Thomas Aquinas Ferry Collides with MV Sulpicio Express Cargo Ship: Hundreds of Passengers Missing

A maritime disaster is unfolding in the Philippines after the passenger ferry MV Thomas Aquinas sank after colliding with a large cargo ship, the MV Sulpicio Express, near the port of Cebu. 

The ferry was carrying 752 passengers, including children and infants, and 118 crew members. 

More than 200 people are missing after passengers were forced to jump into the water. Some managed to get into life rafts but many others were trapped into the ferry as it sank. Divers are combing through the sunken ferry, which rests at around 100 feet underwater, to retrieve the bodies of the missing. 629 people were rescued.

BBC News reports that maritime accidents are common in the Philippine waters because of badly maintained passenger vessels and weak enforcement of safety regulations.

The world's worst maritime disaster occurred in the Philippines in December 1987 when more than 4,000 people died after the Dona Paz ferry collided with a tanker and sank.

Photo Credit: Reuters (top) / Reuters (bottom)

Sulpicio Express - Thomas Aquinas Collision

Thomas Aquinas - Sulpicio Express

"Maritime Matters" - A Cruise Blog That You Must Read!

I'm not always right.

Despite the ego that I have grown to compete in the dog-eat-dog world of cruise line litigation against Fortune 200 cruise corporations in Miami Florida, every day I realize that I, too, make errors of perception, of judgment, and of acknowledgment.

Last year, I wrote an article about what I thought were the "top 12 best cruise blogs."  Boy did I make a major mistake.  I omitted one of the best cruise line blogs around. 

Peter Knego - Martin Cox - Maritime Matters Martin Cox's "Maritime Matters" is brilliant.

It has the perfect balance of current cruise news coupled with fascinating historical chronicles of the cruise industry.

What peaked my interest into publisher Mr. Cox's extraordinary website were the recent and utterly fascinating stories of co-editor Peter Knego's Journey to Giglio and his trip to explore the first and only atomic cruise ship the N/S SAVANNAH. The photography, information and perspective are rather amazing.

Take a minute, leave my blog of admittedly depressing stories of crimes against cruise passengers and mistreatment of crew members and other bad cruise line news. Travel through Maritime Matters' entertaining world of cruise lines, past and future.

Cruise Law News' grade of Maritime Matters?  A+

 

Photo credit: Peter Knego

Cruise Lawyers - You Can Love 'Em or Hate 'Em, But You Need Them.

Yesterday I mentioned our blog's three year anniversary. I was pleased to receive some positive comments back from our readers, particularly on our facebook page. Here is one comment that I received via email from a travel agent which I thought was nice: 

"Congratulations on three very successful, provocative, educational and to say the least enlightening years. As a travel professional your articles have caused me to reconsider may things I advise my clients on when it comes not only to cruising but while taking land vacations also.

Thanks for all the good work."

One of our goals is to educate the public about some of the hidden dangers of cruising. So it's encouraging to hear from travel agents who read our blog and learn that they are mentioning some of the issues and safety points we discuss here.

Cruise Ship Lawyer Miami - Royal Caribbean - CarnivalBut our anniversary also brought us hate e-mail as well.  

When I read emails like the one below, I realize that there is no question that we live in a polarized society. Half of the public understands the need for lawyers to help weak & injured people, and to try and keep large corporations in line. The other half of the public views trial lawyers are a sign of the apocalypse:   

"So why do we have to wait in line to sign the silly waivers to do anything like skate, climb or ride the flowrider? You Ambulance chasers make me ashamed to be an American! I've been on many cruises and they are working extremely hard providing an outstanding and safe product. You don't fool most of us -- we know it's all about money! Why don't you get a real job instead of feeding on the labor of others? I have had many conversations with workers on ships -- you know they think we Americans are a bunch of lazy bums looking to sue. It's true -- they laugh at our silly warning labels!

Thank you Mr Lawyer! Mr. Ambulance Chaser."

When I receive emails like this I have to stop and scratch my head. "Waivers" on cruise ships are against the law. There is absolutely no reason to ever stand in a line on a cruise ship to sign a waiver because they are null, void and unenforceable.

Why are they illegal?  Because lawyers fought for injured passengers. In a case we handled, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeal recently struck down a cruise line waiver which purported to strip passengers of their legal rights before they can participate in activities like zip lines, wall climbing, flowriders, rock climbing and skating.

Cruise lines hire large teams of lawyers to advance their legal interests. Any case filed against a Miami-based cruise line will be assigned to a team of lawyers and legal assistants - a partner, senior associate, junior associate and a paralegal or two.

In big cases, cruise lines hire a proverbial city of lawyers. Costa cruise line hired dense lawyers in Rome, Genoa, New York, London, Washington DC and Miami to represent it following the Costa Concordia disaster.  

An average passenger or crew member does not stand a chance against a large corporation like Carnival or Royal Caribbean unless they hire a lawyer.

Yes, there are some silly warning signs on some products which are not needed. We can all agree on that and have a good laugh. But if you are a victim of a crime or serious injury during a cruise and don't hire a lawyer, it will be the cruise line who will be having a laugh at your expense. 

Cruise Law News Celebrates Three Year Anniversary!

This month marks the three year anniversary of my blog, Cruise Law News ("CLN").

I started this blog in September 2009 with the goal of writing about "everything the cruise lines don't want you to know." There has been a lot to write about.

Shipboard rapes. Molestation of children. Mistreatment of foreign crew members. Overboard passengers and crew. Cruise line cover-ups. You can read it all here.

Three years later, CLN has now published over 1,100 articles and received over 3,200 comments from our readers. The CLN Twitter feed has over 10,000 followers, plus those who subscribe to the blog via email, RSS feed, or Google reader.

Perhaps the most exciting thing about CLN lately is the explosion of our readership on our Facebook page. Over 18,500 people have "liked" CLN's Facebook and are spreading the word.

All of the drama following the Costa Concordia disaster has driven our readership up considerably. So far this year, 724,328 people have read 2,575,675 pages of Cruise Law News.

Being popular is nice, but being influential in shaping cruise news is where the real satisfaction comes Cruise Law News - Cruise Ship Crimefrom. The national and international press have carried our message to the public  You can read about the over 35 major newspapers, television and documentaries which have mentioned our firm and/or cited our blog this year, below.

Just this this week Fort Lauderdale's Sun Sentinel quoted CLN in an article about the latest passenger overboard from a Royal Caribbean cruise ship. While Royal Caribbean was boasting that it "immediately" notified the Coast Guard, we pointed out that in truth the cruise line waited over 2 hours to do so.  A few days later we were the first in the U.S. to report on a crew member who disappeared from another Royal Caribbean cruise ship, the Serenade of the Seas

The Concordia fallout led to two Congressional hearings this year which we attended and blogged from Washington D.C. about the cruise industry's strategy to bamboozle the public about the safety of cruising. (Photo above right, with members of the International Cruise Victims' organization).     

Chris Owens, a popular cruise blogger who writes for Gadling, characterized our blog as follows:

"Jim Walker’s Cruise Law News adds a sobering tone to what can be an industry that sometimes gets a bit wrapped up in itself, asking and answering tough questions about current maritime matters. First on the doorstep of cruise lines when things go wrong, Walker also does not hesitate to jump into the conversation when passengers have unreasonable demands."

This year we have been very vocal about the sad state of affairs of the cruise industry post Costa Concordia, as well as the plight of families of missing loved ones on cruise ships.  Below is a video from Australia's Dateline regarding the disturbing disappearance of Disney youth counselor Rebecca Coriam from the Bahamian-flagged Disney Wonder.  This is a case where, in my opinion, the Bahamian police and the Disney corporation have stonewalled the grieving family at every turn.  

A heartfelt thanks to the readers of this blog. Many thanks to those I don't know but who send me anonymous tips about things that the cruise lines are trying to cover up.  

Finally, thanks to everyone who helps me write about "everything the cruise lines don't want you to know."    

