Florida Remains Cruise Ship Lawsuit Capital of the World

According to the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), more cruise passengers have sailed in Florida and around the world than ever before.

Last year, the number of passengers taking cruises on North American cruise lines increased approximately nearly 4 percent to 17,600,000.

6,150,000 passengers sailed from Florida, an increase of 1.3 percent to 6.15 million from the prior year. Miami saw more than 2 million cruise passengers boarding ships, and Fort Lauderdale saw Crew Ship Capital of the World more than 1,800,000 passengers.

Florida also remains the lawsuit capital of the world against cruise lines. 

Most cruise lines insist that lawsuits involving injuries to cruise passengers must be filed in Florida. Carnival, Celebrity, Disney, Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, and Silversea Cruises require in their "forum selection clauses" that passengers file suit in this state of they are injured or a victim of a crime during the cruise.

It doesn't matter where the cruise departed from (a different state or even country), the passenger tickets of these cruise lines state that their guests must pursue their cases here in Florida.

Several years ago, the Miami Herald published an article "Lawyers Turn Cruise Lawsuits Into Industry." The article stated that between 2001 and 2006, over 2,100 lawsuits were filed against the Miami based cruise lines - Carnival, Celebrity, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean.

The article begins: 

"How many lawyers does it take to sue a cruise line?

Only one, or one too many if you're the cruise line.

The $25 billion-a-year cruising industry has faced more lawsuits than it cares to count over the past few decades -- some 2,100 in South Florida alone since 2001.

Many are filed by a small group of lawyers -- about 15 locally -- who specialize in representing injured cruise passengers and crew members and make up a thriving cottage industry in South Florida."

The article mentioned that I was one of the "big three" leading adversaries of cruise lines.

Cruise Ship Capital of the WorldI have not seen an analysis of lawsuits recently, but we know that the number of people cruising since 2006 has increased substantially.

The cruise ships have gotten bigger and bigger and the fleets have grown substantially.

There has also been an unprecedented number of cruise ship disasters which have plagued the cruise industry as of late. 

Every single day we receive a telephone call, or an email, or a Facebook inquiry, or a comment to this blog about a serious cruise ship injury.

In the last few days, we filed:

  • a lawsuit when a child from Mexico was seriously injured on the Flow Rider;
  • an arbitration claim on behalf of an Indian crew member (waiter) with a serious back injury who was denied appropriate medical care;
  • a lawsuit by a Canadian passenger whose finger was amputated by a cabin door which slammed shut due to a wind current from an open balcony door; and
  • an arbitration claim filed on behalf of a crew member who was denied medical treatment from the cruise line for advanced Hodgkin's Disease.      

Yes, most people have a fun time on a cruise vacation. But many passenger and crew members become seriously injured or denied appropriate medical treatment during cruises, particularly crew members from around the world.   

 

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

Read: Cruise Ship Accident and Injury Law - Miami Florida - Forum Selection Clauses

Photo Credits:  Jim Walker

Passenger Medevaced From Majesty of the Seas

Majesty of the Seas Injury Accident Local Miami news station WSVN channel 7 reports this morning that Miami Fire Rescue medevaced a Royal Caribbean cruise ship passenger who sustained a serious head injury. The medevaced occurred last night. 

The medical evacuation occurred on the Majesty of the Seas cruise ship. WSVN says that the passenger suffered the injury while the cruise ship was approximately four miles from the port of Miami. 

The video shows the cruise ship passenger being transferred from the Majesty through an open crew entrance into the Miami Fire Rescue rescue vessel. These type of transfers are dangerous. Passengers have been dropped into the sea during the transfers if they are done incorrectly. You can see a terrifying botched passenger rescue here.

The Fire Rescue then returned to port and the passenger was taken for emergency medical treatment at Mercy Hospital. 

The video also shows cruise passengers who witnessed the event cheering and applauding the paramedics.

Update: A local CBS news station reports that the passenger is a 32 year old Swedish citizen. A spokesperson for the cruise line said that the passenger was first treated in the medical facility on the Majesty of the Seas ship on Tuesday but on Wednesday the passenger required “additional and urgent medical attention.” 

