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Injured on Cruise Ship, Passenger Killed by Doctors Onboard

Written by Spencer Aronfeld 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

Medical Malprectice

Supreme Court Declares Florida’s Medical Malpractice Caps Unconstitutional

Written by Spencer Aronfeld on . Posted in Medical Malpractice, Personal Injury News and Safety Resources

I am a Florida medical malpractice lawyer who helps patients and their families when one of them has been injured or killed by careless doctors and hospitals. For most of my legal career, I have been unable to get victims full justice for their pain and suffering. Since 2003, Florida’s healthcare industry has slept soundly, knowing that regardless of what verdict a jury may return against them, they would be insulated by Florida Statute §766.118 and thereby would not be held fully accountable to pay any amount in excess of $500,000 for an injury, or $1,000,000 for the death of a patient, regardless of how many children or dependents were left behind.

Thankfully, all that has now changed. The Florida Supreme, after over a decade of challenges, has finally declared those caps unconstitutional. Their decision was based upon the case of Michelle McCall, who died after she bled to death following a caesarean section during the birth of her a son in February 2006 at a U.S. Air Force hospital in Fort Walton Beach, Florida.

A United States federal judge agreed that McCall had not received proper care and found that her parents and son should receive $2 million for their pain and suffering. But then that verdict award was reduced to $1 million to comply with Florida’s damages cap. The verdict was challenged on appeal to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta as violating the U.S. Constitution. The appellate court upheld the verdict, ruling that it did not violate the federal law, but suggested that the Florida Supreme Court should consider if it violated the state’s constitution.

For more than 10 years, I have sat across the table from grieving spouses and parents with fatherless children and explained how the medical malpractice caps along with a series of other legal protections created to protect the powerful and influential healthcare industry obstruct the path to justice of those who need help the most—the injured.


Protecting People from Dangerous Drugs

Written by Spencer Aronfeld on . Posted in Defective Drugs, Defective Products, Medical Malpractice

When it comes to potentially dangerous drugs–like testosterone replacement therapies—or cars, or even a light bulb, manufacturers always know more about the product’s risks than its consumer does. The law in our country that protects us from makers of those products–who put their profit ahead of the safety of people–is commonly referred to as strict liability.


The law of strict liability dates back hundreds of years, when people were found to be legally responsible for the damages they caused by conducting certain “inherently dangerous activities,” like transporting dynamite or keeping a tiger in their apartment. In those situations, to win their cases the plaintiffs or injured parties do not have to prove that the defendant was careless, but merely the extent of their injuries. That is a significantly easier case for a plaintiff. As the law has evolved, it has become one of the few remaining protections of the injured when a dangerous or defective product is sold that hurts or kills people.