The Cruise Industry's Internet Travel Trolls

Every year or so, a travel agent with a blog will take it upon himself to level personal insults against us in a half-baked effort to defend the cruise industry. 

One year ago, Richard Turen, a CLIA-certified travel agent, criticized me in an ill-conceived article which appeared in Travel Weekly. Mr. Turen's blog, the ironically entitled Travel Truth, is 100% promotional-hype designed just to sell cruises. Mr. Turen is one of several travel writers, drunk on the CLIA Kool-Aid, who will never mention unpleasant issues like crimes on ships against women and children, exploitation of crew members, and fires & other maritime casualties involving the cruise Eric Goldring Goldring Travelindustry. My response to his article, which you can read here, was one of my most popular articles last year.  

Yesterday, another CLIA travel agent and a Travel Weekly Silver Award Winner named Eric Goldring (photo right) of Goldring Travel in New Jersey, took a cheap shot against our firm on his blog Goldring Travel's This is My Yacht - Cruise & Travel. He accused our firm of "Trying to Defend Their Bringing Frivolous Cases Against Cruise Lines." He posted his article on Twitter and Facebook. He states that he's "taking aim" at me. 

Mr. Goldring responded to a recent article where I said that we are going to start mentioning the actual cases we file against cruise lines this year on Cruise Law News rather than just mentioning hot topics affecting the cruise lines in general. The Florida Bar's ethical rules permit lawyers to discuss their cases as long as they don't make statements that are likely to influence the jury to decide the case based on extrajudicial comments. The local federal rules expressly envision attorneys quoting portions of their lawsuits to the public or even attaching their lawsuits to their blogs or websites. 

The reason I decided to do this is that many cruisers, including travelers in the "Cruise Critic" type of community, like to think that lawsuits against cruise lines are filed by "stupid" people who don't accept personal responsibility for their own reckless behavior and the lawsuits are usually frivolous in nature and will end up making cruising more expensive. The cases we handle should dispel that notion. 

Mr. Goldring, however, insists that our firm's cases are "frivolous." He says that we don't disclose claims "which they lost in court (and there are many of those)." 

Now I should mention that travel-agent-Goldring is also an attorney who calls himself a "maritime lawyer." So he is not just a travel agent trying to use legal terms which he doesn't understand. He's a lawyer who should know the meaning of legal terms. Rule 3.1 of the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct states that lawyers can’t file a lawsuit “unless there is a basis in law and fact for doing so that is not frivolous.” Black’s Law Dictionary, in turn, defines “frivolous” as “lacking a legal basis or legal merit; not serious; not reasonably purposeful.” 

Filing a frivolous lawsuit has dire consequences. The federal and state rules include severe disciplinary and monetary sanctions against lawyers who engage in frivolous filings and baseless argument. It is also a violation of the ethical rules in Florida to make false and misleading allegations against another lawyer.

As a lawyer licensed to practice in Florida as well as New Jersey, Mr. Goldring is bound by these ethical rules. With this in mind, I challenge Mr. Goldring to find a single case where a judge, jury, or ethics committee of a bar association has ever found that we filed a frivolous case or made a frivolous argument. He will find none. He will not even find a single maritime case out of the many hundreds upon hundreds that we filed where a cruise line has even claimed that we filed a frivolous case or engaged in frivolous conduct.

I also challenge Mr. Goldring to tell the public about the cases which we allegedly "lost in court." He states that "there are many of those."  He will find none.    

Mr. Goldring fancies himself as a defender of the cruise industry. His website contains diatribes against others who criticize the cruise lines. He attacked the well respected consumer advocate and National Geographic ombudsman Christoper Elliott in an article entitled "Christopher Elliott Engages in Yellow Journalism on MSNBC; A Misleading Attack on the Cruise Industry." 

But his articles reveal him to be a buffoon. Goldring's poorly written article contains many factual inaccuracies, embarrassing legal errors, grammatical mistakes, incomplete sentences, and misspelled words. He evens refers to my partner, Lisa O'Neill, as "McNeil." Let me point out a few other of Goldring's confused rants:  

Goldring claims that our firm "even (has) an app which encourages you to make claims through their firm, regardless of the facts (sic) that you probably will not recover anything. . . " This is patently false. Another law firm, not associated whatsoever with us, created an iPhone and Android app for passengers to take with them on cruises. (I agree that it's tacky, but it's not our idea). 

