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Cruise Companies May be Liable for their Agent’s Negligence

cruise ship1Every year, a number of Florida residents go on cruises. Fortunately, most cruise ship passengers come back home safely and have had a positive experience. In some cases, however, passengers are injured. If you or a loved one has been injured while on a cruise, you should seek the help of a qualified Miami personal injury attorney who can evaluate the facts of your case. Injured passengers may be able to seek compensation for their injuries if the injury was caused by the cruise line or one of its agents.

In Franza v. Royal Caribbean Cruises, LTD, the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit held that a cruise line could be vicariously liable for the alleged negligence of an on-board medical professional based on agency theory.

The facts of the case are as follows. The plaintiff filed a lawsuit against Royal Caribbean for maritime negligence after her father fell and suffered a blow to the head while on board a Royal Caribbean ship. The plaintiff’s father was seen by the onboard nurse and doctor. The ship’s nurse failed to accurately diagnose his head trauma, had him wait for several hours, and then let him go, stating no treatment was needed. The plaintiff’s family called 911 shortly after they realized that the plaintiff’s father’s condition was getting worse. According to the complaint, the cruise ship staff took 20 minutes to transport him to the infirmary and postponed treatment until they received the injured man’s credit card information. Hours later, the ship’s doctor transferred him to a Bermuda hospital, but by then his condition was not treatable. The plaintiff’s father died approximately one week after the injury.

The plaintiff subsequently filed a lawsuit, alleging that Royal Caribbean Cruise Line was vicariously liable for the negligence of its onboard nurse and doctor under agency theory.

The court agreed that the facts alleged in the plaintiff’s complaint supported holding Royal Caribbean vicariously liable for the medical negligence of its onboard medical staff. Vicarious liability is a legal principle that imposes liability for an injury to a party that did not directly cause the injury but that has a specific legal relationship to the person who acted negligently. Here, the court found that the onboard nurse and doctor were Royal Caribbean’s agents, and thus their negligence could be imputed to the cruise line.

Royal Caribbean argued that the passenger contract limited liability for medical negligence because, under the terms of the contract, the onboard medical professionals were simply “independent contractors.” The court rejected this reasoning.

Robert Dixon is a highly skilled Miami accident lawyer who has helped numerous clients recover damages in their injury cases. Personal injury law is constantly changing and evolving, and we make sure we are up to date with the latest legal developments in this area of the law. We understand that this is a stressful time for you and your family, which is why we will handle your case with the highest level of compassion. To learn all your legal options, do not hesitate to reach out to us. You can contact us online or call us today at 1-877-499-HURT (4878) for a free, confidential consultation.

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