Dead Filipinos, Dead Children & Other Cruise Line Madness

This week several people died during cruises on ships owned by Carnival Corporation.  A young seafarer died on the Carnival-owned Cunard Queen Victoria cruise ship.  A crew member from the Carnival Conquest was crushed to death at the port of New Orleans. And most tragically, a 6 year-old boy needlessly drown on the Carnival Victory in a swimming pool which, incredibly, did not have a life-guard.     

What do all of these seemingly unrelated incidents have in common?  

Because of antiquated laws and recent legal developments advanced by the cruise industry, the cruise Qwentyn Hunter - Carnival Cruise Shipline will escape virtually all legal accountability for the deaths.

Let's look first at the sad case of little 6 year old Qwentyn Hunter who died on the Carnival Victory last week. He died underwater in a swimming pool that Carnival decided not to supervise with a lifeguard for, what I believe to be, purely financial reasons.

A child on vacation dead at age 6.

Is it foreseeable that a child may drown in a pool?  Of course. We have written recently about a 4 year old boy who is severely brain injured after slipping under the water on a cruise ship Disney which also didn't bother to assign a lifeguard to the pool.    

Put aside the debate whether the boy's death was a lack of personal responsibility of the parents or a lack of corporate responsibility due to the the malfeasance of the cruise line (or both), what is the maximum exposure presented to Carnival?

The answer, sadly, is just the child's burial and burial expenses. How is that possible?

There is a law in the U.S. called The Death On The High Seas Act ("DOHSA").  

DOHSA is an archaic law enacted in 1920 which provides only "pecuniary" losses to the survivors of someone who dies on the high seas. "Pecuniary" damages means only those financial losses, such as lost wages or medical expenses, suffered by those who are dependent on the dead person. In cases of a dead child or a dead retiree, there are no lost wages and no one dependent on the child or retiree for support. In Qwentyn's situation, there are obviously no lost wages or medical expenses.  So all that the family could possibly receive in compensation after an expensive, long-drawn-out lawsuit is whatever it costs to bury a child these days.      

If the cruise line is negligent for a child's death in an unattended pool, it will pay a maximum of $10,000 or so if liability is proven. Big deal. From a financial perspective, the cruise line is ahead of the game by not paying millions to employ lifeguards on over a hundred Carnival cruise ships to keep the kids safe. Carnival's Micky Arison, worth over 5 billion dollars, gets to keep his bounty.    

Cruise lines love DOHSA. It exculpates the cruise lines when they act irresponsibly.  The cruise industry has lobbied hard against amending the law.  Read about that here and here. Don't miss reading: What Does BP, Al Qaeda and a Cruise Line Have In Common?  

Crew members who die due to the negligence of the cruise lines face the same hardship of DOHSA. 

But that's not all. The cruise lines have also fought tooth & nail to keep the claims of "foreign" crew members outside of the U.S. legal system and deprive injured crew members from having their cases heard by U.S. juries by insisting that they resolve their cases through "arbitration."  

Read about this injustice here. The Filipinos face a "schedule" of compensation depending on the Filipino Crew Member - Cruise - Burn Unitinjury. A lost finger, or hand, or an arm may result in an award of only $7,500 or $25,000 or $35,000. A death? $50,000, plus only $7,000 per child with a limit of 4 children. 

One of the worst cases involved a Filipino crew member who received 35% burns on his body in a clear case of the vessel operator's negligence. At the ship owner's request, the disabled and disfigured crew member's case was dismissed from the U.S. legal system and sent to Manila where a Kangaroo Court awarded the burned Filipino just $1,870.00 (US).

The cruise lines don't want you to understand what happens when the nice, smiling Filipino waiters or bartenders who serve your family subsequently are seriously injured or die on cruise ships. It is fundamentally different and absolutely unfair compared to when people are injured or die on land. 

And this is exactly how the multi-billion dollar cruise industry wants it.  

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

Did Cruise Line International President Christine Duffy Lie to Congress?

Congressional Cruise Safety HearingThe first blog I wrote when I started Cruise Law News three years ago was about the Death On The High Seas Act ("DOHSA").  It was called "Death On The High Seas Act - Screwing American Passengers for 89 Years."

Under this archaic law, families who have lost a loved one on the high seas due to the negligence of the shipping company are entitled to recover only the lost wages and burial expenses of the decedent.  In cases where the dead passenger is a child or a retired grandfather or grandmother, and hence no wages to be recovered, the recovery is limited to funeral expenses.  There is no entitlement to the decedent's pre-death pain and suffering or the sadness, bereavement and mental anguish of the surviving family members.  

The current status of DOHSA provides no financial incentive for the cruise lines to improve their operations to make cruising reasonably safe for the traveling public.  I have written a number of articles about DOHSA over the years, including "If a Cruise Line Drops Your Grandmother in the Ocean, Don't Expect Any Compensation." 

Cruise lines love DOHSA.  Even when a cruise line is clearly negligent or even acts recklessly, there is no accountability when that negligent or reckless conduct kills a child or elderly passenger.

The cruise lines and their trade organization, Cruise Line International Association ("CLIA"), have spent millions lobbying Congress to kill efforts to amend the law to include additional remedies. Two years ago, when victim groups were getting close to amending DOSHA, CLIA and its lobbyists went into overdrive and killed the amendment.

Tandy Bondi and Christine DuffyTake a moment and read: "Cruise Industry Lobbies Congress To Kill Amendment To Death On High Seas Act." 

You can read about how Alcalde & Fay lobbyists, including Tandy Bondi, met with Congressmen and Congresswomen to derail efforts to amend DOHSA back in 2010.

The issue of DOHSA came back into the news last week during the Congressional cruise safety hearings.  

Congresswoman Mazie Hirono of Hawaii raised the issue why families have virtually no legal remedies when they lose a family member during a cruise, but enjoy the full range of remedies if the accident occurs in an automobile or airplane.  She asked the cruise line panel whether they thought this was fair.

Congresswoman Hirono asked CLIA's President and CEO Christine Duffy to answer first.  Ms. Duffy was unprepared for the question and initially did not respond.  Everyone in the hearing room knew that CLIA was absolutely against amending DOHSA, and that the victims groups, like the International Cruise Victims (ICV), were absolutely for the amendment.