 

 

In this year (2012) alone, CLN and our clients have been featured on CNN's Wolf Blitzer & Erin Burnett, Wall street Journal's "Cruise Safety, a Century After Titanic," Australian Sun Herald's "Boozy Cruises a Recipe For Disaster Expert Warns," Travel Agent Central's "Lawsuits Target Carnival in the U.S. But Will They Succeed?," Examiner's "Costa Favolosa Dancer From South Africa Lost At Sea," USA TODAY's  "Stats Don't Fully Account For All Cruise-Ship Crime," ABC News' "Vacation Danger: Is Cruise Ship Liable for Perils on Shore Excursions?," Virgin Islands Daily News' "Court Rules Lawsuit Over Slain Teen Tourist Should Be Heard," Washington Post's "Dumped in the Caribbean," Newsweek's "The Hidden Horrors of Cruise Ships," CNN's "Cruise Victims Get Minimum Compensation," CNN's "Cruise to Disaster," Daily Business Review's "Lawyer Wins $1.25 Million in Arbitration For Employee Injured Aboard Cruise Ship," South Florida Business Journal's Is Salon Article A Smoking Gun On Cruise Line Crime Stats?, Greenwich Magazine's "Who Killed George Smith?," PBS / NOVA Cruise Special: "Why Ships Sink," Houston Chronicle's "Court Leaves Galveston Cruise Ship Departure Uncertain Until Last Minute," Date Line's "Lost at Sea," Herald Sun's "Cruise Ships Perfect Ground for Predators," 20/20 "Costa Concordia Crash," CNBC's "Travel: Do You Need Medical Evacuation Insurance?," CTV / Canadian Television's "Crime, Fires Compromise Cruise Ship Safety: Experts," International Herald Tribune / New York Times' "Disaster Cripples Cruiser, Not Cruising," Washington Post's "Costa Concordia Sinking Leaves Other Cruise Ship Passengers Alarmed — And Out Of Luck," Cleveland Plain Dealer's "Cruise Ship Accident Prompts Questions About Industry Safety," Examiner"s Passengers Blame Carnival Corporation for Costa Concordia Wreck," Washington Post's "The Ship Sailed, But They Didn't;" and Barbados Free Press' Cruise Ship Horror Stories Good for Island Tourism?

Walker & O'Neill Featured in "Top Verdicts and Settlements" for $1,250,000 Verdict for Injured Crewmember Against Royal Caribbean

The Daily Business Review released "Top Verdicts & Settlements" for last year.  You can click on the digital version here.

We obtained the highest award in an admiralty / maritime case in Florida in 2011.  The case involved an injured crew member from Royal Caribbean's Jewel of the Seas who the cruise line sent back to Serbia and then denied her appropriate medical care and treatment.

We flew our client to Miami and arranged for her to see a board certified orthopedic surgeon who recommended surgery.  Royal Caribbean sent her to a local "litigation doctor" who never testifies that injured crewmembers need surgery.

The three arbitrators ruled that the cruise line failed to provide our client with a safe place to work and was 100% negligent for causing her accident.

The arbitrators also found that Royal Caribbean refused to provide prompt and adequate medical treatment to its injured cruise employee, and that its failure to authorize the necessary surgery "lacked any reasonable defense."

The arbitrators awarded our client $1,250,000, the highest amount in a crewmember case last year and the most ever in a cruise arbitration matter.      


Injured On A Cruise Ship? Call Cruise Law in Miami.

Walker & O'Neill maritime lawyers in Miami handle cases exclusively cases against cruise lines.

Our firm has handled many high profile cases involving cruise ship fires, sexual assaults against women and children, and disappearances of passengers and crew around the world. We routinely represent passengers across the United States in serious injury cases, against Carnival, Celebrity, Disney, Holland America, Norwegian, Princess and Royal Caribbean cruise lines.

Jim Walker and Lisa O'Neill are both cum laude graduates from Duke University where they met 34 years ago.  Jim attended Tulane Law School in New Orleans and has practiced maritime law since 1983.  Lisa was a member of law review at the University of Florida Law School and has practiced law since 1985.

In the last couple months alone, the firm has appeared on numerous international television program and Walker and O'Neill Maritime Lawyers - Cruise Law Miami Floirda cruise documentaries.  Jim was featured on ABC's 20/20 special on the Costa Concordia disaster. He appeared on Australia's Dateline program "Lost at Sea" about passengers and crew members disappearing from cruise ships. Last month, Jim was featured on PBS's documentary "Disasters at Sea: Why Ships Sink" which looked at cruise disasters from the Titanic's sinking in 1912 to the current date.  Here are what people are saying about Jim: 

"Top Maritime Lawyer" - ABA Journal.

"Top Cruise Lawyer" - USA Today.

"Prominent Private Practice Maritime Attorney" - Fox News.

"Prominent Cruise Plaintiff Attorney" - Law.com (America Law Media)

In addition to a full time trial practice against cruise lines, the firm publishes this cruise law blog, which is the most popular maritime law and personal injury blog in the world (per AVVO / Alexa rankings). Cruise Law News ("Everything the Cruise Lines Don't Want You to Know") has been described as a "Hard-Hitting Blog" by Miami's Daily Business Review.  

If you or your family suffered a serious injury during a cruise, don't hire a lawyer who practices "cruise law" on a part time basis.  Contact the Cruise Law attorneys in Miami and let us be your advocates.  

If you have a situation to discuss, email us right away: jim@cruiselaw.com   

Walker & O'Neill Settles Claim By Royal Caribbean Cabin Attendant

Walker & O'Neill recently settled a claim against Royal Caribbean Cruises on behalf of a seriously injured former crewmember, originally from St. Vincent in the West Indies.

The crewmember was employed as a stateroom attendant for a number of years. Stateroom attendants, also referred to as cabin attendants or cabin cleaners, are required to work long hours and are often assigned over 20 cabins to clean. They are responsible for cleaning the bathrooms, cabin interiors, and balconies on exterior cabins for all of the assigned guests, as well changing the linen and making the beds several times a day. The cruise line also presses them into carrying heavy luggage during embarkation days as well.

Royal Caribbean pays cabin attendants only $50 a month in salary.  The crewmembers are dependent on tips from passengers to make a living.Royal Caribbean Crew - Cabin Attendant - Maritime Lawyer   

The crewmember in question was injured on the Enchantment of the Seas while he was lifting a sofa to clean under it and experienced sharp pain in his lower back. He sought treatment from RCCL's on board medical team.

Unfortunately, the cruise line failed to provide prompt and adequate care and deemed him fit to continue working even though he was in immense pain.

Our firm flew the injured crewmember to Miami where we arranged for him to be evaluated by a board certified orthopedic doctor.  We were successful in reaching a settlement of his claim to compensate him for his injury and resulting pain and suffering, and to provide funds for medical treatment in the future.

Please keep in mind when you cruise on Royal Caribbean cruise ships that the cabin attendants work well in excess of 10 hours a days, 7 days a week. That's over 280 hours a month without a day's rest.

Tip them generously! 

 

Photo credit: Jim Walker (photo used with client's consent)

I'll Take a Compliment Wherever I Can Get One

When I created Cruise Law News back in September 2009, my goal was to raise awareness of safety issues on cruise ships.  I wanted my articles to be interesting and, perhaps, provocative in order to spark debate about the cruise industry with the goal of making cruising safer for both passengers and crew. 

Back then I really didn't care (and still don't today) whether readers agree or disagree with me.  I care only that you have an opinion about issues like cruise ship crimes, people who vanish at sea, and exploitation of foreign crewmembers.  These are dramatic issues and deserve an energetic debate.

My thought process about cruise issues has changed over the years.  Some of my opinions have hardened, while other opinions have softened.  I especially value the dialogue that I has developed with the "enemy" - those readers of my blog "in the industry" - cruise fans, cruise employees and travel agents. Not many cruise fans agree with me, but that's not my goal. 

One thing I do like tracking is the number of people who write hate mail.  I know that's a weird thing to do.  The most hate mail comes after I write or appear on TV about crimes on cruise ships or in ports of call. It's the one subject that freaks travel agents out.      

It's easy to spot the cruise line shills because they leave their IP address when they comment. I can't tell who reads my blogs but if you leave a comment here's a secret - I can see the IP address of your server.  Its funny when an "anonymous" reader from Carnival or Royal Caribbean flames me (yes it happens).  I know that I am on target.  

Negative emails to me outnumber positive ones by a 3 to 1 ratio.  Few people write just to say "good job, have a nice day."  I find that many people in life are primarily motivated by anger when their interests are being challenged. If someone is going to take the time to write me, they are usually angry about something I wrote or said about their cruise line or their business of selling cruises.  They are going to let me know about it.    

