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Florida Decision Puts Cruise Ships in Liability Spotlight

Updated January 30, 2019 | By Wilson Kehoe Winingham staff

When negligence occurs at a hospital, patients or their families may be entitled to compensation for things like medical expenses and pain and suffering. What about when medical negligence happens elsewhere?

Cruse ship companies were exempt from medical malpractice suits for more than a century. However, The Associated Press reports that a recent decision in Florida’s 11th United States Circuit Court of Appeals may change the way cases involving cruise ships are handled.

Injured During a Cruise

After an 82-year-old man from New York City fell and hit his head in Bermuda in 2011, a nurse on a Royal Caribbean ship told him to rest. The man’s family filed a suit because they allege that the nurse did not suggest a diagnostic scan and that it took hours for the man to be examined by a doctor, when his condition worsened. By the time a doctor saw the man, he had internal bleeding in his skull and could not be saved.

The Defense

Over a century of court decisions have protected cruise ships when similar suits occurred, because courts ruled that the medical care provided on a ship differs from what is available on land. In other words, passengers should not expect the same standard of care while on a ship. Additionally, the medical staff on many ships were not cruise line employees but private contractors.

A representative of Royal Caribbean said the previous rules for cruise ships should be upheld and noted that the cruise line primarily offers vacations, not healthcare.

New Court Ruling

The court in Florida ruled that the exemption for cruise ships was outdated. In Royal Caribbean’s case, the medical staff wore the same uniforms as the other employees and were advertised as ship employees. The ship’s medical center was also praised when described in promotional material. If this decision is upheld, those alleging medical malpractice aboard cruise ships could have their cases heard by Florida courts.

Little Data

There is scant data on cruise ship incidents like this one, because these ships operate as overseas entities. One enterprising individual started to keep the public informed, and one chart in particular shows that 244 passengers and crew have fallen overboard since 2000. Among those, an average of 20 passengers a year have gone missing.

Contact a Medical Malpractice Attorney Today

Despite their location, doctors and nurses are trusted to offer patients the best care possible. If you or a loved one experienced substandard care, you are urged to contact the attorneys of Wilson Kehoe Winingham. An experienced Indianapolis medical malpractice lawyer at WKW can help you get the compensation you deserve. Call 317.920.6400 or fill out an online contact form for a free, no-obligation case evaluation.

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