Articles Posted in Cruise Ship Law and News

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Many people do not know that Carnival Cruise Lines, the largest cruise ship company in the world, is actually a convicted felon. In 2016, the Miami-based Carnival Corporation, pled guilty to 7 felony charges in relation to an eight yearlong conspiracy of illegally dumping oil and covering up the illegal activity. Carnival paid a $40 million fine as a result, which was the largest ever criminal penalty assessed for the deliberate violation of vessel pollution laws. In addition to this fine, Carnival was placed on 5 years of probation.

Carnival, which reported a profit of $3.2 billion in the year 2018, has been found  to still have ships that are illegally discharging sewage, gray water, oil, and food waste in the year after they were convicted of illegal dumping and lying to authorities. The massive cruise line has also  been found to have burned heavy fuel oil imports and waters close to the shores around the world, which are all illegal.

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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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I recently read an interesting article discussing a major threat to cruise ship safety. The article discusses that although fires on board a cruise ship have always been considered the major risk while at sea, flooding has also become become a major risk to the safety of those on board a cruise. In fact, according to the article, flooding has actually caused the most serious incidents on cruises. Cutting-edge technology is critical, as the NAPA experts consulted in the article discuss. NAPA provides solutions for ship design and function through software installation. Its software is in fact used to design all new boats. Its goal is to improve safety in the maritime industry. NAPA’s simulations are used as the basis for safety regulations.

cruise-300x191Because fires had been historically considered the major risk while at sea, for the last 30 years there has been technology at the bridge of the cruise ship that shows the location of a fire that occurs on the ship so it can be immediately attacked. The article discusses that previously there was not any technology that identified the source of flooding if that became an issue on board the cruise, which is why flooding has become such a safety threat.   New technology developed by NAPA is now available which will identify the exact source of the flooding, enabling a much quicker response to the problem. Without this software, there was no way to identify the source of the flooding.

Many times, there are dangers associated with the shore excursions unknown to the passengers, which could include dangers created by the shore excursion company due to poor safety practices, or dangers created by the areas the shore side excursion companies take their passengers to. In a recent case in the Southern District of Florida, a passenger was injured while participating in a zip-line shore excursion in the Dominica. During the zip-line activity, the passenger was seriously injured when she crashed into padding attached to a tree.

zip-line-222x300The passenger filed suit in the Southern District of Florida and alleged the various theories of liability in an attempt to hold the cruise ship company liable, including the argument that the company was negligent in failing to keep the zip-line in a safe condition, and that the dangerous condition that caused the accident established that it was a company that did not comply with safety regulations that applied to the type of activity involved. The argument being that the cruise ship company knew or should have known of this fact, and therefore should not have sold the ticket for this particular excursion, and that the cruise line should have warned the passengers about the unsafe operation of the zip-line activity.

Recently, various news outlets have reported that Royal Caribbean Cruises was removing some of their ships from the port of Falmouth, Jamaica. However, it is not clear what is going to happen as several cruise ships of Royal Caribbean do travel to this port, and RCCL has invested money in helping to develop the port for bringing more cruise ships there.

jamaica-300x167What is interesting are the reasons for the decision to bring less ships to Falmouth, Jamaica. One is harassment of the passengers by local vendors. One of the other reasons for bringing less ships to the port of Falmouth was the dangers of the tour bus operators. Tour bus operators have been an issue in the past. Last year a tour bus filled with Royal Caribbean passengers crashed, leaving one dead and many injured.  Again, this illustrates dangers at a port of call known to the cruise line, where the cruise line directed passengers to. These types of dangers are present at many port of calls, and we must rely on the cruise ship companies to do a better job of vetting these excursions to prevent further accidents and injuries during these shore excursions.

PART ONE

It was in 2005 that I first appeared before Congressional Hearings to address cruise ship safety and security.  I was invited to testify as a Maritime expert to assist the members of Congress in addressing safety concerns onboard cruise ships, and answer questions related to the type of problems most prevalent on cruise ships, and what laws govern the cruise ship industry when something does happen to a United States passenger.  At the Congressional Hearings, several victims on cruise ships also testified, including victims of sexual assaults, and other crimes.

PART TWO

The most recent legislation Congress has introduced is called the Cruise Passenger Protection Act, which would also amend the Death on the High Seas Act, an outdated law that denies family members the right to recover intangible damages for the loss of their loved ones due to negligent and wrongful death when the death occurs on a cruise ship in international waters.  Intangible damages are the type of damages that compensate family members for the grief, mental anguish, loss of comfort and companionship of their loved ones who are killed due to the wrongful conduct of another.