But today I read a nice article about my blog from the cruise blog "Ship Detective - Cruise Travel News & Commentary."  I don't know the people at this blog. But they seem to understand the point of Cruise Law News better than anyone else: 

"I don’t always agree with Mr. Walker’s views but of course that’s not the point. Cruise Law News highlights passenger safety and reminds us of the realities of cruising."

Thanks Ship Detective.  You have precisely articulated the purpose of my little blog. For that I am appreciative.

 

Here's the article: 

"As much as I avoid listening to attorneys who advertise or promote themselves publicly, I did subscribe to the Cruise Law News feed, published by Jim Walker, a maritime attorney based in Miami. I didn’t want to like this guy, Jim Walker, and in my mind labeled him an opportunist lawyer in-search-of business.

Now I’m feeling a bit of shame for not giving Mr. Walker the benefit of the doubt, instead slapping a negative label on him as a guy who wanted to dramatize every maritime incident just to stir the pot. After a few months of reading his posts, I found Mr. Walker to be level-headed, even-tempered and he encourages cruise ship passengers to question authority. The commentary is informative, sometimes dramatic, and applicable to the culture of cruising - something we highlight considerably on our website. I don’t always agree with Mr. Walker’s views but of course that’s not the point. Cruise Law News highlights passenger safety and reminds us of the realities of cruising.

Thank you Mr. Walker for your valuable insight. Your posts keep track of all the legal goings-on in the cruise industry and helps me tremendously with my daily search for cruise news.

So readers, stay informed and check-out the Cruise Law News blog. Knowledge is power!

Happy Cruising!"

Miami Lawyers Represent Cruise Passengers Sailing From Florida

The Miami Herald reports today that Florida's cruise ports are booming.

A report from the Florida Ports Council shows that Florida leads the nation in cruise operations.  13.5 million passengers embarked on cruises leaving Florida in 2011.  This figure accounts for 60 percent of all U.S. cruise embarkations. 

The combination of the Port of Miami, Port Everglades and Port Canaveral lead the nation in cruise passengers.  Cruise passengers also cruise from Tampa and Jacksonville.

The majority of these cruise are with Carnival, Celebrity, Norwegian, and Royal Caribbean cruises lines. All of these cruise lines require that any lawsuits or sexual assaults which occur on cruise ships be filed in Miami Florida.  All cruise lines have what are called "forum selection" clauses in the passenger tickets. The Miami based cruise lines like Carnival, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean list United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida as the only location where a lawsuit must be filed.    

The United States Supreme Court addressed this issue and held that forum clauses in Miami are enforceable. In Carnival Cruise Lines, Inc. v. Shute, 499 U.S. 585, 593-96, 111 S. Ct. 1522, l527-28, 113 L. Ed. 2d 622, 631-33 (1991), a passenger from Oregon was injured during a Carnival cruise which left a port in California which sailed to Mexico. The Supreme Court upheld the dismissal of the case which the passenger filed in Oregon.  

This year there have been several well publicized lawsuits filed against Carnival, Costa and Royal Caribbean filed in either Houston / Galveston or New York.  All of these lawsuits will be dismissed Jim Walker - Lisa O'Neill - Walker & O'Neill - Maritime Law Firm Miami Floridabecause they were filed in the wrong courthouse. Carnival and Royal Caribbean must be filed in federal court in Miami, and Costa cases (sailing from the US) must be filed in federal court in Ft. Lauderdale.

Our firm is one of the best known firms in the world representing passengers and crew members injured or the victims of crime on cruise ships sailing from Florida or other ports around the world.

Walker & O'Neill and their cruise clients have appeared in documentaries, television and radio programs and in newspapers about cruise accidents and crimes well over 100 times. Jim Walker and Lisa O'Neill are both cum laude graduates of Duke University. Jim graduated from Tulane law school in New Orleans. Lisa is a cum laude graduate from law school at the University of Florida where she was a member of law review.   They have combined experience of over 56 years.     

Injured Seaman Wins Award Against Maersk Lines in Miami

Today a jury here in Miami returned a significant award against a major shipping company, Maersk Lines. 

The case involved William Skye, a 57 year old Jones Act seaman (crewmember) from New Jersey, who worked for Maersk Lines Limited as a Chief Mate (the crewmember rank just under Master / Captain) aboard a Maersk container vessel called the Sealand Pride.

Mr. Skye was represented by Jason Margulies and Michael Winkleman, of the law firm Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina and Winkleman, who I interviewed for this article. 

According to Mr. Margulies, "this case is, to our knowledge, a case of first impression that has never before been brought."

Maersk Sealand Pride Container Ship LawsuitMr. Skye alleged that he was assigned and required to perform so many duties in connection with his job as a Chief Mate for Maersk that, over a 4 year period of time, he was required to violate the work/rest hour laws that comprise the STCW (Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping).

The STCW provides, in part, in 46 USC 8104(d), that "A licensed individual or seaman in the deck or engine department may not be required to work more than 8 hours in one day."; and in 46 CFR 15.1111 (a) "Each person assigned duty as officer in charge of a navigational or engineering watch, or duty as a rating forming part of a navigational or engineering watch, on board any vessel that operates beyond the Boundary Line shall receive a minimum of 10 hours of rest in any 24-hour period."

While there are some exceptions to the foregoing, the rest received may not be less than 70 hours in any 7 day period. Further, he must receive at least a 6 hour uninterrupted rest period daily.

As part of his required job duties, Mr. Skye alleged that he was required to stand two 4 hour watches a day, and then perform additional tasks of his approximately 28 additional job duties associated with his position as Chief Mate. On average, the Plaintiff alleges that he was required to work approximately 15.75 hours a day; violating both 46 USC 8104(d) and 46 CFR 15.1111.

As a result of his long working hours and inability to receive enough uninterrupted rest, Ms. Skye alleged that he was diagnosed with Left Ventricular Hypertrophy by his cardiologist, Dr. Joseph Wachspress, in June 2008.  This condition is a physical thickening of the left ventricular portion of the heart, making it difficult for the heart to pump blood and significantly increasing chances of a heart attack. Further, he Maersk - William Skye - Lawsuitwas diagnosed with an adjustment disorder by his psychiatrist, Dr. Arnold Goldman, in 2008. Both his cardiologist and psychiatrist related his injuries to his working conditions aboard the Sealand Pride and recommended that he retire early, at age 54, from working aboard ships. During his last year of work, he earned approximately $171,000 and received approximately $36,000 in fringe benefits (food, shelter, medical care, etc.)

Mr. Skye was also a licensed attorney. He went to law school in the 1980's and practiced for a short period of time thereafter, deciding to return to a life at sea thereafter. Although his doctors do not restrict his ability to earn a living as a lawyer,  because he has not practiced law since the 80's, he is currently finding it very difficult to earn any significant amount in his practice as a lawyer. Nevertheless, Plaintiff's vocational rehabilitation expert, Dr. Robert Lessne, testified that if he were able to find a job with a law firm as a lawyer, he could expect to earn approximately $69,000 based on his current level of expertise. Dr. Lessne further testified that William Skye's working life expectancy, from the point that he retired in 2008 was approximately 17 more years.

During trial, Plaintiff presented the testimony of two former Maersk employees, Michael McCright and Steven Krupa. Michael McCright was a former relief Chief Mate aboard Maersk ships and he testified as to the difficult job that chief mates working for Maersk faced and that it was impossible to do the job without working a significant amount of overtime, which was exhausting. Steven Krupa was a former fleet manager for Maersk and testified that ultimately Maersk was responsible for complying with the STCW laws but that Maersk did not affirmatively do anything to check that its crew members were able to complete their job duties and comply with the STCW work/rest hours.  Mr. Skye also presented the testimony of one of the Maersk captains under which he worked, Cpt. James Brennan, who testified that William Skye was a good and competent Chief Mate who would complain to him that complying with the STCW work/rest hours was difficult.

Maersk - Sealand PrideFurther, Mr. Skye introduced evidence that showed that Maersk actually budgeted 185% of the Chief Mate's base salary to overtime; far more than the overtime budget for any other position on the ship (by comparison Maersk's overtime budget for the Captain was 26% of his base salary).

Maersk was represented by defense attorneys, David Horr and Stephanie Wylie, who are two of the best lawyers defending shipping companies and cruise lines in Miami.They presented arguments that it was primarily Mr. Skye's responsibility as Chief Mate to make sure that the work/rest hours were complied with. Further, they argued that Mr. Skye failed to delegate tasks which would have made it feasible for him to comply with the work/rest hours and allowed him to obtain uninterrupted rest.

