Cruise Ship Passenger Victim of Alleged Medical Malpractice

Earlier this week, the Florida Third District Court of Appeal issued a decision in the case of Taylor v. Gutierrez, which demonstrates the intersection of the maritime and medical malpractice fields of law. Our experienced Florida cruise ship attorneys have been monitoring the case closely as it pans out.

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In Taylor, the plaintiff, Hilda Gutierrez, was a passenger on Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas cruise ship in May 2010, which sailed from Port Everglades, Florida through the Western Caribbean. At some point during the cruise, Gutierrez began experiencing severe abdominal pain and was taken to the ship’s medical facility. The ship’s physician, Dr. Chris Taylor, diagnosed Gutierrez with gastritis when she was actually suffering from an abdominal infection.

Gutierrez’s condition became worse and, upon reaching port in Mexico, she went to a hospital where she underwent abdominal surgery. Gutierrez was treated for abdominal sepsis and multiple organ failures and suffered a cerebral hemorrhage.

In 2011, Gutierrez filed suit against Taylor and Royal Caribbean Cruises, alleging medical negligence, in the in the Miami-Dade Circuit Court. Taylor moved to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction and to dismiss for failure to state a cause of action. The court also denied the motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, finding that while specific jurisdiction did not exist over Taylor under Florida’s long arm statute, but had general jurisdiction over under the following provision of the statute:

  • A defendant who is engaged in substantial and not isolated activity within this state…is subject to the jurisdiction of the courts of this state, whether or not the claim arises from that activity.

In response to Taylor’s motion to dismiss, Gutierrez argued a number of facts which established Taylor’s connection to Florida, including: Taylor attended medical conferences in Florida and received advanced cardiac life support certification in Florida; Taylor was a presenter at medical conferences in Florida; maintained bank accounts in Florida; Taylor worked on cruise ships that travelled in and out of Florida ports; Taylor had employment agreements with Florida-based cruise lines over nine years that stated that Florida would be the jurisdiction to resolve any disputes arising under the agreements.

Upon review of these facts, the trial court determined that Taylor was subject to its jurisdiction, opining that Taylor had played a “shell game” to avoid jurisdiction in Florida and engaged in a “nefarious scheme” to avoid being sued in any court.

On appeal, The Third District Court of Appeals reversed, reasoning that that the facts alleged by Gutierrez were not sufficient to establish Florida’s jurisdiction over Taylor. The Court reviewed each of the facts individually and determined, for various reasons, that they failed to show that Taylor had the “substantial, continuous, and systematic business contacts” necessary to exercise jurisdiction over him.

As demonstrated by the Court’s decision in Taylor, cruise ship cased must be handled differently than ordinary personal injury cases, because they often arise under a different type of law, such maritime, admiralty, or contract law, and are subject to much shorter statutes of limitations to pursue a claim, sometimes as short as one year. Further, cruise companies often utilize various tactics to delay litigation, resulting in the degradation of evidence and, in certain cases, loss of the right to compensation.

The Florida cruise ship accident attorneys of Gerson and Schwartz, P.A. are licensed to practice law in all of Florida’s state and federal courts and has been representing the victims of cruise ship accidents for over four decades. If you or someone you know has been injured in a cruise ship accident, contact the attorneys of Gerson and Schwartz, P.A. today.

Photo Credit: Alex E. Proimos via Compfight cc

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