is the outlook for malpractice lawsuits against cruise lines changing

Given the sub-zero temperatures and snowfall that much of the nation endured last week, it wouldn’t be surprising if travel agents started fielding many more calls about booking cruises to tropical destinations in the coming days.

While a few weeks onboard a cruise ship might be just the cure for the winter blues, those who plan such ocean voyages should be aware of some important issues besides what clothes to pack or what level of sunscreen to buy.

For instance, legal exemptions carved out of decisions dating back over 100 years dictate that cruise ship passengers cannot pursue medical malpractice lawsuits against cruise lines.

The longstanding rationale has been that 1) cruise passengers should not anticipate receiving the same level of medical care on their ship as they do at land-based medical facilities and 2) that the medical personnel onboard these ships are private contractors over whom the cruise lines exert no direct control.

Indeed, cruise lines have been getting medical malpractice cases thrown out of court over the last 20-plus years using a 1988 ruling often referred to simply as “Barbetta.”

All of this could stand to change however, thanks to a recent decision by a three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, whose jurisdiction covers the state of Florida, home base to many of the nation’s major cruise lines.

In our next post, we’ll examine the case behind this decision by the federal appeals court and what it might mean for the over 20 million people who take cruises every year.

If you suffered serious personal injuries or lost a loved one due to what you believe was some sort of medical malpractice, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional who can investigate the matter, explain the law and help you pursue justice.

Source: USA Today, “Ruling opens door for cruise malpractice lawsuits,” Curt Anderson, Dec. 23, 2014

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