 

WSVN-TV - 7NEWS Miami Ft. Lauderdale News, Weather, Deco

Royal Caribbean Tries to Block David Beckham's Soccer Stadium

International soccer star David Beckham plans to build a soccer stadium at the Port of Miami with the dramatic vista of downtown Miami in the background. But the Chairman of Royal Caribbean Cruises is doing everything possible to block Beckham's plans. 

In an interview with television station Local 10, cruise executive Richard Fain says that the port isn't a suitable location for the stadium. 

It's also a location where Fain's cruise line built a parking lot and a gym for its employees, which are David Beckham Soccer Stadium obviously not the best uses of the 12 acre property. Unlike Norwegian Cruise Lines and Carnival which operate their headquarters on the north and north-west sides of the Miami International airport, Royal Caribbean's headquarters are located right at the port.

Fain and his "well-funded Miami Seaport Alliance" seem to be using scare tactics, arguing that the new stadium "will jeopardize more than 200 cargo and cruise-related jobs," a claim that newspaper researchers find false.

Fain doesn't want to talk about losing his parking lot and the gym. He couches his argument against the soccer stadium in terms of "protecting our port."  But the land is not suitable for deep water use by today's mega-liners.

May it just be that Fain doesn't want to see the new stadium towering over his cruise line's offices and causing traffic delays disrupting his daily drive into the office?     

Miami's mayor, Tomas Regalado, says the decision on the new stadium site will rest with the people of Miami. 

Photo Credit: Design Boom

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

 

Cruise Law News Enjoys Record Month in April

Last month, 247,433 people read 843,370 pages of Cruise Law News (per Google Analytics). That's a record month for us.

If our readership continues to grow, as it has done over the years, we are on track to having 3,000,000 people reading over 10,000,000 pages of our blog a year.

Our blog is currently the number three most popular law blog in the U.S. (via Alexa) and the number one Royal Caribbean Cruise Norovirusmost popular law blog in the U.S. written by a practicing lawyer (again via Alexa).

The motto of our blog is "everything the cruise lines don't want you to know."  If you want idyllic images of perfect cruise ship vacations to tropical paradises, stick to the travel publications and cruise fan blogs. We offer a glimpse into the world of cruising that the cruise executives prefer you not know.

In the last year, we broke stories involving MSC Cruises dumping garbage bags at sea, Silvesea Cruises hiding carts of food from U.S. health inspectors, and Carnival scrapping its crew retirement program.  We provide an inside look at norovirus outbreaks that the cruise lines always blame on the passengers. This past week, our blog was featured in newspapers and on television in the Bahamas regarding the issue of crime against cruise passengers.

Thank you for reading our blog. Take a moment and subscribe by clicking on the RSS feed or sending us your e-mail address in the box to the lower left.

You can also follow the latest developments in the intersecting worlds of cruise ships and the practice of law on our Facebook page.

Thanks!

CSM2014: Who Will Be the First Cruise CEO to Claim Cruising is the "Safest, Safest, Safest" Vacation? And Where Are the Safety Audits?

Last year at Cruise Shipping Miami, all of the cruise CEO's talking at the "State of the Cruise Industry" presentation covered the CLIA talking points that cruising was "safe" and the cruise industry is also supposedly "highly regulated."

The hyperbole was extraordinary.

CLIA's Christine Duffy began the cheerleading by first announcing that the Carnival Triumph fire was "rare." Carnival's President Gerry Cahill topped her by saying: “Something like this is very rare." NCL's Kevin Sheehan's won the award by claiming that cruising was the "safest, safest, safest" vacation Cruise Shipping Miami 2014option.

Cruise executives never discuss actual statistics about fires, accidents and crimes on cruise ships. They would rather tell you their self-serving opinions than provide you with the actual facts and let you form your own opinions.

In truth, there have been over 90 cruise ship fires between 1990 and the present. That's hardly "rare." The "safest, safest, safest" form of transportation does not catch on fire every 4 months.

The horrific sexual assault which recently occurred on the HAL Nieuw Amsterdam should be a reminder that sexual assault is the number 1 crime reported on cruise ships. There will be no mention of that.