Additionally, Maersk argued that Mr. Skye's injury was caused by cardiac conditions which he began complaining of in 2000 and, as such, his filing of a lawsuit in May 2011 violated the applicable three year statute of limitations. Maersk also presented testimony from cardiologist, Dr. Theodore Feldman, who testified that the left ventricular hypertrophy did not preclude him from working aboard ships and was easily controlled with medication.  Maersk also presented testimony from maritime safety expert, Captain Douglas Torborg, who went through three and a half years of duty logs (work hour logs) regarding Mr. Skye and testified that, based on the exceptions to the work/rest hours of the STCW, the working hours did not constitute a violation of the laws.  Douglas Torborg admitted that he has billed Maersk's lawyers approximately $60,000 for his work in reaching those opinions. Lastly, Maersk argued that Mr. Skye had long planned to retire in 2008 before finding out about his hear condition. 

In the end, the jury did not find that there was statutory violations of the STCW laws. They did, however, find that Maersk was negligent and that its negligence was a legal cause of Mr. Skye's injuries.  As a result of such injuries, which were first able to be discovered by Mr. Skye in 2008, he was forced to retire 10 years early. They awarded $2,088,549.00 (present value) for those 10 years of lost wages.  The jury also found that Mr. Skye's non-economic damages totaled $273,750.00. They found Maersk 25% negligent and William Skye 75% comparatively negligent.

I asked Mr. Horr if he has a comment and we will  update this story if we receive additional comments from the defense side.

 

Photo credit:

Top: Ship Spotting  / © Magogman

Bottom: Global Security

Coming Soon, My New Blog: "Maritime Lawyer"

After publishing Cruise Law News for the past two and one-half years, I decided to create a second blog: "Maritime Lawyer."   It will cover maritime issues and events which don't involve cruise ships.  I registered MaritimeLawyer.com long, long ago and will be using that domain for the new blog.

My friends at LexBlog are going to create and host the new blog. The LexBlog people created this blog. It has been far more successful and influential than I ever dreamed possible.  Per Alexa, Cruise Law News (CLN) is ranked number 12 in the U.S. / Canada in terms of popularity of law blogs. There is only one other law blog published by a practicing lawyer (another LexBlog client, China Law Blog) ahead of CLN in terms of popularity (for what that's worth).

Maritime Disasters: Cruise Ship Fires, Crashes, Collisions, CapsizingsThis year alone, CLN has been cited by a diverse group of media organizations, from tabloid bloggers like Perez Hilton to serious journalists like the reporters at the Wall Street Journal, PBS and Newsweek.  CLN has led me to appearing on CNN's Wolf Blitzer and Erin Burnett, ABC's 20/20, NOVA, BBC Radio and Australia's Dateline in just the last three months.  Our articles range from serious investigations into news the cruise line don't want you to know, to mundane legal issues about cruise law, to the bizarre, odd & weird things that happen on cruise ships.

My new blog will take a look into the larger world of maritime law of which cruise law is a small part.  If the story involves a cruise ship, you will find it on CLN.  But if a tugboat, tanker, trawler, bulk carrier, sailboat, yacht or fishing boat is involved, Maritime Lawyer will cover the story. 

I will be also posting my maritime articles on a new Maritime Lawyer facebook page.  This will be the first article posted on that new page.  I have 6 "likes" so far on the facebook page; pretty pitiful. Drop by, "like" us, and post a comment.

Let us know what type of maritime stories you want us to cover . . . .

Thanks!    

A Shot Across The Bow - Lawyers for German Tourist, Killed in Costa Concordia Disaster, Seize the Carnival Triumph

There is a lot of controversy today about the seizure of the Carnival Triumph cruise ship in Galveston. Lawyers in Mississippi and Texas who are representing the family of a German woman killed on the Costa Concordia filed a lawsuit against Carnival in Galveston.  In addition to the lawsuit, they filed a motion to obtain an order of attachment of a Carnival cruise ship (the Triumph) which is ported in Galveston.  

I have received lots of inquiries about the issue this afternoon.  Can someone just fill out some paperwork and seize a cruise ship like this?  Why is the Carnival Triumph being seized in Texas for something the Costa Concordia, operated by a separate cruise line, did in Italy?  Is this legal?

All good questions.

Carnival Triumph Arrest - GalvestonMaritime attachments or writs of garnishment are not uncommon. The legal mechanism of seizing a vessel is an effective tool when the vessel owner is in default of its legal obligations, like falling behind on the payment of a ship mortgage, or refusing to pay crew member wages, or refusing to pay for provisions or services rendered on behalf of a ship.

Vessel seizures (often called "attachments" or "arrests") are necessary when the defendant is a foreign corporation, which is not subject to the jurisdiction of the local courts, and its vessel is about to leave the jurisdiction and not return.  It's a good way to obtain jurisdiction and make the company post a bond. If the seizure is proper, then the company has to post a bond to cover its outstanding financial obligations and court / U.S. Marshall costs in order for its vessel to leave port.   

I remember the first time I seized a ship.  It was in 1983 and I was fresh out of law school.  A Greek crew member was owed wages which the shipowner refused to pay.  He hired me to collect around $15,000 in unpaid wages. The lawyer for the shipowner had around 30 years of experience under his belt and was not taking me or my client seriously.  The defense lawyer kept saying that the shipping company was going to pay my client.  But he kept stalling and making excuses.

One afternoon I learned that the ship was planning on departing the port of New Orleans late that night. If I later obtained a judgment on behalf of my client, I knew that it would not be worth the paper it was written on because the shipping company was based in Greece.  I had to shut the ship down.

I quickly typed up a writ of maritime attachment, completed an affidavit and ran down to the Federal courthouse to file the writ and affidavit.  My secretary meanwhile called the U.S. Marshall's office telling them that we expected to have an order seizing the Greek ship shortly, while also asking for directions for me to find the Marshall's office.

Later that evening the Marshall's office served the vessel with the attachment order.  Shortly thereafter, I received a frantic call from the defense lawyer who was now motivated to do what he had been promising to do for six weeks. We met at a shipping warehouse off of Tchoupitoulas Street.  After we resolved the payment issues, I called the Marshall's office which released the ship to sail down the Mississippi River into the night.     

So what does this have to do with the seizure of the Triumph in Galveston?  Nothing, quite frankly. Carnival owes no unpaid debt to the German family.  As sympathetic as I am to the loss of life involved, the fact remains that the death occurred on another cruise ship operated by another cruise line in another country.   

The proper location for lawsuits arising out of the Concordia is Genoa, Italy.  The proper defendant? Costa Crociere, the operator of the cruise ship.  I am no fan of cruise lines, but the facts are the facts. This is an Italian cruise ship.  It is flagged in Italy.  Costa is incorporated in Italy.  Its principal place of business is Genoa, Italy.  The cruise tickets issued to the passengers specify that all disputes must Carnival Triumph Cruise Ship - Arrest - Galvestonbe resolved in Genoa, Italy.  The accident, after all, occurred in Italian waters and is being investigated by the Italian Coast Guard.  There are criminal proceedings in Italy against the Italian captain.

It may well be that seizing the cruise ship was a ploy to try and keep the case in Galveston, whose judges are friendlier to individuals than our Federal courts in Miami, and to take Carnival's home court advantage away.  But there is no connection between the Concordia and Texas.  These passengers are from Germany, for goodness sakes. There is no good reason to seize a Carnival cruise ship for the sins of another cruise ship operated by a different company. 

Unlike the fly-by-night Greek shipping company that tried to rip off my client 29 years ago, Carnival is not going anywhere.  It has tens of billions of dollars in assets here in Miami.  The lawyers who don't want to sue in Genoa can file suit here in Miami, like others have done, and take their chances.  There are many hundreds of lawsuits filed against Carnival here every year.  It would be bedlam if a cruise ship was seized every time a lawsuit was filed.  

So what is this all about? 

The main lawyer for the German family is John Eaves Jr., who practices in Jackson, Mississippi. He told Bloomberg Businesseek that “We’ve not been able to get Carnival’s attention, so this is our shot over the bow to let them know we’re serious about changing the law and maritime standards,” Eaves said. “We want a uniform set of safety standards, and we won’t stop until we get it.”