But instead of answering honestly before the C-Span audience, Ms. Duffy hemmed and hawed and tried to deflect the question by saying "I'm not a lawyer."  But right next to her was the CLIA lawyer Michael Crye and behind her was maritime lawyer Bradley Rose who is CLIA's outside legal counsel. These lawyers were key players for CLIA in submitting a position paper to Congress against revising DOHSA.  Lawyers Crye and Rose just watched Ms. Duffy squirm.   

Sitting close to CLIA's lawyers were the CLIA's lobbyists, including Tandy Bondi (photo above left, chatting with Ms. Duffy right before the hearing).  Ms. Bondi, you will recall, was one of the main lobbyists who helped CLIA kill the DOHSA amendments just two years ago.            

Ms. Duffy knew good and well that CLIA opposed changing DOHSA.  But instead of choosing to be transparent, she chose the gobbledygook I'm-not-a-lawyer non-response.  She had just testified at length about how international laws, flag state laws and U.S. laws supposedly regulate the cruise industry, but now she was no longer competent to give an opinion about an unfair law that screws U.S. cruise passengers.

None of the other cruise line representatives at the hearing would answer the question either.

 

Photos credits:  Jim Walker

Tragedy on HAL's Half Moon Cay: A Mother's Perspective

One of the purposes of this blog is to educate the public of dangers of cruising and the legal hurdles passengers face when things go wrong during a cruise.  

One of the first issues I felt compelled to write about when I started this blog over two years ago was the Death On The High Seas Act ("DOHSA").  DOSHA does not permit cruise passengers to recover pain, suffering, grief, or bereavement if a loved one dies outside of the territorial waters of the U.S.  DOSHA provides only limited financial damages, such as lost wages. 

If a child is killed during a cruise or shore excursion due to the cruise line's negligence, there is no recovery at all because the child is not a wage earner.  I wrote about this in my series of the "ten reasons not to cruise" -  Reason No. 5:  If You Are Retired Or A Child, The Cruise Line Considers Your Life Worthless.

Cruise lines love DOSHA.  It eliminates all consequences of their negligence and provides no incentive to act responsibly.  The cruise industry spends millions of dollars lobbying Congress to make certain that DOSHA is not amended to provide reasonable compensation to grieving families.

This weekend, I received the following comments from a Mom who lost her daughter during a  Holland American Line cruise, while on HAL's "private island" Half Moon Cay.          

Holland America Line's "Family Cruise" - Half Moon Cay

"My 3 year-old daughter was killed on Christmas Eve of last year while on a Holland America cruise with her biological father. She drowned in the designated children's swim area of a private island Death On The High Seas Act - Holland America Line -  Cruisein the Bahamas owned by HAL.  This tragedy occurred in plain view of hundreds of people present and right near where a lifeguard SHOULD have been actively on duty.

I would never have considered allowing her on the cruise if I believed for a moment that I was putting her in harm's way.

Imagine what it feels like to receive a phone call on Christmas Day and fully expecting to hear a relative calling with a Christmas greeting.  Instead, you are informed, with no preamble or warning, that your darling daughter is dead.

Holland America has made it perfectly clear to us that they feel they have no responsibility in the matter, and even if they did have any liability, that their interests are fully protected by the Death on the High Seas Act.  Never mind the fact that the children's swim area contained many bright toys to lure children into the water, and deliberately lulls the guests into a false sense of security with signs nearby that say "Paradise -- you'll want to stay forever" (or similar.)  Because the DOHSA does not cover pain and suffering (only loss of a paycheck, and let's face it, my daughter didn't have a steady job), they have informed me that I am entitled to absolutely nothing.

Thanks, Holland America. And a Merry Christmas to you as well.

Be aware of this stance before you go on one of Holland America's "Family Cruises" (one of their employees told me their target market is families for their Christmas Cruises).  Holland America is only too happy to take full advantage of their supposed protection under a law that they themselves have so much as admitted as being archaic.  For some terribly naive reason, I actually had hoped that instead of hiding behind the cover of an inappropriate law to protect themselves from their failures to provide a safe environment for my child, that they would actually be moved to simply do the right thing.  Silly me.

The DOHSA Act was originally passed in 1920 to cover scenarios of a fisherman (read: breadwinner) lost at sea.  The intent of the law was certainly never to cover the loss of a child on a cruise, but the cruise industry is taking full advantage of its existence and has opposed efforts to change this law.

The lesson that Holland America has taught me with their brush-off treatment of my complaint is loud and clear: pain and suffering are worthless.  I can't even bring myself to contemplate what their message communicates with regards to their perceived value of the life of my daughter."


 

Were you on the cruise or at Half Moon Cay at the time of this incident? 

Should DOHSA be amended to provide the same remedies as land based law?

Please leave a comment below . . .

 

For other articles on DOHSA, consider reading:

What Does BP, Al Qaeda and a Cruise Line Have In Common? 

Death On The High Seas Act Protects BP and Cruise Lines at the Grieving Family's Expense

Cruise Industry Lobbies Congress To Kill Amendment To Death On High Seas Act

Today the Senate will debate amending the Death On The High Seas Act (DOHSA) to permit the families of the oil workers killed in the BP Deepwater Horizon explosion to recover compensation for their emotional damages for losing their husbands and fathers.  The House of Representatives previously voted to amend DOHSA.

We have discussed the inequities in this archaic law which has been denying just compensation to families for 90 years.  

Senator Rockefeller introduced the "Fairness In Admiralty and Maritime Law Act" (S 3600), which Senator LeMieux - Cruise Industry - Oil & Gas Supporterwill permit recovery of compensation for the families of oil workers, cruise cruise passengers and crew members on maritime vessels killed in international waters. 

But the cruise industry has unleashed its lobbyists to work the Senators over to try and kill the amendment and exclude the families of cruise passenger and crew members from the Rockefeller amendment.  With the urging of the cruise lines, Florida Republican Senator LeMieux (left) introduced an amendment to exclude everyone except the BP widows from compensation.  The Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) is once against trying to strip the rights of cruise passengers and crew members.  CLIA's Michael Crye (below right) has been working with the cruise industry's lobbyists. 

