Maritime Personal Injury Attorney Spencer Aronfeld Discusses Suing Cruise Lines in COVID-19 Cases

Under an order from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it will be another three months — at least — until cruise ships will once again be able to sail from U.S. ports. In the meantime, cruise lines are dealing with a host of lawsuits filed by passengers and crew who accuse the companies of negligence in exposing them to the coronavirus. Spencer Aronfeld, a lawyer with several pending coronavirus cases, said, “Suing a cruise line for these types of cases is extraordinarily difficult.” That’s because cruise lines enjoy a number of protections. They’re not U.S. companies and not subject to health and safety regulations like the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) or the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). “The only way to really hold them responsible in a courtroom is to show a judge and a jury that their actions were unreasonable under the circumstances, and that’s a very loose term,” Aronfeld said. He and other attorneys will make the case that cruise lines ignored information about the pandemic and were negligent in failing to warn passengers. A major factor protecting cruise lines is the ticketing agreements each passenger signs, which limit how and where lawsuits can be filed. Aronfeld said companies also benefit from maritime laws written decades ago. “One of the classics,” as he called it, is the Death on the High Seas Act. It’s a century-old law that limits the amount a family can recover for funeral expenses and lost income. It applies to any deaths that occur from events that happen more than three miles offshore. “One of the challenges we’re going...

Why the Cruise Line Industry Does Not Deserve a Bailout

The coronavirus (COVID-19) has hit our nation’s economy hard with some industries being hit harder than others. Just this last week, a $2 trillion stimulus and economic relief bill was passed by Congress and signed by President Trump to help bring relief to those impacted by COVID-19. However, many argue that not all industries should be bailed out, and this includes the cruise line industry. These Miami-based companies are incorporated overseas, which should cost them their chance at U.S. taxpayer rescue. While airlines, hotels and other travel businesses deserve financial assistance during this time, the cruise ship industry does not for several reasons. According to the stimulus package, if a company wishes to be eligible to receive some of the $500 billion in aid at stake, that company must be certified as created or organized in the United States or within U.S. law, as well as having significant operations in the U.S. Most cruise companies are registered in foreign countries and not the U.S. Many of the major cruise ship companies, including Carnival Corporation, Royal Caribbean Cruises, MSC Cruises, and Norwegian Cruise Line, have headquarters in Miami, but they are incorporated in other countries. Carnival is registered in Panama, while Royal Caribbean is registered in Libera. Norwegian is registered in Bermuda, and MSC Cruises is based in Switzerland.  Every year, these cruise companies use an exemption under the Internal Revenue Code to avoid paying any U.S. taxes. In fact, because these companies utilize these exemptions, many of them receive refunds or post negative income tax expenses annually. While the tourism industry in Florida may receive a boost from the...

Injured Carnival Crew Member May Finally Receive $1.36 Million the Cruise Line Owes Him

Five years after an arbitration award was entered against Carnival Cruise Line, an injured crew member will finally receive payment for what the company owes him for his damages. The case involves 35-year-old Albanian waiter Genti Jankula, who was seriously injured while on board a Carnival ship in 2014. Even though he won an award in arbitration in the amount of $1,357,831.40 in September 2018, Carnival Cruise Line refused to pay. Carnival’s refusal to pay the arbitration award was based on their argument that the arbitrator did not treat them fairly. However, all awards issued in arbitration are binding on both parties involved, which is why the injured employee was forced to pursue enforcement legally. A federal judge in Miami has ordered Carnival to pay Jankula the full amount plus $186 per day in interest. Jankula was working for Carnival Cruise Line in 2014 while on the Carnival Valor. On December 7, 2014, as he was attempting to climb into his bunk bed, the bed’s handle ripped off the wall, and he fell backwards, breaking his back. As an Albanian native, he was sent to Albania to receive treatment, where it was determined that he had suffered multiple spinal injuries from the fall. The company paid for his medical treatment until 2015 when Jankula hired an attorney to represent him. His attorney argued that as a ship worker, he was entitled to housing, food, and medical costs until he was fully recovered from his injuries. However, Carnival refused his legal counsel’s request, forcing Jankula to request that an arbitrator hear the matter in July 2016. Arbitration was a requirement...