And there will be no meaningful discussions about other current topics, like the controversy surrounding recently released video and photos of MSC Cruises crew members dumping bags of garbage and debris - allegedly into the waters of Brazil. Pierfrancesco Vago, Chairman of MSC Cruises, will be speaking this morning. I'm sure no one will ask him about that.  I say that the chances are 50 / 50 he will claim that his cruise line is a "guardian of the seas" or something equally clueless. 

Last year, Carnival's Cahill told us that Carnival intended to conduct safety audit all of its ships. CLIA also promised regular audits as well.

I instantly tweeted "will the audits ever be disclosed of the public?" Of course not. This is just one of those things that cruise executives say. All the travel agents and vendors at CSM then politely clap.

So here we are at CSM again. Soon the CEO's will tell us that everything is great.

Who will be the first executive to tell us that cruise accidents and crimes are "rare" and cruising is the "safest" vacation you can have?

Cruise Shipping Miami (CSM2014) Starts With Usual Hype - Will There Be Substance This Year?

Cruise Shipping Miami ("CSM 2014") has officially started. 

Formerly known as "Seatrade," CSM is a huge trade show in the Miami Beach Convention Center with all types of cruise vendors, tourism delegates and port representatives. You can appreciate just how dynamic and wealthy the cruise industry is by attending the show. 

Here's the official schedule.

The big event, of course, is the the "State of the Global Cruise Industry" where the cruise CEO's tell everyone how incredibly safe the cruise industry is.Cruise Shipping Miami CSM2014

This year we will be hearing from Arnold Donald, CEO, Carnival Corporation; Richard Fain, Chairman Royal Caribbean Cruises; Kevin Sheehan, CEO, Norwegian Cruise Lines; and Pierfrancesco Vago, Chairman, MSC Cruises.

It will be interesting to hear from Mr. Vago in light of the recent allegations that MSC Cruises has allegedly been dumping garbage into the sea.

Here's my articles from last year's Cruise Shipping Miami trade show I attended:

Cruise Shipping Miami: What the Cruise Executives Did Not Tell You.

Cruise Shipping's State of the Industry: Where are the Women & Minorities?

Email me at jim@cruiselaw.com if you want to meet, discuss cruise issues such as safety & security, or have a beer over lunch or at happy hour. I enjoyed some interesting conversations last year.

My perspective - "everything the cruise lines don't want you to know" - is a little different than that of most people attending.

i will be blogging and tweeting all week.

See you there.

Port of Miami Security Guards Arrested for Stealing Cruise Passenger iPads

The cruise industry promotes the safety and security of cruising by telling the public that all luggage is carefully x-rayed before being loaded onto cruise ships.

Post 9/11, the concern that terrorists may target cruise ships led to the implementation of the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) code which requires that all cruise passenger baggage be subjected to x-ray machines to check for explosive devices.

Sounds comforting, right?  Maybe not.

It seems that two security officers at the Port of Miami operating the baggage x-ray machines were not looking for Port of Miami Security Guardsbombs or detonation devices. They were looking for stuff to steal.

According to the Miami New Times and Local NBC Channel 6, two security officers were involved in a scheme to steal electronic equipment from cruise ship passengers luggage and sell the stolen goods on Craigslist.

Jean Russell Thomas, age 30, and Sherece Renee Nelson, age 25, were arrested in the criminal operation. 

Earlier this month, a passenger from the Carnival Victory complained that that after checking her bags for departure, they did not arrive in her cabin. When the bags finally arrived, the woman's iPad was missing. She notified police.

Security video showed security guard Thomas, working as an x-ray screener, handling a bag that had been removed from the belt. The police report said:

"The defendant is then observed standing up and adjusting an item in which he had placed into his pants (rear) underneath his shirt and then placing the bag back onto the belt where it would be transferred to the ship." 

Thomas later listed two iPads for sale on Craigslist. The iPads matched the description of the missing iPad as well as another iPad reported missing from luggage of another cruise passenger.  

Undercover police officers called Thomas and arranged to buy an iPad. Thomas showed up along with Nelson, who acted as a look out according to the newspapers.

