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August 26, 2014

Study Suggests Arizona More Lenient on Potential Sex Offenders

An alarming new study indicates that the crime of soliciting sex from a minor in Arizona carries a shorter sentence than other serious offenses. A study conducted by the anti-sex trafficking group Shared Hope International and Arizona State University is raising some important questions about existing legislation. Soliciting sex to minors in Arizona is a […]



What the Cruise Ship Industry Doesn’t Want You to Know – It’s Not the Love Boat Anymore

A vacation fantasy comes true for you and your family – the fabulous floating resort. Sailing the ocean aboard a magnificent cruise ship, being wined and dined, basking leisurely in the sun, always something to keep everyone entertained, and the opportunity to visit new and exotic places with the whole family. That is certainly what the cruise lines hope you’ll pick up from their $500,000 annual advertising budget.

Phoenix child injury and safety attorney Shane L. Harward agrees that a vacation cruise can be a great family experience when all goes well. But, it can also be a real nightmare when accidents and injuries occur onboard, on a ship’s tenders, and at distant locations.

In this article, our Phoenix child injury and safety attorney will provide you with some not-so-rosy pictures of the family vacation cruise gone bad. Common cruise ship accidents include assault by crew members or other passengers, food poisoning, sexual battery, slip and falls, trip and falls, and injuries on excursions. Cruise ship lines have a responsibility to ensure that there are no dangerous conditions on board that can cause serious injury to passengers. When cruise ship accidents occur because of poor maintenance, incompetent staff members, or improperly trained employees, the cruise ship owners can be held legally responsible for negligence. Owners can also be held liable for cruise ship accidents that are caused by inadequate safety equipment or emergency precautions. Victims of cruise ship accidents may be entitled to compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.


Falling Overboard

Although the cruise lines downplay these perilous events, the fact of the matter is that people do fall overboard more often than you might think. Between 2000 and 2011, there were 174 overboard accidents among crews and passengers. 23 overboard incidences occurred in 2011 alone, although 2009 was a record year with 25 overboard cases. Between 2000 and 2011, Carnival alone logged in 44 overboard incidents.


Illness on Cruise Ships

There is a very good chance someone in your family will become quite ill while on the cruise. Many of those illnesses are related to gastrointestinal diseases picked up on the vessel. In 2010, there were 37 cruise line reports of illness with 7,101 total sick. The number of cruise line reports in 2009 was 30 with 4,197 total sick. 2006 was a particularly challenging year with 54 cruise line reports involving 7,215 total sick.


Cruise Ships Sometimes Sink

The most recent example of a disaster on the seas would be the final voyage of the beautiful Costa Concordia. On January 13, 2012, while on a seven-day cruise with 4,200 passengers and crew on board, the Costa Concordia struck a rock off the island of Giglio. The vessel listed severely and sank off the Mediterranean’s Tuscan coast – at least 17 people were killed in the accident. The Costa Concordia of Costa Cruises is owned by Carnival out of Miami, Florida – the world’s largest cruise line operator.


Limitations on Liability and Flags of Convenience

What most passengers do not fully appreciate when they plan a family cruise vacation is that the tickets they will purchase form binding contracts between the passengers and the cruise line. It is not at all surprising that these ticket contracts have been heavily litigated given that they purposefully limit liability with forum selection clauses (where a lawsuit can be brought), choice of law clauses (what country’s laws will be applied in the lawsuit), and detailed notice requirement clauses, among others.

Consequently, the cruise lines effectively limit their liability for accidents and injuries in the ticket contract before any passenger is welcomed aboard ship by the captain and crew. For example, the surviving passengers of the Costa Concordia disaster are limited to suing for about $70,000 each. Furthermore, those passengers will have only one year within which to file their claims against Costa Cruises in Genoa, Italy, with Italian law controlling.

When departing from a U.S. port, the ticket contract with Costa Cruises requires that any lawsuit against it must be filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. Where the passenger resides is of no consequence to the venue which is dictated by the ticket contract. In addition, regardless of where the lawsuit is filed most courts will apply federal maritime law.

Buried in the fine print of your Passenger Contract Ticket, back many pages, there is a paragraph about where you have to sue them. It is usually toward the end of the ticket. No matter where you are from, no matter where you bought the ticket, no matter where you got on the ship, this rule applies.

At the time of this writing, in all cases against Carnival Cruise Lines, you must file suit in Miami, Florida; In all cases against Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, you must file suit in Miami, Florida; in all cases against Norwegian Cruise Lines, you must file suit in Miami, Florida; in all cases involving Disney Cruise Lines, you must file in Orlando, Florida; and other cruise lines specify other cities and states.

According to an Attorney and Vice Chairman of the American Bar Association’s Admiralty and Maritime Law Committee as well as an adjunct professor at the University of Miami, the cruise line will appear “to want to settle, [by] asking for more and more information.” In reality, though, they are focused wholly on paying the bare minimum required by law. “They have their own civil defense lawyers who are often flown right to the ship to interview crew and passengers immediately,” in an attempt to lock “in their defense theories with sworn testimony.”


YOU PRESERVE YOUR CLAIM ONLY BY FILING SUIT IN THE RIGHT CITY AND STATE. Filling out an accident report and writing letters to the cruise line does not preserve your claim. If you filled out an accident report on the day of the accident on the ship, and if you wrote a million letters to the cruise lines, but you do not file suit within maritime statute of limitations of one year (and some require Notice of Claim to be filed within 6 months), YOU HAVE NO CLAIM AND THE CRUISE LINES WILL PAY YOU NOTHING. This is not to say that you cannot get a settlement in the right case before filing suit. Sometimes you can. But you need the right lawyer to do this.

Seeking more and more information about a known event, using up the survivor’s precious little time within which to sue, only assists the cruise line in avoiding liability. Make sure that, when you begin planning a cruise vacation for your family, that you get a copy of the contract before you purchase your tickets. When you buy the tickets, you will be bound by the terms of the ticket contract.



Cruise Ship Disaster Has Future Passengers Concerned

Cruise Ship Blues, The Underside of the Cruise Ship Industry, by Ross A. Klein, New Society Publishers (Copyright 2002), ISBN 0-86571-462-2.

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Shane Harward Law Offices of Shane L. Harward PLC

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