Our firm has recently filed several lawsuits arising out of improper medical care and treatment provided to crewmembers who have been sent to foreign countries to receive their medical care and treatment by the cruise ship companies. Carnival Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, both based in Miami, Florida typically send their crewmembers to foreign countries for medical care and treatment after they suffer an injury onboard ship.
Unlike passengers on cruise ships who receive poor medical treatment from the ship’s medical doctors, and are often times denied a lawsuit against the cruise ship company on the basis that the ship’s doctors are independent contractors for whom the cruise ship company has no liability for, crewmembers may sue the cruise ship companies for the negligence of not only the ship’s doctors, but any shoreside doctors the cruise line company chooses to treat them.
We recently received a verdict of over Two Million Dollars for a female crewmember from Nicaragua who was sent to Nicaragua to receive medical care and treatment for a knee injury. She received an improper arthroscopic surgery which led to a total knee replacement. We proved that the medical care and treatment provided in Nicaragua was improper. The evidence suggested that the medical care and treatment was provided in Nicaragua because it cost the cruise ship company a lot less money than providing the medical care in the United States. The cruise ship companies have agreements with many doctors in the United States and can easily provide medical care and treatment to their crewmembers if they chose to. However, they continue to insist that the crewmembers receive treatment in foreign countries where the medical care and treatment is known to be sub-standard and inadequate.
We have handled many cases where the medical care and treatment has been provided in countries such as Trinidad, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama, and the crewmember received inappropriate and improper medical care and treatment. We have handled many cases involving not only improperly performed surgeries, but unnecessary surgeries.
Our firm has seen an increasing number of unnecessary back fusions being performed by doctors in the foreign countries. Our firm utilizes Board Certified Orthopedic Surgeons and Neurosurgeons in the United States to evaluate these cases on behalf of the crewmembers to determine whether they receive appropriate medical care and treatment. We have seen many cases where the crewmembers receive inappropriate and improper treatment in a foreign country, and then a physician finds that the crewmembers has reached a point of maximum medical improvement and needs no further medical care and treatment. The cruise ship company then abandons the crewmember and provides no further medical treatment despite the crewmember voicing continued complaints of serious symptomotology. It is only when we are able to get these crewmembers to Board Certified Orthopedic, and Neurosurgeons, and Neurologists, that we are able to prove that the crewmember in fact needs further medical care and treatment and their condition was worsened by having received the unnecessary or improperly performed surgery.
The lawsuits that are filed on behalf of crewmembers who receive improper medical care and treatment arise under the Jones Act, which is a Federal Statute enacted by Congress for the protection of crewmembers. It is intended to be given a liberal interpretation to further its humanitarian purposes of providing compensation to crewmembers injured while working at sea. Despite the humanitarian purposes behind the Jones Act, the cruise ship companies continue to try to deny recovery to seamen when they do suffer injuries in the course and scope of their employment. Although it would be the more humane to treat the crewmembers in the United States, especially when cruise ship companies know of the inadequate medical care in the foreign countries, we have seen way too many cases where cruise ship companies ignore the humane purposes behind the Jones Act and act contrary to the purposes behind the Jones Act by sending the crewmembers to these countries that are known to have inadequate medical care and treatment.
The Jones Act provides a remedy for negligence which includes the failure to provide prompt, proper and adequate medical care and treatment to the crewmembers, which contributed in any manner to the injuries. It is a liberal standard of causation available to crewmembers who sue their employers. There is no requirement that a direct action be brought against the doctors for medical malpractice. The physicians are considered agents of the cruise ship companies with respect to claims by the crewmembers under the Jones Act, unlike the situation where a doctor is considered an independent contractor as to passengers onboard cruise ships.
Our firm continues to be safety advocates for both passengers and crewmembers who suffer harms at sea.