Seizing a cruise ship to make a point is not a good idea.  Mr. Eaves seems well intended.  Yet, an attachment is not legally required nor justified in these circumstances. The public doesn't like it.  The families on the Triumph don't deserve the hassle. 

Stricter maritime safety laws are needed no doubt.  That's what Congress is for.  I know, I have attended seven Congressional hearings. The process is slow and often discouraging.  But jacking up a cruise line like this is not the way to do it.  

 

Read the lawsuit here: Kai Stumpf v. Carnival Plc, 3:12-cv-0099, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas (Galveston)

Photo credit: Top: Sims Travel; bottom: Eaves Law Firm

 

April 1, 2012 Update: The Triumph sailed on time out of Galveston.  There is no indication that Carnival was required to post a bond.  Newspaper accounts indicate that the issue of the vessel arrest was resolved through a "confidential agreement" between the parties.  The Houston Chronicle quoted me in an earlier article about the issue which can be read here

Costa Concordia Survivors Face February 12th Deadline!

There is a lot of talk in the media about so-called "class action" lawsuits, arising out of the Costa Concordia cruise disaster, seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation and other far fetched claims.  Most of these exaggerated claims are being made by lawyers who have absolutely no experience handling maritime claims.

What is not being discussed in the media is that the Costa Concordia survivors are facing a deadline as early as the end of this week. The deadline pertains to the passenger's claim for their lost luggage, clothing, electronics, jewelry and other personal effects.

According to the terms of the Costa Cruises passenger ticket, passengers must provide written notice to the company identified in the ticket for all claims other than physical or emotional injury, Costa Concordia Cruise Lawsuit Deadlinesillness or death within thirty (30) days of the incident.  Here is the pertinent language: 

" . . . The Carrier shall not be liable for any claims whatsoever, other than for physical or emotional injury, illness or death of the Passenger, unless written notice of the claim with full particulars is delivered to the Carrier or its duly authorized agent within thirty (30) days after the Passenger shall be landed from the Vessel, or in the case the voyage is abandoned within thirty (30) days thereafter.  No legal proceeding whatsoever, other than for personal injury, illness or death, shall be maintainable in any event unless filed within six (6) months after the Passenger shall be landed from the Vessel, or in the case the voyage is abandoned within six (6) months thereafter, and unless valid notice or service is effected upon the Carrier within 120 days after commencement of the proceeding."  (emphasis added) 

Thirty days from the January 13th incident is next Sunday, February 12th.  All passenger intending to make a claim for their personal belonging must send a  "written notice of the claim with full particulars" and deliver it to the carrier identified in the passenger ticket, or its duly authorized agent, within the next week.

If you don't send the notice in timely and to the correct company, the passengers risk not satisfying one of the "conditions precedent" necessary before a lawsuit can be filed.

The fact that Costa has offered 11,000 Euros (around $14,600) for a settlement does not extend a passenger's obligation to provide the required notice within 30 days.

The deadline again is Sunday, February 12, 2012. 

If you need assistance in sending the notice to the correct company and correct address, do not delay.  We will be pleased to assist you free of charge in sending the property damage notice in.

Our firm and our co-counsel, Glenn Holzberg, are also assisting about two dozen passengers who suffered physical and / or psychological injuries during the Costa Concordia disaster.

Unlike many non-maritime lawyers rushing to file suit in the U.S. (and are probably filing suit in the wrong jurisdiction), we are recommending patience to our client once they send in the necessary notices to the cruise line.  We will be negotiating directly with the cruise line to obtain fair compensation for those who have suffering emotional or physical injuries.  We are not charging a fee on any portion of the first $14,600 obtained by our clients.  All passengers are offered this amount and it would not be fair to obtain a percentage of what is already offered. 

Claims for emotional anguish and personal injury and death must be filed within one year, and require a notice letter being sent within 6 months.  

Claims for property losses must be filed in six (6) month for the date of the incident, after the aforementioned notice letter sent within 30 days.

If you are confused about whether to accept the Costa $14,600 offer, or need assistance preparing the correct forms, please send me an email jwalker@cruiselaw.com or give us a call.     

Cruise Law: Miami Cruise Ship Law Update

This weekend the cruise port in Fort Lauderdale, Florida broke a new record with the most cruise passengers entering or leaving the port.  The Sun Sentinel reports that around 106,000 passengers will transit through Port Everglades on 24 cruise ships.  Each day from Friday through Sunday will see 8 cruise ships return and then leave the port full of passengers.   

The newspaper suggested an interesting visual perspective: If lined up bow to stern, the cruise ships sailing through Port Everglades this weekend are as tall as 22 Eiffel Towers, or as long as Port Everglades Cruise Port - Cruise Law72 football fields . . .

The heavy port activity is the result of New Year / Holiday cruise ships returning to South Florida.  

Unfortunately not all of the cruises turned out to be safe experiences. 

Multiple sexual assaults occurred on the world's largest cruise ship, the Allure of the Seas, during a cruise over the New Year.  We discussed the alleged crimes in an article last Wednesday.  The alleged rapists were passengers from Brazil.  It is interesting to note that they were not arrested by the FBI but by the Broward Sheriff's Office.  Florida is the only state where the local police or sheriff officers can arrest and the state can prosecute crimes on the high seas.  In all other states, only the federal government can assert such jurisdiction.   

The alleged crime was finally reported by the Miami Herald yesterday and the newspaper mentioned our previous article.  It is good to see the the Miami Herald reporting on cruise ship crimes.  The Herald historically ignores stories like this and does not seem to want to anger the local cruise lines here in Miami who are major advertisers with the newspaper.  The Herald also included coverage on its Spanish edition, el Neuvo Herald - "Arrestado Hombre Acusado de Violación En Un Crucero."

Our firm was also mentioned in an interesting article about cruise ship norovirus and whether cruise line are taking adequate steps to sanitize their ships.  E Turbo News (Global Travel Industry News) published an article "When Bugs Swim: Cruise Ships Provide Perfect Environment for Spread of Disease."  I talked about my experience interviewing cruise ship cleaners who believe that the EcoLab spray disinfectants cause injury to their lungs.  They admitted pouring the anti-bacterial solutions down the drain and replacing the solutions with water.  So when they wipe the wet rags over the cruise ship surfaces, they are probably just spreading the nasty viruses George Smith - Jennifer Hagel - Cruise Crimeeverywhere.  No wonder the cruise lines seem to have a problem with norovirus outbreaks.

The big news this weekend was the media hype surrounding DateLine NBC's update on the disappearance of cruise passenger George Smith who went overboard in July 2005.  Unfortunately, there was nothing new presented in the hour long show.  You can read our last article about Mr. Smith's situation here.  I have always thought the case involved foul play and the four men last seen with George Smith know more than they have admitted.  At least the DateLine program returned the public's attention to this unsolved case.   

With the renewed interest in Mr. Smith's case the popular Cruise Radio program aired a prior interview with me which you can listen to here

This blog started the new year out with our own record.  According to Google analytics, over 20,000 visitors read over 67,000 pages for the first 8 days of 2012.  

If you have a question about cruise ship law or want our perspective on a cruise related story, please contact me directly at jwalker@cruiselaw.com    

Cruise Law News: A Look Back at 2011

As this year comes to a close, it's time to look back at some of events of 2011.

Jewel of the Seas Crew Member InjuryLast year started out with a bang.  Our firm represented a seriously injured crewmember in a case against Royal Caribbean.  Our client sustained a debilitating back injury, underwent an unsuccessful surgery, and needed a second surgery which the cruise line refused to provide.  In January, a three member arbitration panel found that Royal Caribbean's refusal to provide the surgery "lacked any reasonable defense" and awarded the crewmember $1,250,000.  You can read  the decision here.

The award was featured in Miami's Daily Business Review, which you can read here.  It is the highest reported arbitration award for an injured crewmember to date.     

In ten days, we will begin a trial against Royal Caribbean on behalf of another crewmember who suffered a severe back injury, underwent an unsuccessful surgery and needs a second operation which the cruise line refuses to authorize.  Sound familiar?   Check back in a couple of weeks for the results of our first trial in 2012.   

Shortly after the Royal Caribbean award, we received bad news when a federal judge in Miami summarily ended one of our cases against Royal Caribbean where a young woman was severely injured while receiving private lessons on a FlowRider and underwent four surgeries.  The cruise line Royal Caribbean FlowRidertried to end the case based on a "liability waiver" which passengers are required to sign before participating in FlowRider activities as well as rock climbing, skating and other activities.  Liability waivers are illegal in maritime cases.  To our surprise the court granted the cruise line's motion, notwithstanding a federal statute clearly stating that liability waivers on the high seas are unenforceable.

