilities and medical staff on board their cruises as being of the highest standard. It has become a marketing tool for them, representing to the public that they have qualified emergency room doctors on board their ships to deal with medical emergencies, and medical supplies and facilities in compliance with standards of the American College of Emergency Physicians.  A passenger may get the false sense of security that the medical staff on board the cruise ship can adequately handle medical emergencies. Often times, the medical staff does have some background in emergency room medicine as required, but really are not specialists capable of properly diagnosing and treating true medical emergencies. Continue reading

A federal jury in the Southern District of Florida ruled in favor of Royal Caribbean in a Nebraska family’s lawsuit alleging negligence that resulted in a passenger falling overboard to his death. The jury also denied the family’s claim of negligence on behalf of the cruise ship company when they failed to promptly initiate an adequate search and rescue for the overboard passenger.

gavel-300x200In addition, family members of the deceased passenger filed for false imprisonment and intentional infliction of emotional distress when they were allegedly wrongfully detained in their cabin by a security guard posted at the cabin door.  Both of these claims were also rejected by the jury, resulting in a complete victory for the cruise ship company, in this case Royal Caribbean International.

Over-Service of Alcohol Continues to Contribute to Cruise Ship Accidents 

We have repeatedly written about the ongoing safety issues present onboard cruise ships due to the over serving of alcohol and inadequate security presence. The cruise ships provide unlimited alcoholic drinks to passengers, which results in excessive consumption of alcohol during cruises. An intoxicated passenger becomes a danger not only to him or herself, but to others on board the ship. Many of the reported sexual assaults and crimes happening on board cruise ships have been related to the over serving of alcohol.

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waves-300x225There has been another report of a possible murder on board a cruise ship, this time involving a 52-year-old American woman onboard the Royal Princess, a Princess Cruise, headed for the Caribbean. According to news reports, the woman plummeted from an upper deck of the ship onto a lifeboat.  Witnesses had seen the woman struggling with another man right before this happened. This is not the first report of a murder onboard a cruise ship. In fact, earlier this year, a passenger was arrested for murdering his girlfriend aboard the Carnival ElationContinue reading

News outlets have reported that an American passenger aboard Holland America’s cruise ship the Maasdam  died when she fell overboard while attempting to board a tender, which is a small boat used to transport the cruise ship passengers to land, while the ship was sailing in the South Pacific.  The passenger was 70 years old.

blog-cruise-300x203It was reported the passenger was conscious when she was initially recovered from the water, but lost consciousness soon thereafter and never recovered. Holland America would not confirm the cause of the fall, but a case like this involving a death on a cruise ship will prompt a full and complete investigation by authorities, as well as an internal investigation on the part of the cruise ship company. It is interesting to note that when the cruise ship company conducts their internal investigations regarding a serious accident like this, which they must do by both international law and internal policy when an incident occurs, they will not share the results of the investigation with the public nor with the victim or the victim’s family.  Rather they will claim it as their own personal work product and as privileged from disclosure. Continue reading

On October 17, a federal judge in Miami allowed a lawsuit to move forward involving a  22-year-old cruise ship passenger that fell overboard from Independence of the Seas, a Royal Caribbean cruise ship, to his death. The cruise ship company, as per usual, sought to have the case dismissed arguing that the passenger intentionally jumped over the railing and it was not due to his alcohol intake. However, according to the Order denying Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment, the passenger was overserved alcohol by the cruise ship company, at least 30 ounces of alcohol, and multiple eyewitnesses have confirmed that the passenger lost his balance and fell. Continue reading

News outlets have reported that another cruise ship passenger has gone overboard during a cruise ship. This time a female passenger, age 46, reportedly went overboard from the Norwegian Cruise Line ship the Norwegian Star, last weekend. The passenger, a British woman, was found swimming in the waters approximately ten hours after falling overboard.   She was taken to a hospital and treated for exhaustion, but is in stable condition.

cruise-300x198We are pleased to report that this particular incident involving yet another passenger falling overboard from a cruise ship ended with a successful rescue of the passenger. This is not always the case. This particular passenger must’ve been a very good swimmer, and it is quite remarkable to have endured 10 hours in the water before being rescued.

Multiple Man Overboard Incidents Thus Far in 2018

According to one source, 17 people have reportedly gone overboard on cruise ships this year alone.. This continues to be a problem year after year. The problem caught the attention of Congress, who passed legislation requiring cruise ship companies to implement technology for an automatic man overboard systems designed to detect when someone goes overboard a cruise ship so that a prompt search and rescue can be initiated. The sooner a search and rescue effort is started, the more likelihood there is of saving the overboard passenger’s life. This case is yet another example that people can survive a fall from a cruise ship, and that it is possible to rescue a person who has fallen off the cruise ship if prompt detection and rescue efforts are made. Continue reading

People are often left to wonder what would happen if a medical emergency were to happen to them onboard a cruise ship.  Last week, a cruise ship passenger on board a Carnival Cruise Lines ship, which is based here in Miami, Florida, unfortunately had to find out.  A 66-year-old cruise ship passenger on board the Carnival Horizon reportedly suffered a stroke when the ship was approximately 80 miles from Atlantic City, New Jersey.   A daring medical evacuation, or medevac, was carried out by the United States Coast Guard by helicopter.

medevac-300x249Even though the cruise ship companies maintain procedures about medical evacuations, more often than not, we hear of  different scenarios where the cruise ship company failed to evacuate a passenger or crew member who was suffering a medical emergency in a timely manner, which resulted in serious harm or even death. This can be due to a variety of reasons. Medical evacuations from a cruise ship can be very expensive, and often times present a challenging endeavor getting a passenger or crew member off the cruise ship.

Sadly, another catastrophic incident has occurred involving a duck boat, a popular tourist attraction in Branson, Missouri, this past Thursday. Severe weather resulted in its capsizing and sinking in Table Rock Lake, while carrying 31 passengers.  17 people were killed and many more were injured. Ripley’s Entertainment Inc. operates the duck boat tours in Branson Missouri after purchasing the Branson location last December from Ride the Ducks franchise. Upon purchasing the Branson Ride the Ducks operation, Ripley stated that not much would change under the new ownership.

lake-300x201What is a Duck Boat?

A duck boat is an amphibious vehicle that operates on land and on sea. It is a tour that is primarily offered in lake, river, and harbor cities. The operation of duck boats both on land and at sea have resulted in serious accidents due to the unusual nature of this vehicle.  In fact, the previous owners of the Branson duck boat, Ride the Ducks, have been involved in other prior accidents. Continue reading