CLIA has assembled its usual cast of characters to try and kill the Senator Rockefeller's amendment to DOHSA, including the Alcalde & Fay lobbying firm.  The cruise lines have paid millions to the lobbyists at Alcalde & Fay.  

Cruise Line International Association - Micahel Crye - CLIACruise Law News (CLN) has learned that Alcalde & Fay lobbyists, including Tandy Bondi (below left) and Harold (Hal) Creed, have been been working with Senator LeMieux's staffers to grow support for the cruise industry's interests.  This means that when a cruise line's negligence kills a retired passenger or child, the surviving family is barred from receiving compensation.   

Senator LeMieux has made a deal with Alaskan Senator Begich to support LeMieux if Begich's study amendment passes.  A classic I'll-scratch-your-back-if-you-scratch-mine.  Alaskan Senator Inouye's staff has been communicating with LeMieux's staff.

The Alcalde & Fay people have been pressuring Senator Nelson but have been unable to obtain his commitment to join forces with Senator LeMieux.  Ms. Bondi met with Senator Cantwell's Chief of Staff yesterday. 

Tabdy Bondi - Alcalde & Fay - Cruise Line Lobbyist Alcalde & Fay's consensus is that the Republicans will support LeMieux, so they are working on lobbying the Democrats.  Today they will be releasing a letter from the coalition of industries which are trying to keep the passengers and crew members from being included in DOHSA.

One of the coalition members is the American Waterways Operators (AWO), which is the trade association for the U.S. tugboat, towboat and barge industry. 

The AWO's Jennifer Campbell (Senior Vice President - National Advocacy) and Chris Coakley (Vice President - Legislative Affairs) have been lobbying on behalf of the AWO.  Ms. Campbell has been calling the Senators to try and derail the expansion of DOHSA, and Mr. Coakley has been walking the halls of Congress. 

The AWO lobbyist have been placing alot of pressure on Senator Vitter, who is in a key position Cruise LIne International Association - CLIA - BPbeing from Louisiana which is at the epicenter of the BP disaster. 

It is an amazing spectacle seeing the cruise industry using Senator LeMieux as a front man for its nefarious interests.  The cruise lines have a big industry shill in their hands.  Before he was a Senator, LeMieux lobbied heavily for offshore drilling by companies like BP off of the coast of Florida - a story which the St. Petersburg Time published BP - CLIA - Cruise Line International Associationlast year.

So we have kindred spirit companies, the cruise lines and BP and their maritime and oil & gas industry friends, teaming up to fight against the families to deprive them of their DOHSA remedies which are desperately needed to protect innocent people killed on the high seas.  

Two dirty industries are paying millions to their lobbyists to put profits over people again.     

Consider reading:

Death On The High Seas Act Protects BP and Cruise Lines at the Grieving Family's Expense 

What Does BP, Al Qaeda and a Cruise Line Have In Common? 

Cruise Industry Joins Forces With BP to Deny Death Compensation to Grieving Families

Will BP and the Cruise Industry Join Forces to Screw Americans?

 

Senator Le Mieux - BP - Cruise Lines - CLIA - Alcalde & Fay

Cruise Crime and the Indifference of Travel Writers

This was a historic week in the world of cruising.  

Congress passed the Cruise Vessel and Safety Act, which will help make cruising safer for U.S. families.  Cruise lines will be required to install peepholes in cabin doors, maintain anti-retroviral medications and rape kits for victims, improve crime evidence handling procedures and - for the first time in the history of the cruise industry - report crimes to the U.S. Coast Guard and the FBI.  

Travel Writers - Cruise - EthicsCongress also passed the "SPILL Act" (H.R. 5503) which removes the limitation of liability  for shipping companies, and amends the Death On The High Seas Act (DOHSA) to permit families to recover compensation when they lose a loved one on the high seas - whether it is on a drilling rig or a cruise ship.  In so doing, Congress finally repealed an archaic and wicked law that has inflicted additional pain on cruise victims for the past ninety years.  

These pieces of legislation are the results of the dedication and hard work of families of U.S. citizens killed in international waters, including members of the International Cruise Victims (ICV).  The ICV is a grass roots, non-profit organization comprised entirely of volunteers who have been a victim of a crime on a cruise ship or lost a loved one during a cruise.

These two new laws are truly historic. But you would never know it by reading the hundreds of cruise websites and travel-writer blogs.    

There are literally thousands of travel agents and travel writers who I follow daily on Twitter.  But not one blogger mentioned either one of these new bills.

The problem is that many of the travel writers and most of the cruise bloggers are shills for the cruise industry.  They sell cruises or advertise cruise banners on their web sites.  Many cruise lines invite them on all-expense-paid cruises in exchange for favorable cruise reviews.

The exception is Arthur Frommer, of the famous Frommer's Travel Guides, and his daughter Pauline Frommer who covers travel stories in her blog "Daily Briefings."  Ms. Frommer covered the cruise safety law in an article entitled In the Wee Hours This Morning, Cruising Just Got a Heckuva Lot Safer.  Mr. Frommer re-printed his daughter's article, and added a few personal comments, in A Cruise Line Safety Act Has Quietly Passed the House of Representatives.      

The Frommers explain the key provisions of the new law and recognize the remarkable efforts of the ICV over the past five years. 

Mr. Frommer acknowledges that "even the travel trade press has failed to take more than the barest notice of proposed legislation in Congress that would require the cruise lines to tighten up safety . . . "

The new maritime laws were passed only after years of resistance and millions of dollars of lobbying by the cruise industry's trade organization - the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) - which is comprised of 16,000 travel agents.  CLIA has a cozy relationship with many travel writers who choose not to offend the CLIA cruise lines by writing anything negative about the foreign flagged cruise industry.  We have touched upon this subject in Travel Writers and the Ethics of Reporting Cruise News.

CLIA unsuccessfully worked behind the scenes lobbying against the SPILL Act in an effort to deny the widows and children of the oil workers killed in the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster from receiving compensation - a disgusting spectacle we reported on in Cruise Industry Joins Forces With BP to Deny Death Compensation to Grieving Families

So it should come as no surprise that most travel writers and the CLIA cruise bloggers chose not to touch these stories.

