Avoiding The Pitfalls
It is estimated that more than 9 million passengers travel on cruises departing North American ports each year. Cruise ships are not merely common carriers, they are virtual floating cities, and like any city, injuries and deaths occur due to negligence. The litigation of cases involving the cruise lines is replete with procedural and substantive pitfalls that can trap all but the most seasoned cruise ship litigators.
Special consideration must be given to a shortened statute of limitations and forum selection clauses. For injuries or deaths stemming from negligence associated with cruise ships, the contract, which is usually contained in the passenger ticket package, typically provides that a passenger must provide notice of a claim to the cruise line within six months of the date of the within one year. In addition, the passenger ticket package typically contains a forum selection clause dictating where a claim must be made. It does not matter where the passenger resides, where the cruise ship departed, or where the injury occurred; the forum selection clause controls.
In addition to these procedural requirements, limitations on liability and damages often act to bar or limit claims. As it relates to medical malpractice committed by ship board physicians, the majority rule across the circuit courts is that a cruise line that otherwise employs a competent medical professional, is not liable for the negligence of the doctor. Pursuing these doctors individually is very nations and carry no insurance. Passenger deaths present their own as the Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA), severely limit the ability to recover compensation. The DOHSA provides a wrongful death remedy limited to pecuniary damages for fatalities on the high seas. There is no recovery for pain and suffering.
For these reasons and many more, special consideration must be given to cases involving injury or death stemming from cruises. Gersowitz Libo & Korek, P.C. welcomes all inquiries concerning incidents involving cruise ships.