Goldring says passengers shouldn't consider seeking compensation because "in many instances if you are 50% or more at fault you receive nothing." Goldring is absolutely wrong about this too. New Jersey, where he has his law firm, is one of twenty-two (22) states which follow the archaic "51% Bar Rule," under which an injured party cannot recover if he is 51% (not 50% as Goldring says) or more at fault. But maritime cases are not governed by New Jersey law. The General Maritime Law applies to maritime cases. Maritime law applies the "Pure Comparative Fault Rule" which allows an injured party to recover even if he is 99% at fault (although the recovery is reduced by the party’s degree of fault). A competent lawyer learns this in law school.

Goldring claims that crew members have to prove that the cruise ship caused them to develop cancer before they can make a claim against the cruise line for the disease.  Again, Goldring is wrong. Under the ancient maritime doctrine of "maintenance and cure," adopted into U.S. maritime law in the early nineteenth century and the Jones Act of 1920, crew members are absolutely entitled to receive the payment of living expenses, unearned wages, and medical treatment for all medical illnesses, including cancer, which manifest during their work on the ship. The crew member does not have to even prove that the cruise line is at fault. Unfortunately, it has been my experience that cruise lines often abandon the crew member in a distant country to die in order to avoid paying for the medical care. Punitive damages may also be assessed against recalcitrant cruise lines which callously refuse to provide maintenance and cure to ill crew members, a holding reinforced by the U.S. Supreme Court in Atlantic Sounding Co., Inc., v. Edgar L. Townsend, 129 S.Ct. 2561 (2009), which is one of the most important maritime cases in 25 years. Any attorney calling himself a "maritime lawyer" should know this. 

Goldring uses legal terms he doesn't understand. He ends his embarrassing article saying "there is a simple concept in the law that applies in a number of negligence cases: Res ipsa loquitor (sic). (The thing speaks for itself)."

Putting aside that he misspelled "res ipsa loquitur," he misused the term to suggest that many passengers engage in such reckless conduct that it is obvious that they are to blame for the accident and their injuries. But the term deals with the presumed negligence of the defendant. In litigation involving the Carnival Triumph "poop cruise," a federal district judge recently applied "res ipsa loquitur" after reviewing the evidence of the cruise ship fire and resulting conditions suffered by the passengers. He concluded that these events ordinarily do not occur in the absence of negligence of the company operating the ship. The passengers were therefore relieved of the burden of proving that the cruise line was negligent. Lesson to be learned by Mr. Goldring, don't use words you can't spell, don't understand and probably can't pronounce. 

At the end of the day, it ultimately does not matter whether Mr. Goldring, or any travel agent or cruise fan, agrees with me. I like a difference of opinion about issues involving the cruise industry. I look for dialogue and discussion. I don't want a cult-of-personality audience. My goal is to raise awareness of issues that affect cruise passengers and crew member safety, security and well-being. Around 150,000 people, including many travel agents, around the world follow me on Twitter and Facebook. Over 1,700,000 people read over 6,100,000 pages of Cruise Law News last year. I encourage readers to leave comments. Well over 50% of the readers and people on Twitter & Facebook disagree with me. I have learned from listening to my readers and my opinions have changed. Debate is important, irrespective of a reader's ultimate conclusion about the issue. Debate expands the circle of knowledge and brings changes which improve the world of cruising. Over the past decade I have seen hundreds of cruise passengers attend and testify at eight Congressional hearings in Washington D.C. where laws have been passed, over the cruise lines' opposition, to make cruising safer.

The cruise lines, many travel agents and publications like Travel Weekly do not like critical information about shipboard crime and vessel safety to be freely exchanged via social media on blogs like ours and others. The cruise industry wants loyal CLIA members who will parrot the industry's message, write about fantasy vacations on the high seas, and make the industry money. It wants critics and free-thinkers to be intimidated. Tactics of people like Mr. Goldring making false and misleading statements to sell cruise tickets in order to line their pockets underscore the industry's dishonesty and greed. 

 

Note: Mr. Goldring writes this about himself on his travel blog:

" . . . I am not only a luxury travel agent, but attorney specializing in yacht and ship law . . . I have litigated maritime cases from Norway to Australia . . .  That is why I have such a good reputation with my clients and the cruise lines! I am, to self-promote, a knowledgeable, honest and fair travel agent."

Comment: Florida ethical rules prohibit a lawyer to state that he "specializes" in ship law unless he is board certified in maritime law by the Florida Bar's board of certification. Mr. Goldring is not board certified. 

Have a thought? Please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

January 27 2015 Update"Top" Travel Agent has History of Ethical Violations as Lawyer.