What NOT to Do on A Cruise

A cruise vacation can be an excellent opportunity to rest and relax, but one small mistake can be enough to completely undo those plans. While it helps to plan what to do while on your cruise, it is equally as important to know what not to do on your cruise. Not doing your research. Many people make the mistake of not doing their research before booking a cruise. This research can include finding the best price and the best cabin option for your party. It can be tempting to choose the cheapest option available, but this may limit you in terms of what you want to do when on your cruise. The same goes for choosing the wrong cabin. Cruise ships have so many different options when it comes to cabin selections, and it is important you choose the one that fits your situation. Always do your research first before selecting what you want. Sometimes it helps to talk to friends or family members who have gone on cruises before. Their experiences, both the good and the bad, can help advise you. Failure to plan. Cruise ships have so many different activities available for passengers onboard, and a little extra planning can go a long way to ensure you get to partake in all the amenities offered. Many specials on the ship, including spa treatments and shore excursions, book up quickly so it can be beneficial to sign up for these activities as soon as you book your cruise. Not Arriving Early. When you book a flight, it is always recommended you arrive to the airport at least two...

Important Tips to Remember When Planning Your First Cruise

A little extra planning can go a long way when preparing to go on a cruise vacation. It can be hard to know where to start, what to pack and even what to expect while at sea. The following tips can help you prepare before going on a cruise. Shop Around When Booking Your Cruise. Many people are tempted to base their decisions on which cruise to take based on price alone. While price may play a factor in selection, it can be a big mistake if you look only at the base cost offered for the cruise. It is also important to look at other factors, such as the time of year when the cruise is planned, what amenities are offered on the ship, whether the cruise vacation is tailored more towards adults or families, among other features. For example, many cruises will lower their fares during their “shoulder season” or times of the year when cruise vacations are not as popular due to choppier waters or lower temperatures. Other cruises may cost more but may also include extras, such as alcohol, shore excursions, or gratuities, into their prices whereas other cruises will charge those on top of the regular fare. Plan Ahead. While a cruise may include several special amenities, it is important to know many of the specials included on a cruise fill up quickly. When booking a cruise, be sure to also see which add-ons the cruise allows passengers to book in advance. Plan out what types of special activities you would like to do on the ship and book them before boarding. That way,...

Carnival Fantasy, the Latest Cruise Ship to Fail Health Inspection

Carnival Cruise Line’s Fantasy received a failing grade following its most recent inspection in July. The detailed July 18 report issued by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) gave Fantasy a score of 77 out of 100. This report marks the worst inspection in Fantasy’s history, with a previous low of 78 being issued in 1990. The CDC conducts these inspections as part of its Vessel Sanitation Program. Ships must receive at least an 85 to pass their inspection. Two other Carnival ships, Inspiration and Imagination were also inspected in July, with these ships receiving scores of 97 and 94 respectively. The failing report cited brown shower water, film on pool water, and flies on bagels as reasons why the ship failed its inspection. Although the medical crew reported that the two shower hoses where the brown water was reported are ‘not used often,’ it is no excuse.  There was not a reason given as to why the water was brown. Other water issues that were reported included issues with chlorine levels on two of the water slides on the ship, as well as film on the water in the pools. The pools also had excessive visible debris floating on the water. The CDC reported that a crew member was using a net to manually skim the pool, which is not a thorough way to fix the problem. The CDC also reported issues with Fantasy’s food service, including food displays not having adequate sneeze shields, flies around the food, and food temperature being too warm for safe consumption. The inspector also spotted soiled cutlery and reported that staff took...
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