The decision sent a shock wave through the Miami maritime legal community because liability waivers in maritime matters have been unenforceable for decades.  The defense lawyers for the cruise lines were giddy.  They spoke openly of requiring cruise passengers to sign liability waivers for everything from playing shuffleboard to exercising in the gym to swimming in the cruise ship's pool.  We appealed.  The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeal overturned the lower court's ruling and held that cruise line liability waivers are illegal and unenforceable, even if they involve ultra-hazardous or inherently dangerous activities.  The decision is a great result that will protect cruise passengers for years to come.

The past year included the usual number of stories of cruise ship drug smuggling, sexual assaults, shipboard malpractice, serious injuries and passengers and crew disappearing under suspicious circumstances - everything the cruise lines don't want you to know about.

Jonathan Aronson - Lisa O'Neill - Jim Walker2011 was the first full year where our co-counsel Jonathan Aronson worked with us on cases.  Mr. Aronson was one of the best maritime attorneys in Florida who used to defend cases for Royal Caribbean until he switched sides to representing passengers and crewmembers.  The cruise line spent a small fortune trying to disqualify him and our firm from representing clients against it.  It lost.  We won. And most importantly, our clients benefited from having an excellent and highly experienced maritime attorney join our team.     

Our blog, Cruise Law News (CLN), enjoyed another popular year, ending up the number 11 most popular law blog per the Avvo/Alexa rankings.  This month over 53,000 people read over 156,000 pages of CLN. Here are some of the cruise highlights and lowlifes CLN covered:  

Mickey Mouse games by Disney Cruise Lines:  The Disappearance of Youth Counselor Rebecca Coriam  Things are not as they seem in the Magical Kingdom's fleet of cruise ships. 

The most reckless cruise passenger "rescue" I have ever seen:  Cruise Passenger Dropped into Freezing Waters During Botched Rescue  The crew should have been arrested.  And speaking of being arrested:  

Best articles in the spirit of "Occupy Wallstreet:"  Royal Caribbean Executives Get Richer While Crew Members Get Poorer and Royal Caribbean Stock Fraud Lawsuits - What Did the Cruise Line Executives Know and When Did They Know It? 

Royal Caribbean Executives - Richard Fain - Adam GoldsteinThe saddest article and the most facebook "likes" for a single article:  Tragedy on HAL's Half Moon Cay: A Mother's Perspective (366 likes)

The most likes for drugs on the world's largest gay cruise:  Passenger Busted for Selling Drugs on Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas (299 likes)

Weirdest story:  Woman Alleges False Imprisonment on Scientology Cruise Ship "Freewinds"

Second weirdest story:  Life In Jail For Cruise Passenger Who Threw Wife Overboard

Third weirdest story:  Accused Royal Caribbean Cruises Rapist Sues Bahamas for Spending Four Nights in Jail After Acquittal

Best April Fools story:  Breaking News: Carnival Cruise Lines Incorporates in the U.S. and Subjects Itself to U.S. Labor, Wage, Safety and Environmental Regulations  

Cruise Ship DisasterMost negative reaction to an article:  Gun Fight in Cabo San Lucas: Is it Safe to Cruise to Mexico?

Best series of articles:  Disappearance of George Smith IV - Six Years Later

Best article written by a guest blogger:  Top 10 Shocking Clauses In Your Cruise Contract

Best videos:  Top Five Worst Cruise Ship Disaster Videos

My favorite personal articles:  Are Cruise Ships Ruining Venice Or Just Memories From My Youth? and A View From A Fifth Grader - Gaddafi Finally Falls 42 Years Later 

Thanks to our readers, friends, and supporters for making CLN a success.  Don't forget to follow us on Twitter and our Cruise Law News facebook page.

Do you have a question about cruise law?   Don't hesitate to email me - jwalker@cruiselaw.com.

Jim Walker

How to Hire a Miami Maritime Lawyer to Sue a Cruise Line

Each year 14,000,000 people (yes 14 million) will go on a cruise.  There are literally hundreds of passengers, as well as crewmembers, who will suffer a serious back injury or break their ankle, leg or hip after slipping and falling while cruising.  Once back home after the cruise, they find it difficult to think of hiring a lawyer who they have never met in order to sue a large corporation in a far-off location like Miami.

But the process of hiring a Miami maritime lawyer to bring a claim against a cruise line like Carnival or Royal Caribbean is simple.

Jim Walker - Miami Maritime LawyerOver 95 percent of our firm's clients live out side of Florida.  If you have a question about an accident on a cruise ship, send us an email.  You can reach me directly: jwalker@cruiselaw.com  

You will receive an answer to your email right away.  We will need answers to four issues: 

When did the accident occur?  Remember that you have only one year to file a lawsuit against a cruise line!  This is a much shorter period of time than most land based injuries.

Which cruise line and which cruise ship were involved?  The majority of the cases we handle are against Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Carnival and Norwegian cruise lines.  These cases have to be filed here in Miami.  Other cruise lines like Princess Cruises have to be filed in California.  Holland America Line, for example, has to be sued in Seattle.  If we can't help you, we will find someone who can.

What happened and why is the cruise line responsible?  Be prepared to tell us not only how the accident occurred but why you think that the cruise line is liable.     

What injuries did you sustain?   The nature and extent of your injuries are important issues in your case.  Have you undergone surgery?   What type of medical treatment will you need in the future?  Once you retain us, we will quickly obtain copies of all relevant medical records and reports. 

If you prefer to call us, we look forward to speaking with you. We have a toll free number (800) 256-1518.  You will probably initially speak with one of our assistants, like Jan or Betsy (photo right, with client), who will ask you a few questions about the basic information listed above.  I will be pleased to answer any questions you may have.

If you decide to hire us, we work on a contingency fee.  This means that we do not bill you or ask for a retainer.  We are paid only if we are successful and obtain a settlement or a verdict.  You have nothing to lose. 

Miami Florida Maritime Law Firm We will send you four documents.

The first is the contingency fees agreement.  All lawyers who handle these type of cases must have a written contract with the client where everything is spelled out.  The second document is a statement of your rights as a client.  We will also send you a short questionnaire about your cruise accident.  The last document is a medical authorization so that we can obtain copies of your medical records.

We will email these items to you shortly after you email us or speak with us on the telephone.  Just fill out the forms and return them to us.  There is no need to travel to Miami to start your case.

One of the main reasons why cruise lines like Carnival and Royal Caribbean require that all claims be filed in Miami is that they know that it is inconvenient for injured passengers to do so.  That's why we make it easy for our clients to retain us.  Simply send us an email or make a single call.

I'm sure that you may have other questions, and I will be happy to spend as much time as necessary to provide answers for you.  I have been handling maritime injury cases since 1983.  Over ten years ago I was interviewed about the process of filing a claim against a cruise line. 

You can obtain additional basic information by reading the article here - Cruise Passenger Rights and Wrongs - Interview With Maritime Lawyer Jim Walker

Cruise Man 3000 Blogs About The 'Cruisetacular' Legal Eagle

Shon "Cruise Man 3000" Ford, recently interviewed Jim Walker, whom he refers to as The ‘Cruisetacular’ Legal Eagle, regarding his Cruise Law business. Cruise Man 3000 is not afraid to provide insight to both the good and bad of the cruise industry. Shon has a great blogspot where he posts about his travels on the high seas. He’s traveled aboard 23 different vessels composed of 5 different cruise lines.

Cruise Man 3000 is unique because he has the confidence to expose the negative side of the cruise industry in addition to his cruise industry enthusiast attitude. Cruise Man 3000 gives his honest perspective, something we appreciate here at Cruise Law.

Check out Cruise Man 3000's interview with Jim Walker here. Keep up the great work Cruise Man 3000. Safe travels!

Photo Credit: The Ocean Escape

Cruise Law News' Best Blogs of 2010

As year 2010 comes to a close, it's time to look back at some of the highlights of Cruise Law News (CLN).  

CLN reached the top 10 most popular law blogs, placing us above such heavyweight blogs as the China Law BlogSimple Justice, Jonathan Turley and Overlawyered.     