Photo Credit: Eric Goldring / Goldring Travel Facebook

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Comments (7) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Astrogal - January 23, 2015 12:56 PM

I just don't understand people who are so rabidly defending the cruise industry that they are blind and in denial to what happens. It's the same type of people who are probably voting against their own interests politically, who are defending super wealthy and powerful corporations and individuals who couldn't care less about them at the expense of their own personal economic interests...but I digress. I am a relatively new cruiser, having taken "just" 4 cruises in my life (more than other people I know, mind you) and I have loved the cruising experience. My family and I have had a great time and never encountered any problems, fortunately. But I am not blind to the fact that there ARE crimes on board these ships, that they are not perfect, and I am thankful for this site that makes me aware of these awful things that CAN happen so that I can take further precautions not to let them happen. I am aware that there are child sex perverts on board these cruises (as anywhere), both crew and passengers. Thus I never leave my 9 year old daughter alone ANYWHERE. True, I don't need a blog to tell me this, as it is parenting common sense (which unfortunately many people lack), but it helps to never lull me into a false sense of security to know that there are people actually breaking into cabins and sexually assaulting passengers, etc. So thank you for the information and for trying to break some light into the darkness that the ignorant masses live in.

John Goldsmith - January 23, 2015 1:35 PM

Thanks for the article Jim.
While I don't always agree with you, I will always defend your right to express your views, just as you allow me to express my views.
I went to the site in question and read quite a few articles. I conclude, in my opinion of course, that the gentleman is quite full of himself.
I have , in the past, mentioned that any and all corporations have their own agenda, which is to make money for shareholders and dividend beneficiaries. If any corporation can save a dime to make a buck. they will.
I don't pretend to understand U.S. laws and court procedures, so I will depend on your expertise in that matter.
Keep posting, and I'll keep cruising.....But cruising more aware of the environment in which I am at the moment.

Eric Wright - January 23, 2015 3:02 PM

Jim,
Thanks for the interesting article. I am one of those who always read your articles and sometimes disagree. I have always found articles truthful and to the point. As they say, sometimes the truth hurts. Please keep on writing and posting and I,like many others, will keep on cruising, albeit all the wiser.

Rob - January 23, 2015 8:02 PM

Hes just another idiot cheerleader for the CLIA. I like that you took him to task.

susan anthony - January 23, 2015 11:13 PM

I do not like cruises, nor do I like cruise passengers. I am not a defender of cruise lines. However, because I work in the industry, I keep up with news and whatnot about the topic. For the most part, I find cruise law news to be informative and usually agree with the stances taken, except in instances where a person's family steps in after their death usually, and pushes for reform of the law so they can sue for whatever reason.

I've read a number of stories of people passing either onboard of a cruise ship or shortly after being evacuated from the ship for standard conditions that, if they had occurred on land, would be nobody's fault with nobody to blame, and then their family members step in and advocate against cruise lines and laws that protect them only due to the fact that the death or incident leading to it happened onboard a cruise ship. I am against these people receiving any sort of compensation for their family members dying not because I care if cruise prices go up, and not because I own stock in cruise companies because I don't. It seems like a matter of principal to me that people accept the fact that sometimes, people die, and it can even happen on vacation, and it's nobody's fault.

Death happens and is a natural part of life. It can happen anywhere at any time. Just because a person happens to be on a cruise ship when their time approaches doesn't really make it the cruise line's responsibility to pay to anyone's family who happens to die on a cruise ship or shortly after leaving one.

I won't bring up any names but recently the family of the guy who hit his head which opened the door for cruise lines to be held responsibly for medical malpractice is a main one. The guy hit his head and after being transported to a hospital on land, passed away. It is not the cruise line's fault the passenger hit his head and nothing in any of the media surrounding the case indicates it was nothing more than an unfortunate accident. Not only that, but the passenger was removed from the ship and transported to a hospital on land, and then died several days later.

The family claims it was the cruise line's responsibility somehow, but the "how" part is unclear. If it was the cruise line's fault for not kicking the passenger off, well, from what I understand he was competent after recieving the injury. If he felt it to be a danger to his life, he could have requested medical evac, but he did not. Is it really the cruise line's place to decide for competent adults weather they should stay onboard a cruise ship in the event of injury? If they HAD decided to medically evac him off the ship, it would have ruined his family's vacation, and they would not have been compensated in any way for it, which is another reason many people would choose to stay onboard rather than leave. Who wants to leave their vacation that they paid thousands for, especially over something like a bump on the head, which rarely ends up being fatal?

