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Injured on Cruise Ship, Passenger Killed by Doctors Onboard

Written by admin on . Posted in Cruise Ship Accidents, Medical Malpractice

For decades, passengers who have been injured on cruise ships–like Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity or Norwegian–and received negligent medical care from the ship’s doctors have had a difficult if not impossible time holding the cruise lines accountable for the doctors’ errors.  Thankfully, this week a United States Appellate Court has issued an opinion that will make it far easier for passengers injured on cruise ships to sue cruise lines for medical malpractice.

The case involved an elderly cruise ship passenger who fell and bashed his head while on a cruise on RCCL’s Explorer of the Seas, which was docked at port in Bermuda. The passenger, Pasquale Vaglio, was wheeled back onto the ship, where he sought treatment in the ship’s medical center. The treatment was so negligent that he fell into a coma and died a week later.

According to the court’s records, the ship’s health care providers failed to diagnose his cranial trauma by not conducting any diagnostic scans.  The ship’s doctor did not even examine Mr. Vaglio for nearly four hours.

Mr. Vaglio’s daughter, Patricia Franza, sued Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd. (“Royal Caribbean”) for vicarious liability for the purported negligence of two of its employees, the ship’s doctor and its nurse, under one of two theories: actual agency (also termed respondeat superior) or apparent agency.

She filed her lawsuit against Royal Caribbean in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida in Miami, under 28 U.S.C. § 1333 and the general maritime law, but District Court judge Hon. Judge Joan A. Lenard dismissed her complaint on June 14, 2013 by applying the longstanding Barbetta Rule, from the case of Barbetta v. S/S Bermuda Star, which has long provided legal immunity to ship owners like RCCL when a crew member renders negligent medical care to its passengers.

In a very well reasoned 63-page opinion written by Judge Marcus, the court examined application of maritime law to complex legal theories of medical malpractice, personal injury, and employment law.  The court found that maritime law supports holding

Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd., vicariously liable for the medical negligence of its onboard nurse and doctor in the death of Ms. Franza’s father.  To read the court’s opinion, click here.

As a cruise ship passenger injury attorney, I applaud the 11th Circuit’s opinion and hope that it will send a strong message to the cruise ship industry that they can no longer hide behind outdated legal doctrines that serve to protect their profits at the expense of injured passengers. This opinion should encourage companies like Carnival and RCCL to provide injured passengers a higher standard of medical care.

If you have been injured on a cruise, we recommend that you contact an experienced and aggressive maritime attorney.  Since 1991, Spencer Aronfeld has fought hard to protect the legal rights of the injured.  If you have a question regarding a potential cruise ship personal injury case, call us to for a free initial consultation at 1-866-597-4529, or email us at newcase@aronfeld.com

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Carnival Cruise Ship Passenger Cleared from Ebola

Written by admin on . Posted in Cruise Ship Accidents, Personal Injury News and Safety Resources

Panic about Ebola is spreading far more rapidly than the disease. This week one of the lab technicians who came into contact with specimens taken from Ebola victim Thomas Eric Duncan before he died at a Texas hospital was permitted to board a Carnival cruise ship that set sail from Dallas (Galveston) to Belize on October 12.

Sometime after the Carnival Magic set sail, news surfaced that two nurses, Amber Vinson and Nina Pham, had tested positive for Ebola after treating Mr. Duncan at a Dallas hospital –an announcement that led the CDC to issue an active-monitoring requirement.

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Meanwhile, the passenger aboard the Carnival Magic had begun a self-imposed quarantine in her cabin. The entire ship was denied entry into the port of Belize and was also not permitted to enter Cozumel, Mexico.  Blood tests were taken during the cruise and airlifted by United States Coast Guard helicopter.

According to a statement released by the Galveston Health Authority, the sample taken was negative for Ebola, which is great news for all the passengers.  Carnival is currently cleaning the Magic and intends to have it back in service this week.

Questions have arisen as to how the cruise industry and Carnival in particular are prepared to handle a potential Ebola outbreak at sea.  As a lawyer who sues cruise companies, I have investigated hundreds of accidents on board cruise ships for nearly 25 years, and I am very concerned. In view of the general difficulties ships have had in containing the spread of the Norovirus (Norwalk virus), an Ebola outbreak could be devastating on board an ocean liner. A cruise line could face legal liability for failing to have in place an outbreak protocol to isolate and contain the spread of Ebola.  I recommend that the cruise industry also follow and implement the recently revised CDC Ebola guidelines for healthcare workers in all ship hospitals and infirmaries.

