Cruise Ship Medical Malpractice and Negligent Hiring

Cruise passengers often take comfort in the fact that cruise lines employ physicians and other medical professionals on their ships to take care of guests who may become ill during a sailing. However, what if these medical professionals were not even qualified to hold the positions they were hired for? Cruise ship injury attorneys are skilled in filing claims against cruise lines for failing to hire qualified also referred to as negligent hiring claims due from harms caused by ship employees if those employees cause passengers harm.

That’s exactly what happened onboard the Aidavita, which is part of the Carnival-owned cruise line called Aida Cruises. A 41-year-old nurse posed as a doctor for a five-year period. He produced a fake medical license to secure positions as a physician. Making more money, as well as elevating his status, was his primary motivation in leading this double life.

The nurse’s stint as a “doctor” included a ten-month period on the cruise ship. He provided more than 1,300 treatments to passengers. In 21 incidents, he provided injections or infusions. Aida Cruises clearly dropped the ball in this case. It appears as though the cruise line took the “doctor” at his word and did not perform a thorough background check to verify his credentials. In most cases, a doctor’s license may be easily checked on an online database and simple due diligence.

Eventually, the nurse was caught and he was convicted in a Berlin state court of “bodily harm, fraud, abuse of titles and deprivation of liberty.” The deprivation of liberty charge stemmed from the fact that 41 patients were put under anesthetic; this allegedly occurred before he made his way onto the Aidavita.

Cruise lines have a duty to investigate ship employees medical credentials before they hire them.  These employees are charged with the safety and well being of thousands of passengers. If an ship doctor or employee staff harms a passenger, and it is discovered that the cruise line employee was not qualified, the cruise line will be vicariously liable for all damages caused by the doctors treatment. The same theory is true in the event that a qualified ship physician performs medical treatment, but the medical treatment falls below the standard of care. In this event, the cruise line is also vicariously liable for the ship’s negligence, also commonly referred to as medical malpractice.  Until a a recent 11th Circuit decision, cruise ship operators were not vicariously liable for negligence act by the medical doctors and physicians. Under existing federal maritime law, if a cruise line medical staff employee engages in negligent conduct either such as in a failure to diagnose or a failure to provide treatment, and a passenger is harmed by that employee, the cruise line may be liable for damages that result.

In this example, consider what would have happened if a passenger showed up at the ship’s infirmary with a serious illness. Perhaps the nurse was unaware of how to treat the illness, and rendered the wrong medication to the passenger. The passenger suffers serious complications from the medication, requiring a hospital stay. In this situation, the cruise’s 1) failure to properly vet the nurse’s background and 2) its failure to monitor the nurse’s actions may lead to a lawsuit against the cruise line. A Florida cruise ship injury attorney could file multiple claims on behalf of the passenger.

Were you injured on a cruise line?

If you were injured due to a crew member’s negligence on a cruise ship, contact the cruise ship injury attorneys at Gerson & Schwartz, PA.  To schedule a free consultation, call 877-475-2905 or visit our website at


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