US Courts to Eliminate Cruise Companies Immunity From Medical Negligence Lawsuits

12-09-2014
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Following a lawsuit against Royal Caribbean Cruises concerning a man who died from a head injury while aboard a cruise ship, the U.S. Appeals Court has issued a ruling that could eliminate cruise companies immunity from medical negligence lawsuits. After hitting his head, aboard the Explorer of the Seas in Bermuda, Pasquale Vaglio, was minimally treated by a nurse, but was not allowed to be seen by a ship doctor until nearly four hours later. The next day, he was airlifted to a hospital in New York, and a week later, died. After his death, his daughter brought a lawsuit against the cruise company claiming medical negligence, and was shot down in trial court when the company responded by citing an old court ruling which held that cruise companies are not to be held liable for the actions of their medical staff. She then took the case to the U.S. Appeals Court, where the ruling was overturned.

According to the 1988 circuit court ruling, Barbetta vs. Bermuda Star, cruise lines are supposed to be granted immunity in cases of employee negligence, under the opinion that cruise lines should not be held liable for the actions of medical personnel on their ships, and that they are not qualified to gauge the professional opinions of their physicians. According to federal judge, Stanley Marcus, who presided over the 2011 case against Royal Caribbean Cruises, the Barbetta vs. Bermuda Star ruling “snakes back into a wholly different world. Instead of 19th century steamships, we now confront state-of-the-art cruise ships that house thousands of people and operate as floating cities complete with well-stocked modern infirmaries and urgent care centers,” and that “medical professionals routinely work for corporate masters.”

The International Cruise Victims Organization, a cruise passenger advocacy group based in Phoenix, applauded the decision, saying that cruise ship companies are finally being held liable for medical negligence, and they can no longer hide under outdated exceptions. Cruise suit lawyers are praising the Barbetta overturn as a historic change in the way cruise ships treat their passengers in medical emergencies. Not to mention, modern methods of communication have made it possible to supervise companies for cases of negligence more closely than in the past. The Pasquale case is now to be brought back down to trial court, where Royal Caribbean Cruises can no longer claim protection under the 1988 Barbetta ruling.

If you or a loved one has suffered due to medical negligence at the hands of a cruise company, the lawyers at Hodes Milman Liebeck are there for you in your time of need. Contact us today online at hmlm.com or call 866-730-1976 for a complimentary case evaluation.

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