CLN also became a "top cruise vacation influencer," which consists of cruise lines, travel agents, and cruise fans who dominate social media affecting the cruise industry.  I'm sure having a Royal Caribbean - Adam Goldstein - Sex and Booze Sells Cruisesmaritime personal injury lawyer in the top 10 drives the cruise industry bonkers.

Here are some of my favorite blog posts for the past year: 

Most popular article: The Splendor Cruise Ship Fire - Three Reasons Why You Will Lose If You Sue Carnival  The blog was picked up by the Wall Street Journal, Fox News, the ABA Journal, South Business Law Journal, Gadling, Slate, the U.K.'s Guardian and others.  Everyone loves it when a personal injury lawyer tells the public not to sue following a cruise disaster . . .    

Most ironic articles:  Former Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship Captain Dies of Legionnaire's Disease After Sailing on Liberty of the Seas and Cruise Passengers Attacked & Robbed in Antigua While Cruise and Tourism Officials Meet

Best article with the word "sex" in the title: Marketing "Sex at Sea" on Cruise Ships (includes my favorite photo of a cruise line executive, in bed with booze surrounded by women with the Royal Caribbean logo across their bikini tops??)

Most comments to an article:  Crew Member Overboard from Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas 

Second most comments to an article:  Another Overboard From A Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship? - Oasis of the Seas  

Most positive reaction to an article:  Royal Caribbean "Returns" to its Trademarked, Private Fantasy Island of Labadee® - While Haiti Suffers

Most negative reaction to an article:  Royal Caribbean "Returns" to its Trademarked, Private Fantasy Island of Labadee® - While Haiti Suffers

Splendor - carnival Cruise Fire Happiest article:  Three Happy Cruise Stories - Salvation, Generosity & Rebirth

Most inspiring article:  The Compelling Story of Jamie Barnett - Living Through the Loss

Saddest article:  More Caribbean Crime - Carnival Passenger Killed In St. Thomas

Most disturbing article: Neither Dead Nor Alive - The Faliva Family Remains In Limbo

Most bitter article: What Does BP, Al Qaeda and a Cruise Line Have In Common?  Unfortunately you have to lose a loved one before you can figure the answer out.

Scariest articles:  Passenger Indicted for Sexual Abuse of 13 Year Old Girl on Disney Wonder Cruise ShipCarnival Cruise Ship Bartender Arrested On Charges Of Raping 14 Year Old Passenger and Most Wanted Rape Suspect Arrested On Carnival Cruise Ship - Worked As Manager Of Onboard Hair Salon

Best social media articles: The Cruise Industry's Reputation - A Sinking Image and Travel Writers and the Ethics of Reporting Cruise News

Best series of articles:  Top 10 Reasons Not To Cruise  

Clelia II - Video - StormBest article the cruise lines don't want you to read:  "Cruise Ship Sickness" - Is Norovirus In The Food and Water? 

Most terrifying cruise video (over 296,000 views and counting!): The Clelia II Skirts Disaster Again in Antarctica

Best sports article:  Oysters, Dixie Beer & My New Orleans Saints

Best personal article:  Switching Sides And Finding Your Soul

Best article not read by the cruise industry: Ten Years of Cruise Ship Fires - Has the Cruise Industry Learned Anything? 

Thanks to our readers for a great 2010!   Do you have an idea for blog articles for 2011?  Leave us a comment below. 

 

Bottom photo credit: Clelia II   Fiona Stewart/Garett McIntosh (via jonbowermaster.com)

Cruise Law News - A "Hard Hitting Blog"

Today, the Miami Daily Business Review ran an article about Royal Caribbean trying to disqualify our firm (a story I wrote about last week - more about that later).  The Business Review characterized Cruise Law News (CLN) as a "hard hitting blog." 

Launched in September 2009, CLN has become one of the most widely read legal blogs in the U.S.  Based on U.S. readership, CLN is now in the list of the top 7 most popular law blogs written by lawyers who actually practice law. 

Now I will be the first to admit that winning a popularity contest does not mean being the most insightful or the most influential blog.  There are a lot of law blogs competing for the "best" category, based on all types of subjective and non quantifiable criteria.  And there are lots of interesting law blogs which are written by professors like The Volokh Conspiracy, AlthouseLegal Insurrection, Jonathan Turley and Slaw which have blogged successfully for years. 

But when it comes to lawyers who actually take depositions, attend hearings, go to court and try cases, the list of most popular blogs is quite small.  Which legal blawgs involving actual practicing lawyers are the most popular?

According to "Avvo's Top Legal Blogs," which uses the Alexa ranking system, here are the 7 most popular law blogs operated by practicing lawyers, based on U.S. traffic (the lower the number, the higher the ranking):

26,700 - IPWatchdog by Gene Quinn (patent lawyer); 

38,100  - Cruise Law News by me;

44,903 - Simple Justice by Scott Greenfield (criminal defense); 

59,782 - Mortgage Fraud Blog by Rachel Dollar (bank / transactional litigation);

77,300 - Tax Girl by Kelly Phillips Erb (tax attorney);

110,257 - China Law Blog by Dan Harris (international law); and

136,029 - Legal Juice by Mesirow & Stravitz (personal injury lawyers). 

When I launched the blog one year ago, I promised that I would talk straight about issues which make the cruise industry uncomfortable.  So Its reaffirming for a local business newspaper to call CLN "hard hitting." 

Sounds like bragging?  You bet.  This is Miami after all.  A lack of confidence in a city of over-achieving-caffeine-addicted-ego-maniacs gets you run over.  

And I don't intend to end up being road kill.

 

A "Hard Hitting Blog" was featured today on Best in Law Blogs : LexBlog Network : October 5, 2010  Thanks LexBlog!

Cruise Law News - One Year Anniversary!

On September 7, 2009, I launched my blog, Cruise Law News (CLN).  My goal was to be a leading source of news and legal commentary regarding the cruise industry.

Well, here we are, September 7, 2010, one year later.  What a year! 

My little blog is far more successful than I ever thought.  Yes, it has taken a lot of work - this is my 356th article in the last 365 days!  I have written about cruise ship rapes, sexual assaults of Cruise Law News - Jim Walker Law Blogchildren, arrest of peophiles, passenger disappearances, and cruise ship fires, groundings and sinkings.  Everything the cruise lines like to keep secret. 

From a quantitative perspective (per Alexa rankings), CLN is now ranked as the no. 1 maritime law blog in the U.S., the no. 2 law blog in Florida, the no. 2 personal injury blog in the U.S., and the 50th most popular law blog over-all in the U.S.  My websitegrader score is 99 (a grade I never received in school); there are 902 indexed pages of CLN on Google; and there are 48,230 inbound links.  I am averaging over 25,000 unique visitors a month, and my traffic is in the top 1.53% of all websites. 

And to add some icing to the cake, Cruise Law News is several times more popular that the official blog of the President of one of the major cruise line (Royal Caribbean) who writes from the "Nation Of Why Not?"  If you want transparent news, people know to come here to CLN rather than wade through the gobbledygook at the cruise line's corporate blog.  

Cruise Law News has been cited in the Chicago Sun-Times, the Bahamas Journal, Italy's "Chi l'ha Visto?" television show, Germany's Wunderwelt Wisen magazine, the popular on line cruise community CruiseCritic, South Florida Business Journal, Baltimore Sun, Bahamas Tribune, Sun Sentinel, Washington Post, and MSNBC. 

Cruise Law News - Maritime Law Blog Our real success comes from our everyday readers - crew members, passengers, travel agents, cruise haters and cruise lovers.  We have heard from people in Great Britain, France, Mauritania, India, Venezuela, Brazil, Italy, Croatia, Serbia, Canada and countries throughout the Caribbean islands.  Thanks for your questions and the valuable information you provided us!    

One big thank you is in order.  Kevin O'Keefe and his team at LexBlog created my site a year ago.  They are the best in the law blog business.  Lexblog designed a nice looking, functional blog. 

They provided concise recommendations to me, and encouraged me to blog.  Thanks Kevin for creating LexBlog and pointing me in the right direction! 