But it is refreshing to see travel writers with integrity and ethics like Mr. Frommer and Ms. Frommer write about the cruise safety law which will protect the cruising public.   

July 7, 200 Update:

TNOOZ (Talking Trave Tech) has an interesting blog about my blog: "Are Travel Writers Shills For The Cruise Lines?"  A number of travel writers are commenting.

Congress Amends Death On High Seas Act Over Cruise Industry's Objections

John Conyers - DOHSA - Death On High Seas Act - BP - Cruise ShipToday, the House of Representatives passed a bill - H.R. 5503 (also known as the SPILL Act)  - which will amend the Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA).  H.R. 5503 will permit the widows and children of the oil rig workers killed in the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster to be compensated for their grief, mental anguish and suffering due to the deaths of their husbands and fathers.       

The bill was passed in the House today due to the efforts of the families of the 11 workers who died when the drilling rig exploded two months ago.  The families targeted their efforts on the obscure DOHSA law which does not recognize the suffering of children and spouses who lose loved ones on the high seas. 

The bill was introduced by Representative John Conyers, a Michigan Democrat, who chairs the BP - DOHSA - Death On High Seas Act - BP - Cruise ShipsU.S. House Judiciary Committee. 

We have reported on the sad death of oil worker Gordon Jones, who left behind a pregnant and loving wife and a young son, and the extraordinary efforts of his father who lobbied to change this unfavorable law. 

BP fought against the families.  So did the notorious Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), who lobbied behind the scenes to try and keep the oil rig wives and children from receiving compensation.

The amendment to DOHSA is also needed for families who have lost loved ones on cruises ships.  Hundreds of passengers have died on cruise ships due to the negligence of the cruise lines.   

Yesterday, we reported on the unconscionable efforts of CLIA.  We posted a letter which CLIA sent to legislators to oppose the efforts of the grieving families suffering from the BP explosion.   

CLIA - Cruise Line International Association - DOHSA - Death On High Seas ActToday, the bad guys - BP, Transocean and the cruise lines - lost.  The good guys won.

But the law still needs to be passed in the Senate.  BP, Transocean, and CLIA will be back - like vultures - to walk the halls of our Senate.  Bad companies like this will try and keep this much needed reform of DOHSA from being enacted into law.  

 

 

For additional information about DOHSA, consider reading:

What Does BP, Al Qaeda and a Cruise Line Have In Common?

Death On The High Seas Act Protects BP and Cruise Lines at the Grieving Family's Expense

Will BP and the Cruise Industry Join Forces to Screw Americans?

The Death on the High Seas Act - Screwing American Passengers for 89 Years

Cruise Industry Joins Forces With BP to Deny Death Compensation to Grieving Families

As we suspected, the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) is working behind the scenes to derail efforts to amend the Death On The High Seas Act (DOHSA).

Yesterday we obtained a copy of a letter (below) sent by CLIA to Congressional representatives in Florida.  CLIA is trying to rally opposition against H.R. 5503 which will permit widows and children recover compensation for their grief and emotional suffering when they lose their spouse / parent.     

CLIA - Cruise Line International Association - DOHSA - Death On High Seas Act  This is nothing new for CLIA, which has spent millions of dollars lobbying against reforms to this archaic law enacted back in 1920.

As we have stated in many articles about DOHSA, a cruise ship is the only location where a child or retired, elderly passenger can be killed and considered worthless in the eyes of the law.   

CLIA says it has no objection to "addressing" (whatever that means) the issue of compensation for the widows and children of the oil workers killed in the BP Deepwater Horizon explosion, yet it will not even commit to repealing DOHSA for these families.

CLIA claims that it opposes amending DOHSA because it will provide a remedy to "foreign workers."  The irony of such an outlandish and xenophobic comment is immediately obvious - all cruise lines are "foreign" entities, incorporated in "foreign" countries like Liberia (Royal Caribbean) or Panama (Carnival) for the singular purpose of avoiding U.S. taxes.  These "foreign"' corporations then flag their cruise ships in "foreign" countries to escape U.S. labor laws and safety regulations.

So why should the foreign flagged cruise industry be permitted to collect $35,000,000,000 ($ billion!) a year from U.S. taxpayers and avoid all U.S. taxes because of its "foreign" status, and then argue that families of dead "foreign" crew members should not be reasonably compensated when their loves ones die due to the negligence of the cruise lines?

The cruise industry is built on the backs of hundred of thousands of "foreign" crew members, many of who work 360 hours a month for only $545.  Their families are entitled to be compensated when their family members die due to the legal fault of the multi-billion dollar CLIA cruise lines?  Take a look at this letter which CLIA hoped would never be published:      

          CLIA - Cruise Line International Association - DOHSA - Death On High Seas act

 

CLIA fails to mention that the vast majority of people who die on cruise are Americans!  As matters now stand, the lives of stay-at-home-parents, children, elderly and retired people, and gay men and women who die at sea with no dependents have no value under DOHSA.  

The International Cruise Victims (ICV) has been battling CLIA for years to amend DOHSA.  But CLIA pays millions of dollars to lobby Congress each year, whereas the ICV is penniless and is comprised of only volunteers.  Mother Jones addresses the disparity between CLIA and the ICV in an article "Love Boat Lobby Fights BP Victims." 

Below is a partial list of the loved ones of ICV members who were denied compensation because of DOHSA.  This is just a small number of the hundreds of loved ones who die on cruise ships each year.  

Why should victims of the BP explosion and hundreds of U.S. citizens be denied compensation because of CLIA's heartless and mean-spirited decision to deny compensation to "foreign" crew members?

Does CLIA tell the crew members their lives are of no value?

Do the 16,000 travel agents who comprise CLIA know that its trade organization doesn't care about foreign crew members, U.S. children and retirees who die at sea on cruise?

Travel agents -  when you sell your client cruises, do you tell that if they die due to the negligence of the cruise lines, their lives are of no value?   And do you tell them CLIA is lobbying Congress to make certain that the law stays that way?   

Disgusted by the cruise industry's heartless attitude?  Do something about it.  Support H.R. 5503.  Call your Congressman or Congresswoman.

Leave a comment below and tell us what you think. 

