Can Cruise Lines Be Sued for Medical Malpractice?

On Behalf of | Jul 16, 2015 | Medical Malpractice

The interesting thing about pleasure cruises is that most of the cruise lines are located right here in the Sunshine State.

That’s good for our economy, our tourism market, and for the many Floridians who enjoy some fun in the sun and a watery excursion. But for the cruise lines, it’s bad news when a court case doesn’t go their way.

Take, for instance, a recent federal appeals court ruling that passengers can now sue their cruise lines for medical malpractice. The decision came down from the 11th U.S. Circuit and only applies within its jurisdiction, but since Florida is part of that, it means that the majority of the cruise industry has to wake up, pay attention, and make some changes.

How Can a Cruise Line Be Sued Like a Doctor?

Medical malpractice lawsuits and commercial cruise lines don’t seem to go hand in hand. It goes without saying that ships aren’t hospitals. So what gives?

Well, ships do have doctors on board — or medical staffs, at least — and many passengers feel that those medical personnel have a duty to safeguard travelers’ health and wellness. And now a federal court agrees.

Previously, passengers had a hard time holding cruise lines responsible for medical negligence. Courts had long upheld a series of loopholes and exceptions that protected cruises from being sued like doctors. But then a particularly compelling case made its way to the bench and changed everything. Here’s what happened:

82-year-old Pasquale Vaglio was a retired New York City police officer and a veteran of the Korean War. He and 18 of his dearest family members embarked on a well-deserved vacation above Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas in 2001. That’s when Vaglio fell, hit his head, and was rushed to the onboard nurse’s station. The nurse advised him to return to his cabin for rest — advice that would prove fatal.

Had the nurse more properly examined Vaglio, or had she arranged for more appropriate medical treatment, the ship might have discovered that he’d suffered traumatic brain injury in the fall. Days later, Mr. Vaglio died.

Cruise Line Negligence

The Vaglios’ story is a heartbreaking reminder that accidents do happen on vacations, and cruises are no exception. Passengers put their trust in the cruise lines to take care of them during the course of the cruise, and that includes making reasonable efforts to provide for their medical needs — emergency and otherwise.

At Kaire & Heffernan LLC, we understand how important cruise line responsibility is. If you or a loved one has suffered injury aboard a cruise line or as a result of cruise line negligence, the Miami attorneys in our office can help. Contact us to schedule a free consultation concerning cruise line negligence today. We’re here for you.

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Mark Kaire has been practicing law in Miami for nearly 30 years. He is dedicated to helping the injured people of Miami receive compensation. Mr. Kaire has been blogging on Miami’s legal issues for many years.