 

Here are some highlights of the fun we have had over the last year:             

Most popular article:  Travel Writers and the Ethics of Reporting Cruise News

Most ironic article:  Former Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship Captain Dies of Legionnaire's Disease After Sailing on Liberty of the Seas

Why-won't-the-Miami-Herald-cover-cruise-crimes article:  18 Passengers From Royal Caribbean & Disney Cruise Ships Robbed By Shotgun in the Bahamas

Royal Caribbean - Selling Sex at Sea Best article with the word "sex" in the title: Marketing "Sex at Sea" on Cruise Ships

Most comments to an article:  Crew Member Overboard from Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas 

Second most comments to an article:  Another Overboard From A Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship? - Oasis of the Seas  

Most positive reaction to an article:  Royal Caribbean "Returns" to its Trademarked, Private Fantasy Island of Labadee® - While Haiti Suffers

Most negative reaction to an article:  Royal Caribbean "Returns" to its Trademarked, Private Fantasy Island of Labadee® - While Haiti Suffers

Happiest article:  Three Happy Cruise Stories - Salvation, Generosity & Rebirth

Most inspiring article:  The Compelling Story of Jamie Barnett - Living Through the Loss

Saddest article:  More Caribbean Crime - Carnival Passenger Killed In St. Thomas

Most disturbing article: Neither Dead Nor Alive - The Faliva Family Remains In Limbo

Most bitter article: What Does BP, Al Qaeda and a Cruise Line Have In Common?  

Scariest articles:  Passenger Indicted for Sexual Abuse of 13 Year Old Girl on Disney Wonder Cruise Ship and Carnival Cruise Ship Bartender Arrested On Charges Of Raping 14 Year Old Passenger

Best social media article: Cruise Lines and Social Media - P & O Cruises Hits A Home Run

Best series of articles:  Top 10 Reasons Not To Cruise  

Best sports article:  Oysters, Dixie Beer & My New Orleans Saints

Best personal article:  Switching Sides And Finding Your Soul

 

Do you have suggestions on topics to cover for the next year?   Please let us hear from you in the comments below. 

Cruise Ship Accidents - Miami Maritime Lawyer

Over 5 million cruise ship passengers cruise out of the port of Miami each year.  Many sail on cruise ships like the Carnival Destiny, pictured below as its leaves Miami Beach and heads south to the Caribbean.

The majority of our articles here at Cruise Law News address current issues which occur all too often on cruise ships - like outbreaks of norovirus, shipboard sexual assaults, or passenger and crew members overboards.

Cruise Law - Jim Walker - Miami Maritime LawyerBut this article addresses the most common incident on a cruise ship - when a passenger slips and falls on a deck on the ship.  These incidents occur literally on every single cruise.  Fractured hips, broken kneecaps, displaced ankle-fractures requiring surgery  . .  and so forth.  The accidents occur by the buffets, by the pools, in the dining rooms, on the exterior decks - everywhere. 

Here are few things to keep in mind if you are a passenger injured during a cruise:

If possible, don't let the cruise line dump you off in a port in Mexico or a Caribbean port.  Its often better to tough it out a day or two and  get back to a U.S. port or fly back to the U.S. as soon as reasonably possible.  The surgical skills of the doctors in Mexico or the Caribbean islands are about 30 years behind U.S. standards.  Hopefully, you have trip insurance and your air ambulance back to the U.S. is covered - otherwise you are looking at $30,000 out of your pocket to fly back to the States.

Obtain the names and contact information of witnesses who can verify the conditions surrounding your accident.  The cruise line will never provide you with the accident report or statements of witnesses.  Never.  The cruise line's lawyers will blame you.  It does not matter that you sailed with Royal Caribbean 25 times and are a Diamond Club member.  Once you are a liability to the cruise lines, you have not seen a worse enemy.  Protect yourself.

Read the terms of your passenger ticket.  There is some important information in there.  Like, you have to notify the cruise line of your intention to seek compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, and disability within six months of your accident.  And if you need to file a claim, there is only a one (1) year limitations period to file the claim.  This is a much shorter limitations period - most states have a statute of limitations of up to four (4) years.  If you snooze, you lose! 

Be ready to travel to Miami for your lawsuit.  All of the cruise lines have "forum selection" clauses, whereby the cruise lines require to travel to a particular location to file your claim.  The cruise line is betting that you will not read the terms of the ticket and will file suit in the wrong courthouse - hopefully more than one year after your accident!.  The following cruise lines require that you file suit in Florida (Miami, Fort Lauderdale, or Cape Canaveral):  

Azamara, Carnival, Celebrity, Costa, Disney (Magical Cruise Company), MSC Cruises, Norwegian, Oceania, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Royal Caribbean, Seabourn, SeaDream, SilverSea, and Star Clipper. 

If you file suit untimely and in the wrong jurisdiction, you will lose your rights!

For additional information, please read my interview about passenger rights - now ten years old!

Cruise Ship Accident - Cruise Injury - Cruise Lawyer - Miami

 

Credits:

Photographs         Jim Walker

 

Tulane Law School - Admiralty and Maritime Law

A lot of people ask me how I became involved practicing maritime law. 

Thirty years ago, I started law school at Tulane School of Law in New Orleans, Louisiana.  I may be biased, but Tulane has the best law school in the United States involving maritime studies. Tulane has a renowned "Admiralty and Maritime Law" program which is part of the Tulane Maritime Law Center.

Admiralty and Maritime Law - Tulane Law SchoolTulane is where I took my introductory maritime courses (Admiralty I and Admiralty II), maritime jurisdiction, maritime personal injury and death, maritime insurance and "offshore operations" -  a particularly excellent course addressing personal injury and death cases in the oil and gas industry in the Gulf of Mexico.

Tulane is the home of the Tulane Maritime Law Journal (previously called has the Maritime Lawyer) which is described in Wikipedia as the "preeminent student-edited law journal in the field of Admiralty and Maritime Law."  

The professors teaching the maritime law courses were excellent.  A professor named Thomas Schoenbaum taught the introductory maritime course.  He went on to write the famous maritime law hornbook - "Admiralty and Maritime Law."  A number of the maritime personal injury courses were taught by maritime lawyers, including the Honorable Eldon Fallon who was a well known personal injury lawyer and then became a highly respected Federal Court Judge in New Orleans.      

After graduating from Tulane law school, in 1983 I joined the Maritime Law Association. Since 1983, I have been practicing maritime law - mostly personal injury and death cases.  

I have a lot of fond memories of attending maritime law classes at Tulane.  Its hard to think that was three decades ago!  

Tulane also sponsors the Admiralty Law Institute every other year, which is always a good excuse to make a trip back to New Orleans.

You can follow Tulane's maritime program on Twitter @TulaneMaritime

CruiseLaw Launches Cruise Blog "CruiseLaw News"

In 1999, I launched CruiseLaw.com - a legal web site focused on the cruise industry. The need for such a web site was obvious. Passengers sexually assaulted or injured on cruise ships operated by Carnival, Celebrity, Costa, Norwegian, or Royal Caribbean are required to bring their claims in Miami or Fort Lauderdale. The internet provides an easy way for passengers living in California, Kansas or New York to locate a maritime lawyer in South Florida for advice.

CruiseLaw in 1999 - No Shortage of Horror Stories

Within a year, we were representing over 50 passengers who had been seriously injured on cruise ships or shore excursions. It was disturbing to see the large number of injured passengers and to hear their stories about how the cruise lines treated them after their injuries. Worse still was the large number of women and children raped or molested by crew members where the cruise line tried to cover up the incidents.

We have seen cruise ship fires, "missing" passengers and crew members, and accidents of every sort - both on the cruise ships and during shore excursions. 

500 Cruise Clients Later - A Perspective to Share

Now ten years and around 500 clients later, I am launching this blog - called "CruiseLaw News." I will report on breaking cruise news every day. The blog will provide insightful legal commentary regarding cruise passengers and crew members around the world. No ghost writers here, you will hear directly from me. The cruise lines won’t be pleased. Travel agents may cringe. You will learn about issues that the cruise industry PR machine and the happy-go-lucky cruise fanatics don’t want you to know.

Post Your Comments - Pro or Con

This blog will not be a one way street. You are encouraged to post your comments. Please express your genuine feelings and opinions. No editing will take place. The only rules are to be civil. Hopefully, be original and thoughtful.  And, preferably, get to the point

Check back for my first blog, and we will get into things. In the interim, stay in touch with me on Twitter @CruiseLaw and see where I stand on the latest cruise fiasco.

Contact

Jim Walker 

Walker & O'Neill, P.A.
Plaza 57, Suite 430
7301 S.W. 57th Court
South Miami, Florida 33143

Phone: (305) 995-5300
Fax: (305) 995-5310

Toll Free: (855) 995-5300

Email:

Jim Walker:  jim@cruiselaw.com