ICV - International Cruise Victims - DOSHA - Death On High Seas Act

Death On The High Seas Act Protects BP and Cruise Lines at the Grieving Family's Expense

Gordon Jones has been in the news lately.  Have you heard of him?

Probably not. 

But you all have heard of the companies that killed him:  Oil giant BP, and Transocean - the operator of the foreign flagged drilling rig, Deepwater Horizon.

Gordon Jones - Death On The High Seas Act - DOHSA - BPGordon was just 28 years old when he died on April 20th.  He left a pregnant wife and child behind. His Facebook page lists his favorite movies as Caddyshack, Blazing Saddles, and National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.  So you know he had a great sense of humor.

But his family will never hear his laughter again.

Gordon Jones' death focuses the public on an injustice which has plagued Americans for ninety years.  Under an archaic law passed in 1920 called the Death On The High Seas Act (DOHSA), his wife cannot be compensated for her sadness, suffering and grief.  His children will grow up without a father due to BP's malfeasance.  But they cannot be compensated for the loss of their dad's love, nurture and guidance. 

The law will not permit it. 

DOHSA prohibits the grieving Jones family from recovering any compensation except the wages earned or to be earned by their father and husband. We have written about this inequitable archaic law before - "The Death on the High Seas Act - Screwing American Passengers for 89 Years."

Gordon Jones's story was recently covered in an article in Mother Jones - "Will the Cruise Industry Do BP's Dirty Work? 

Today, CNN ran an article entitled "My Son's Family Deserves More from BP."  The article was written by Gordon's father, Louisiana lawyer Keith Jones, who is interviewed by Larry King in the video below.

Gordon Jones and son Mr. Jones' emotional grief over losing his son is overwhelming.  But he is objective while explaining that DOHSA's prohibition against compensating his daughter-in-law and grandchildren is as illogical as it is unfair.  He is taking steps to repeal DOHSA.  Due to Mr. Jones' efforts, the Senate is considering a bill (Senate Bill 3463  introduced by Senator Leahey, and House Resolution 5503 by John Conyers) to repeal DOHSA. Both bills will permit damages for the surviving family members' loss of care, company and companionship - rather than just the dead man's earnings.    

As the CNN article points out, foreign flagged cruise ships - and foreign flagged drilling rigs - love DOHSA.  These industries and their lobbyists will dig in and fight the efforts to change the law, as Gordon's father point out in the CNN article:

"Support for these bills is growing, but we expect opposition from all the companies who don't want to pay fair compensation when, by their fault, someone on board their vessel is killed.  Cruise lines have consistently opposed changes to DOHSA.  Many of their passengers are, because of their youth or advanced age, not providing financial support to anyone.  If a cruise ship crew member negligently kills one of these passengers, the cruise line is liable for funeral expenses and nothing more. All companies involved in offshore drilling and shipping have been vigorously opposed to changes in DOHSA."  

Travel agents, cruise specialists, and cruise fans reading this - is this what you wish to support?   Your trade organization, the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), pays lobbyists millions to walk the halls of Congress and lobby against changing DOHSA.  They want to make certain that the families of good, hard working people like Gordon Jones receive nothing for their grief, pain and suffering when they lose a loved on the high seas.

Don't let reckless corporations ruin our environment and people's lives and get away with it.

Do you want to help?  Call us.  Contact your Congressman or Congresswoman.  Leave a comment below and let us know what you think.  Do something, now.

 

 

Credits:

Photograph of Gordon Jones family      CNN

Photograph of Gordon Jones and son    Gordon Jones Facebook

Video      Larry King Live

Will BP and the Cruise Industry Join Forces to Screw Americans?

Mother Jones published an interesting article this morning by  Stephanie Mencimer, "Will the Cruise Industry Do BP's Dirty Work?" about how the cruise line lobbyists may join forces with BP to help the oil company dodge liability for the eleven workers killed on the Transocean drilling rig.

BP - Transocean Deepwater Horizon Rig - DOSHAYou see the drilling rig is considered to be a vessel for purposes of maritime law.  And when an employee (or passenger) is killed on a vessel in international waters, the case is governed by the Death on the High Seas Act (DOSHA).  

Enacted in 1920, DOHSA prohibits the families of loved ones lost at sea to recover any compensation for their grief, sadness and bereavement or their children's loss of love, nurture and guidance.  We have written about this outdated and inequitable law before: "The Death on the High Seas Act - Screwing American Passengers for 89 Years."  The cruise industry and its trade organization spend millions each year lobbying against efforts to repeal DOHSA.

So when the BP oil well exploded and killed the oil workers, the lawyers for BP undoubtedly began to educate their negligent client that liability for the dead men would be limited under DOHSA solely to the wages they earned.  There is no liability for the dead men's pain and suffering after they were burned and lay dying, or their fear of imminent death, or the mental anguish and suffering of their wives and children.     

Mother Jones points out that one of the rig workers who was killed was single and childless. That means his family would only be entitled to recover funeral expenses under DOHSA.  But because his body was never found after the rig blew up, there is nothing to bury.  BP could get away with paying as little as $1,000 for his death. 

There are representatives in Congress, including Senator Leahy, who will introduce legislation to repeal DOHSA so that families of the oil workers are reasonably compensated.  But the article predicts that:    

"There’s another powerful industry with an interest in doing BP's dirty work to preserve the status quo. That would be cruise line operators - and when it comes to Beltway battles, the Son Michael Pham - Death On High Seas Actcruise lobby is no Love Boat."

The article addressed the sad story of Son Michael Pham (photo right), the vice president of the International Cruise Victims Association. (Mr. Pham is the founder of the non-profit organization Kids Without Borders).

As the article explains: "In 2005, his parents went on a Caribbean cruise and never came back. Carnival Cruise Line, one of the world’s largest cruise operators, never offered any explanation for what had happened, and has refused to discuss the incident with Pham and his family since then. That was how Pham discovered the horrible divide in the way the law treats people killed through negligence at sea. "We couldn't take legal action to get justice," he says. Long before the BP explosion, his group was lobbying Congress for DOHSA to be overhauled . . .