The Norwalk virus is one of the most common causes of acute gastroenteritis (infection of the stomach and intestines) and spreads easily onboard cruise ships because the symptoms are often misdiagnosed as simple stomach flu or viral gastroenteritis.  It is spread by infected passengers, or by contaminated food or drinks prepared by infected crew members. One of the reasons the Norwalk virus is particularly difficult to contain is that it survives on contaminated surfaces such as buffet counters, door handles, and elevator buttons.

If you have suffered an accident while on a cruise, I recommend that you consult with an experienced maritime attorney.  Our office offers cruise ship passengers free initial legal consultations to help them understand their legal rights after they have slipped, tripped, or fallen on board a cruise.  Call us today at 1-866-597-4529 or email newcase@aronfeld.com because most cruise companies require that within one year of the date of incident claims be filed in Miami, regardless of where in the world the incident may have occurred.

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How Can Mediation Help Your Case?

Written by admin on . Posted in Cruise Ship Accidents

My name is Missiva Khacer; I am a licensed attorney in France and a recent graduate from Saint Thomas University School of Law. On Friday October 3, I was invited by Spencer Aronfeld, a Miami cruise ship passenger accident lawyer, to observe a mediation between an injured passenger “Plaintiff” represented by Aronfeld, who is a personal injury attorney who focuses on international maritime cases and the defendant, one of the world’s largest cruise ship lines. Due to the confidentiality of the process, I will neither disclose the parties’ name nor the details of the settlement discussions that occurred during the mediation.

What is Mediation

Many of you may wonder what is a mediation. According to the Online Legal Dictionary, mediation is defined as “the attempt to settle a legal dispute through active participation of a third party, called a mediator, who works to find points of agreement and make those in conflict agree on a fair result.” Legal definitions can sometimes be fancy or hard to comprehend; the best way for one to understand this crucial legal process is to share with you my personal experience and observation during the “mediation”.

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Ms. Plaintiff was injured on a cruise ship, and flew all the way from Virginia to Aronfeld’s Coral Gables office in order to mediate her case with the opposing party’s counsel. Ms. Plaintiff claimed that she was severely injured and had to undergo knee surgery as a result of her injury. What I learned from being part of that process, is that the purpose of mediation is to help opposing parties communicate with one another, to understand each other and if possible to reach an agreement that satisfies everyone’s needs. For Ms. Plaintiff, it was an alternative to going to trial that not only saved her time but also the high cost and long delays associated with the trial of civil matters. In mediation there is no third party, such as a judge or jury that will make decisions; the parties involved make the agreements. In France, the process is completely different and we do not have this mechanism in personal injury cases.

The Role of Mediation in a Case

The mediator was Mrs. Barbara Locke, the impartial third party in this case. Her job was to help get the case settled and give her feedback to the parties if asked. Ms. Locke focused on the damages because in Ms. Plaintiff’s case the main dispute was damages. Unlike many cases, both parties had no doubt as to what caused Ms. Plaintiff’s injury. The mediator started the mediation by introducing all the parties and talking about the confidential process of mediation. Then she let both sides explain their side of the case, without interruption. After this step was completed and both sides argued their strengths and minimized their weakness; Mrs. Locke took the opposing party into a private office and returned to talk to Mr. Spencer Aronfeld and Ms. Plaintiff in more detail. At this point, the mediator’s job was to go back and forth from one party to the other and try to get the parties to negotiate the case to reach a settlement.

Ms. Plaintiff’ s attorney, Spencer Aronfeld Esquire, who has over 25 years experience in litigating cases, took his client to a private office where he communicated Ms. Plaintiff with the opposing party’s offer. Mr. Aronfeld explained to Ms. Plaintiff the advantage of settling the case and the potential risk of going to trial, how a jury would likely judge her case, which is the most important factor in making an intelligent determination of whether to settle a case or not, and what to settle for. Throughout the mediation process, Ms. Plaintiff remained an active participant and has real power in effecting an acceptable outcome. In fact, Mr. Aronfeld emphasized to Ms. Plaintiff that she was the one with the power to settle or not to settle the lawsuit. I believe that plaintiff’s power at mediation is greater than at trial, where the plaintiff will be subjected to cross-examination and judged by a panel of complete strangers whose verdict is impossible to predict. Ms. Plaintiff decided to settle her case and left Aronfeld’s Law Firm office satisfied with the result. Through the mediation process, and reaching a settlement, Ms. Plaintiff was able to not only take control of her case but also to find a sense of closure and move on with her life.