The cruise lines would be sued just as badly for kicking anyone off the ship they thought might have any chance of dying than they would if they allowed someone who appears competent and is an adult to stay onboard if they decide to. And to sum up my view of the situation, the passenger later died on land, a week after the injury. How is the cruise line responsible? The cruise line cannot be held responsible for something trivial, like a passenger having lost his balance. If they purposely had unsafe conditions that resulted in the accident, then maybe, sure. But millions of people a year take tenderboats, and rarely does anyone die from it. Not only that but the passenger died, NOT ON THE SHIP! A week later in a hospital! Why isn't the hospital being sued for not being able to save the passenger? Supposedly, the family says the timeframe between when the passenger was examined by onboard medical staff and then evacuated the next day when his condition deteriorated is what caused his death, but again we have to remember, the passenger was competent after the initial examination. Cruise line staff had no way to know that this customer had an internal brain bleed, they weren't going to kick him off the ship, and even if they tried he probably would have fought to stay onboard lest he risk losing his vacation with his family. No one knew this guy had a serious injury until his condition worsened, and once it was apparent that was the case, the cruise line did everything appropriately. So in that family's situation, I think it is unfair for them to be able to sue, since the person himself who passed was competent at the time and made the decision to stay onboard.

Another case that really rubs me the wrong way is a story I read about a woman, a vocal anti-cruising advocate, who daughter passed away from a drug overdose onboard a cruise. The mother purports that her daughter was a bright shining star- never took drugs, never did anything wrong- and yet somehow died of a drug overdose. The case pretty much is open and shut- the boyfriend admitted to bringing drugs onboard and admitted to using them onboard, the girlfriend apparrently took too much and died. Yet, because this happened onboard of a cruise ship, the mother fights against the cruise line's claiming that not only did the attractive allure of the cruise ship make her daughter take drugs, something she supposedly never did before (like a daughter would even tell her mother if she was taking drugs in the first place), but also that somehow the cruise line is hiding something from the mother about what happened, when the facts are pretty obvious with what happened.

When I read about this particular woman, I was shocked with how badly one woman's inability to cope with grieving and loss was taken so seriously by so many people. Not to demean the woman's mourning, but at the time of the cruise, her daughter was an adult who made a conscious choice and decision to take drugs. Because she took them on a cruise ship instead of her own living space at home, or at some club on land, does not make a third party any more responsible for this person's actions than anywhere else in the world, yet somehow nobody really stops to consider the daughter's choice in the matter. Somehow, people think that being on a cruise ship just makes you not responsible for your own actions and decisions, and it is the family members of people who pass that feel this the most.

These two are just examples, and I am not trying to say that every case is this way, because for the most part, of course cruise lines can fix things and make improvements and who wouldn't support that? But opening the door for all these crazy situations, especially situations where the passengers themselves suffer due to their own choices that they have chosen to make and then their family members try to get some sort of compensation for their family member's bad choices... I just don't agree with that. I would definitely appreciate any debate with these two examples specifically on how and why the cruise line should be held liable in these types of situations because to me, it would eb unethical for the cruise line to be held responsible for passengers who make choices that ultimately turn out to be not the best choices after all and would ultimately open the door for all sorts of industries to be sued for customers making choices that later turn out to be bad choices.

Cruise line negligence is one issue- personal responsibility is another issue. Many times, issues of negligence that result in harm are overshadowed by these other grey areas of people making mad decisions, and people trying badly to get money from cruise lines for their family member's choices. The families who try to sue over stuff that the cruise line just simply cannot and should not be held responsible for drown out the actual cases of negligence that actually deserve attention. I would invite any debate on the subject and would truly appreciate any responses especially in regards to these two examples mentioned.

Jim Walker - January 24, 2015 10:02 AM

Susan:

Both death cases involve allegations of incompetent shipboard medical care.

The young woman's case involved her boyfriend addict taking methadone aboard the Carnival cruise ship in a NyQuil bottle. It appears that she thought that she was was taking a cold remedy and took the synthetic narcotic by mistake. There's no indication that she ever took drugs before.

If a cruise ship doctor or nurse commits malpractice and kills a passenger, the cruise line should be responsible.

Stir Fry - January 24, 2015 5:40 PM

Can't say I'm surprised at the shill's behavior.

As the saying goes, "Attack the messenger if you can't attack the message".

The vigorous defense complete with personal attacks speaks volumes as it essentially recognizes the abysmal conditions of the cruise industry.

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