Finally, in 2009, the cruise ship victims succeeded in getting legislation introduced with help from Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) that would have updated DOHSA in just the way Leahy has proposed. That change would have allowed families of cruise ship victims to sue for non-economic damages - a huge deal for cruise-goers, because so many are retired and have no salaries that would provide the basis of a legal award under the current law . . .

Mr. Hue Pham - Mrs. Hue Tran - DOHSABut the cruise industry spent $2.2 million fighting these changes. The Carnival cruise line company alone has donated more than $400,000 since 2007 to members of Congress from both parties, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The offending provision was eventually removed from the cruise-ship safety bill.

The Cruise Lines International Association did not return requests for comment. But Pham says he has no doubt that the DOHSA revision will not slip by without the lobbyists’ notice. "Cruise lines absolutely didn’t want DOHSA to be part of that [2009 bill] at all," he says, noting that the industry would suddenly become liable for all sorts of incidents that it's currently able to dodge legal responsibility for - everything from on-board murders to rapes to mysterious disappearances like that of Pham’s parents. "It’s an industry that self-polices. When there’s an incident on board, there’s nobody but themselves investigating themselves. You're not going to turn yourself in."

 

What do you think of DOHSA?  Please leave a comment below. 

Are you a travel agent or cruise specialists who is a member of CLIA?  Do you think that CLIA should spend millions of dollars a year lobbying to make certain that families on cruise ships lose their rights under DOHSA? 

 

Credits:

Deepwater Horizon Explosion          U.S. Coast Guard

"Pleasure Cruises Bring Risks Too" Features Cruise Victims

An article in the Baltimore Sun entitled "Pleasure Cruise Bring Risks, Too" addresses the limited liability of cruise lines when tragedy strikes a family during a cruise.  Written by Frank Roylance, the article begins with the sad circumstances of Carnival cruise passenger Carol Olson who died during what appears to be a very lax, unsupervised and negligently operated snorkeling excursion in the Bahamas. 

Mr. Roylance discusses injuries, deaths, and crimes on cruise ships and the frustration experienced by cruise passengers seeking accountability from the foreign flagged cruise ships sailing from ports like Baltimore where Ms. Olson sailed from not to return.  Notwithstanding the fact that the cruise industry collects over $35 billion from Americans each year, cruise lines argue Internatonal Cruise Victims - ICV - Ken Carver - Lynnette Hudsonthat the cruise excursion companies and ship doctors are "independent contractors" and deaths are governed by the "Death On The High Seas Act."  Called "DOHSA," this outdated law provides no recovery for a cruise passenger's pain and suffering or the grief, bereavement, sadness and mourning of surviving family members.

Cruise lines have erected all of these legal obstacles to limit or take away cruise passengers' rights.

The article mentions the story of Ken Carver, the President of the International Cruise Victims ("ICV"), who lost his daughter Merrian during a cruise aboard the Celebrity Mercury cruise ship.  Following her disturbing and mysterious "disappearance," the cruise covered the incident up and lied to the Carver family.

Another member of the ICV mentioned in the article is firm client Lynnette Hudson who lost her father, Richard Liffridge, because of a fire on Princess Cruises' Star Princess cruise ship.  Because of DOHSA, which provides no compensation to retired passengers on cruise ships, the cruise line "didn't offer anything to my family. Not even a sympathy card," said Ms. Liffridge.

The article also mentioned the problem of crimes on cruise ships and the "Vessel Safety and Security Act" which, once enacted into law, will require cruise lines to report shipboard crimes to the FBI for the first time in the history of the cruise industry.

Cruise Line International Association - CLIA - PR - PravdaLanie Fagan, a PR spokesperson for the cruise industry's lobbying company, Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), wrote to the Baltimore Sun claiming that cruise lines "already are required by law to report serious crimes to U.S. authorities."  This is a false statement.  There is absolutely no law requiring cruise lines to report rapes, assaults and other crimes against Americans in international waters to the FBI or the U.S. Coast Guard. 

Unfortunately, this is just another false PR statement from a cruise industry sorely lacking in credibility.  In response to this falsehood, the newspaper quoted me stating:

"If there was a law, then why didn't they report the suspicious disappearance of Merrian Carver? And why weren't they fined when it was revealed that they covered it up?"

 

The article is re-printed below in its entirety:

PLEASURE CRUISES BRING RISKS, TOO - Families Say Tragedies Expose Cruise Lines' Limited Liability

Cruise lines make their money offering vacationers more of everything: Sunshine, food and drink, excitement.

But when tragedy strikes — when a passenger is injured, or dies, or simply disappears — survivors say the cruise lines can be downright stingy: Reluctant to accept responsibility, tight even with information about what happened.

Long-established U.S. Maritime law limits the lines' financial liability, in the event of the death of a passenger, to lost income, so there is often no compensation for the loss of the very young or the retired beyond funeral expenses, legal experts say.

The death of Carol Martin Olson stirred an unwelcome sense of déjà vu among those who have lost loved ones about cruise ships.

The 71-year-old Reisterstown woman, a passenger aboard the Carnival Pride, died April 30 while on a snorkeling tour off Freeport in the Bahamas. Bahamian authorities have ruled the death an accidental drowning.

"My heart goes out to [Olson's] family," said Lynnette Hudson, 46, of Bear, Del, whose father died of smoke inhalation when his cruise ship caught fire off Jamaica in 2006.

"The family is going to be dealing with a brick wall, and the cruise industry is going to tell them her life had no value. They will not take responsibility for the things they should be accountable for," Hudson said.

Lanie Fagan, a spokeswoman for the Cruise Lines International Association, said passenger safety is the industry's "number one priority," and that cruise lines are obligated to exercise "reasonable care in the sale of shore excursions." The companies also share a "zero-tolerance policy when it comes to crime."

But advocates for cruise passengers say few people who board the big liners for carefree vacations are aware of just how much risk they bear.

The issue is increasingly significant for Marylanders as Baltimore grows as a cruise hub. Five lines now sail from the Locust Point Cruise Terminal. More than 165,000 passengers left port in 2009 on 81 cruises. The commerce pumped an estimated $152 million into the local economy and sustained 1,550 jobs, according to the Maryland Port Administration.

