Last month, this blog discussed a particularly troubling decision out of Florida’s Third District Court of Appeals, wherein the Court found that a cruise ship doctor was not subject to its jurisdiction because the Plaintiff failed to show that the doctor had the “substantial, continuous, and systematic business contacts” necessary for the Court to exercise jurisdiction over him.
Last week, our Florida cruise ship accident attorneys read through another incident involving the death of a 72-year-old passenger aboard Carnival’s Sun Princess ship raised allegations of potential medical negligence, and led the Attorney General of Queensland, Australia, to order an investigation into the death.
Cruise passenger Betty Virgo was sailing from Brisbane to New Zealand in November of 2012 when she became ill at dinner on the fifth day of the voyage. Betty Virgo’s daughter, Gayle, who was sailing with her, claimed that the ship’s medical staff refused to allow Betty to stay in the medical bay for observation overnight. Gayle remained with Betty the next day as her condition worsened. When Betty’s breathing became labored, she was taken to the ship’s medical center and died that evening. The ship physician diagnosed “angina” as Betty’s cause of death.
When Betty’s body was returned to Gayle several days later, it had been embalmed without an autopsy. Carnival offered Gayle a credit of $1,100 towards another cruise and Carnival denies that its medical staff neglected Betty.
Under Florida law, physicians, hospitals, and other medical professionals owe their patients a duty to act with a certain level of care generally accepted within the medical industry. When medical professionals fail to satisfy this duty, the resulting negligence may result in liability for medical malpractice.
However, as demonstrated by the Court of Appeals case discussed above, cruise lines cannot always be held legally responsible when ship doctors commit malpractice. On at least one occasion, the Florida Supreme Court has ruled that cruise lines are not legally responsible when the ship physicians commit malpractice because the ship doctors are “independent contractors” and cruise lines cannot be held vicariously liable for the doctor’s negligence. If a passenger is injured by the malpractice of a ship doctor, the passenger must sue the doctor. Often, these doctors do not live in the U.S. or have no insurance and few or no assets.
Cruise ship cases 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 Florida maritime attorneys of Gerson and Schwartz, P.A. today.