Olson and her husband, Harry A. Olson, left Baltimore on April 25 aboard the Carnival Pride, along with several members of their church, Trinity Lutheran in Reisterstown. On April 30th, with the ship in Freeport on Grand Bahama Island, they joined a snorkeling tour they had booked through Carnival.

The tour was operated by a third-party contractor that Carnival officials say they have dealt with for 10 years.

Other snorkelers said the tour was advertised as requiring "moderate exercise." But they told The Baltimore Sun that they were taken to a reef where waves and strong currents quickly exhausted even relatively young, strong swimmers, pulling them away from the boat.

"I consider myself a pretty strong swimmer," said Lyn Halavats, 46, of Troy, Mo. She said she and her husband were among the first off the boat. "I wanted to get in as much snorkeling as I could."

But in just 10 or 15 minutes, she said, "I was pretty far from the boat, and I kind of started to panic. … I started to swim pretty hard, but I wasn't getting anywhere."

With considerable effort, she managed to get back near the boat, where she saw Olson, who still had a snorkel in her mouth, but appeared unconscious as passengers and crew struggled to get her onto the boat.

Passengers interviewed by The Baltimore Sun said crew members seemed unprepared, or unwilling to perform CPR leaving passengers to attempt it. The boat was not equipped with ship-to-shore radio, the passengers said, and it took 90 minutes or more to get Olson to medical help in Freeport, where she was pronounced dead.

Carnival spokesman Vance Gulliksen contradicted the passengers' accounts. He said Friday that the tour boat crew had both radio and cell phones. They alerted their office, which brought an ambulance to the dock. Four of the five crewmen were CPR-trained, he said, but "since CPR was being administered properly by other guests, the captain allowed that process to continue."

Gulliksen said the weather at the time was "good," and the tour was on a side of the island sheltered from the wind. He said that while Carnival provides "general" guidelines, "the guest also must evaluate their own fitness level" in deciding on a tour. Refunds are available to those who back out, he said.

Jennifer de la Cruz, also with Carnival, expressed "heartfelt condolences" to Olson's family. Mr. Olson and his son, David B. Olson, were assisted in the Bahamas by a Carnival "Care Team."

Fagan, the industry spokeswoman said, cruise lines have a responsibility to "exercise reasonable care in the sale of shore excursions," and "a legal duty not to sell excursions they believe to be unsafe." Carnival has suspended its contract with the tour provider.

But Jim Walker, a Florida attorney who specializes in cruise line litigation, said passengers are largely on their own when they take shore tours with third parties under contract to the cruise lines.

When they market the tours, the lines "do business with passengers on the promise that these [tours] have been vetted, and investigated, and that they have better safety records" than tours passengers might find on their own, Walker said. And, the lines get a cut of the fees passengers pay for the tours.

The cruise companies are legally obligated to warn passengers of any dangers associated with the tour. And they are required to scrutinize the tour operators, inspect their facilities, safety protocols and operations.

So, "as long as they do that basic investigation, they're going to say they fully complied with the law," Walker said. That clears the cruise line.

Even if the tour company is then negligent, he said, "that does not create negligence on behalf of the cruise line." And when the tour operators are not U.S. companies, the families of passengers who are killed or injured will have a difficult time suing them directly.

Similar problems can arise with medical issues involving shipboard doctors, who Walker said are typically are not U.S.-trained or licensed.

"The cruise lines are not liable for the negligence of the ship's doctors," he said. "They are independent contractors."

Kendall Carver is chairman of International Cruise Victims, which advocates for the families of people who are victims of crimes or accidents on cruise lines. When tragedy strikes, he said, the cruise companies typically provide little information or compensation to passengers' families.

Carver said he lost his 40-year-old daughter, Merrian, when she disappeared on an Alaska cruise in 2004. She was never found.

"We hired a private investigator, and two law firms," he said. "All we wanted to do was talk to the steward, and that took court action in Massachusetts and Florida."

They eventually learned Merrian had been reported missing daily by the steward. "Cover-up was standard operating procedure," Carver said.

Collecting compensation for family members who are lost on board is also problematic.

Passenger or crew deaths that occur beyond U.S. territorial waters fall under the Death on the High Seas Act, which limits damages strictly to financial losses.

"No pre-death pain and suffering, no grief, bereavement, sadness of the husband or her family," Walker said. "The total damages that can be awarded are strictly financial losses."

When victims in these cases are children, or retired and no longer earning money, all that can be recovered are funeral and burial expenses. And that's normally too little to warrant the costs of the lawsuit, Walker said. "It's not a case anyone would pursue."

Lynnette Hudson, whose father died in the ship fire off Jamaica, said her family got little assistance from the cruise line, and they had to read the maritime accident report to learn how he died.

When they brought a wrongful death suit, they learned that under the Death on the High Seas Act, her father's life, because he was 72 and retired, had no monetary value. "They didn't offer anything to my family. Not even a sympathy card," she said.

Some crime-related problems would be addressed by legislation now pending before Congress, Walker said. The Cruise Safety and Security Act has already passed the House. A Senate vote is expected soon.

For the first time, Walker said, cruise lines sailing in or out of U.S. ports would be required to report all crimes to the FBI and the Coast Guard. Ships would also be required to carry rape kits and anti-retroviral medicines to protect rape victims from HIV infections.

And the cruise companies would have to make public all shipboard crimes. "The public will know the crimes that occur and see which ships have the greatest problems," Walker said.

Fagan, the industry spokeswoman, said the cruise lines already are required by law to report serious crimes to U.S. authorities.

"Under the proposed legislation, the procedures for reporting allegations of crimes will be clarified and further codified, goals the cruise industry fully supports," she said.

But Walker said the existing requirement applies only to crimes that occur in U.S. waters.

"The cruise industry has always taken the position … that you can't touch us unless we are in U.S. waters," he said. "If there was a law, then why didn't they report the suspicious disappearance of Merrian Carver? And why weren't they fined when it was revealed that they covered it up?"

Walker said the new legislation, if passed, will be "a major improvement on issues of crime," he said, but it does not address liability issues related to the Death on the High Seas Act, or third-party contractors, such as tour operators and shipboard doctors.

"That's our next step," Carver said.

 

Credits:

Article -  Frank Roylance of the Baltimore Sun; Sun reporter Michelle Deal-Zimmerman contributed to the article. 

Carnival Cruise Excursion Drowning Death

The Baltimore Sun reports on the death of a 71 year old passenger from Reisterstown, Maryland , Carol Olson, during a snorkeling excursion in the Bahamas.  Ms. Olson was a passenger on Carnival's Pride cruise ship and booked the excursion from the cruise line. 

Other passengers described having problems with the current. The excursion was described as poorly managed with no one from the excursion boat in the water assisting the snorkelers. 

Carol Olson - Carnival CruiseThe Baltimore Sun has an informative article which summarizes the dangers of cruise excursion and the pitfalls which Americans face if they lose a loved one during a cruise or an excursion sold by the cruise line.  The article is entitled "Cruise Passengers Describe Fatal Snorkel Tour."

Carnival's PR spokesperson Jennifer de la Cruz refused to provide any information to the Baltimore Sun, but released a statement stating in part:

"This was an extremely unusual and tragic situation and we … have suspended the tour and will be taking a close look at the details surrounding what transpired."

The problem is that Carnival will never reveal the results of their investigation to the public or even Ms. Olson's family.  

The situation is governed by the Death On The High Seas Act, which we have discussed in prior articles.  Most passengers do not realize that the recoverable compensation for retired passengers involving maritime deaths outside U.S. waters is limited to funeral / burial expenses.  Carnival collects approximately 12 billion dollars a year in cruise and excursion sales and pays no Federal income tax.  But it is protected from responsibility because of DOHSA.  Without financial accountability, there is no incentive for companies like Carnival to invest into making certain that their passengers are reasonably safe during excursions like this.

    

 

 

Credits:

Photograph   WBAL TV Baltimore

Video      ABC2News.com

Cruise Industry Tries to Kill Amendment to Death on the High Seas Act

Congressman Bobby Scott (D-VA) has introduced an amendment to the Death on the High Seas Act ("DOHSA") to permit families to recover reasonable compensation when a loved one dies in international waters.

DOHSA Is Unfair to Passengers

As matters now stand, a cruise line is the only place in the world where a child or a retired passenger's life is of absolutely no consequence in the eyes of the law. We have written about this in the past.  Our last blog is entitled " The Death on the High Seas Act - Screwing American Passengers for 89 Years."

DOHSA is an ancient law and needs to be changed.

CLIA Loves DOHSA 

The Cruise Line International Association ("CLIA") is trying to kill the amendment.  CLIA has dispatched a small army of lawyers and lobbyists to Congress to kill the amendment.  CLIA doesn't explain to its 13,000,000 cruise customers or 16,000 travel agents that cruise passengers have few rights when they die during a cruise.  CLIA is working hard behind the scenes to make certain that the amendment does not come up for a vote tomorrow.

If CLIA kills the DOHSA amendment, the multi-billion dollar, non-tax paying cruise lines and their rich insurance companies will be very, very happy.  

The Death on the High Seas Act - Screwing American Passengers for 89 Years

If you are retired or a child and die on a cruise ship due to the cruise ship's negligence, the cruise line will consider your life to be worthless under current maritime law.

Your family will face a law called the Death on the High Seas Act, commonly known as "DOHSA." In 1920, Congress passed DOHSA to provide for limited recovery when a seaman died at sea. Congress did not want widows to become destitute when their husbands died in international waters. So they passed DOHSA which provides that a widow can recover her husband’s wages and, perhaps, some money to bury him if his body was found.

DOHSA Provides No Recovery for Pain, Suffering, Grief, or Bereavement if You or Your Loved One Dies at Sea

Applied to cruise lines, DOHSA provides no recovery at all in many circumstances. Surviving family members may potentially recover only limited financial damages after proving the cruise line’s negligence caused the death. However, there is no recovery for the deceased passenger’s pain, agony and suffering before he dies. The surviving family members’ grief and bereavement are irrelevant. The children’s loss of their parent’s love, guidance and nurturing are of no consequence.

All of these damages may be recoverable if you die in a car accident or airplane accident en route to the port. But on the high seas, only financial losses such as lost wages or burial/funeral expenses are permitted.

For this reason, there is no basis for any recovery if the missing passenger is a retiree or a child. If the body of a retired passenger is not recovered, and there are no burial expenses, the family receives nothing. This is a hard pill for a grieving family to swallow. Most people who contact our office are dumbfounded when they learn this.

Cruise Lines Love DOHSA

Unlike companies ashore, cruise lines face virtually no financial exposure when their guests are killed or disappear. Even if the cruise line is clearly negligent or acts maliciously, DOHSA provides no recovery when the victim is a retiree or a child.  Cruise lines and their insurance companies profit greatly due to this ancient law.

Historically, DOHSA was applied to aviation disasters when airplanes crashed in international waters. The families of dead children or elderly (retired) parents were excluded from any recovery by virtue of DOHSA. But following the crash of a jet in the Atlantic full of US citizens (TWA flight 800), the American public became outraged by this injustice. In response, Congress excluded air travel from DOHSA. The same thing needs to happen with cruise travel.

Victims Fight for A Change

The International Cruise Victims organization ("ICV") has been trying to amend DOHSA to permit the recovery of fair compensation when passengers die during cruises. A cruise safety bill pending before Congress originally contained a provision to amend DOHSA so that there is no difference if an American citizen dies ashore or at sea. The cruise industry spent millions of dollars lobbying Congress to eliminate the amendment. Ultimately, the cruise lines’ big bucks and PR machine won out.

As far as deaths on ships go, DOHSA is just the way it existed in 1920 – 89 years ago. In 1920, relatively few passengers cruised a year. Now the number is around 13,000,000. Congress never envisioned that DOHSA would bar all recovery for any of the million of retired passengers and children who cruise annually. The Cruise Line International Association ("CLIA") doesn’t tell its 13,000,000 customers or 16,000 travel agents that it lobbies each year to make certain that DOHSA remains in place.

A cruise line is the only place in the world where a child or retired passenger’s life is of absolutely no consequence in the eyes of the law. Die on a cruise ship due to bad medical care or disappear under mysterious circumstances? The cruise lines have spent millions of dollars to make certain that your loved ones don’t get a dime.