Nelson was arrested for dealing in stolen property.

Thomas was arrested for grand theft, dealing in stolen goods and, this one cracks me up, driving with a suspended driver's license (habitual).

Where did the cruise port find these dim whits to work as security guards?

 

Like this story? Try reading Stolen iPhone Adventures Aboard the Disney Wonder Cruise Ship 

30 Years Later, Miami Cruise Ship Lawyer Looks Back

Miami Cruise Ship LawyerOver thirty years ago, I graduated from Tulane School of Law which had, and still has, one of the best maritime law curriculum programs in the U.S. 

In law school, I took courses as a second and third year law school student in Maritime Personal Injury & Death, Maritime Jurisdiction, Maritime Insurance and Carriage of Goods by Sea. One of my favorite courses was called "Offshore Operations," which was essentially an advanced course in maritime personal injury dealing with accidents and injury in the oil & gas industry in the Gulf of Mexico.

That was back in New Orleans in 1983. Now over thirty years later in Miami, my law practice is 100% maritime personal injury and death lawsuits against the Miami based cruise lines.

The cruise lines have increasingly been in the news over the last ten years. And we have been in the news as well.  I have been referred to as a "Top Maritime Lawyer" by the ABA Journal; a "Top Cruise Lawyer" by USA Today; a "Prominent Private Practice Maritime Attorney" by Fox News; a "Premier Lawyer for Cruise Passengers" by Reuters; and a "Leading Miami Attorney" by Newsweek Magazine.

Stories about cruise ships are in the media every week. This year alone, I've appeared on CNN, ABC News, and NBC and quoted in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and the Miami Herald, to name just a few. 

The cases we handle are mostly against Carnival and its subsidiary brands (Carnival Cruise Lines, Cunard, Princess Cruises, Holland America Lines), Royal Caribbean Cruises (Royal Caribbean Miami Cruise Ship Lawyer Jim WalkerInternational, Celebrity Cruises & Azamara), Norwegian Cruise Lines, and Disney Cruises.

We represent both cruise passengers and crew members against the cruise lines. We handle cases involving serious injuries to passengers and crew on the high seas. Most of the injury cases involve bad medical care following the shipboard injury. Crew members are often sent home without receiving adequate medical treatment.

A focus of our law practice involves representing victims of cruise ship crimes, especially sexual assaults against women and children.

Many cruise ship passengers do not realize that they must file suit in the location specified in the cruise ticket, usually Miami. There is also a very short limitations period to file a lawsuit, typically only one year.

Fifteen years ago, I was interviewed about practicing cruise ship law. The issues raised 15 years ago still remain true today: Cruise Passenger Rights and Wrongs - Interview With Maritime Lawyer Jim Walker

Cruise Ship Law - Lawsuits Against Royal Caribbean Cruise Line in Miami, Florida

Our law firm handles cases on behalf of injured passengers and crew members against cruise lines.  Other law firms handle auto accidents, dog bite cases and whatever may walk in the door.  Our firm sues only cruise lines in cases involving serious injuries. That’s all that we do.

One of the cruise lines that we file lawsuits against on a regular basis is Royal Caribbean.

Types of Royal Caribbean Lawsuits:  The type of cases we handle against Royal Caribbean can be divided into two general categories – personal injury cases and crime cases.

Crime Lawsuits:  Most of the crime cases we have handled over the years involve sexual assaults on Royal Caribbean cruise ships.  We have represented women who have been sexually assaulted on cruises by cruise line ship doctors, security guards, waiters, bar tenders and cleaners. The rapes have occurred in the passenger cabins, utility closets, and crew bathrooms. 

The crimes are not limited to the cruise ships. Crimes against passengers have occurred during cruise sponsored excursions such as diving and snorkeling trips, sailing and catamaran outings, and in and around bars at the cruise port in the Caribbean and Mexico. We have represented parents whose minor children have been molested by Royal Caribbean crew members and teenagers who have been sexually assaulted by older passengers.

Injury Lawsuits:  Passengers on Royal Caribbean cruise ships have been seriously injured in a wide FlowRider Danger - Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship variety of cases.  Passengers occasionally slip and fall on slippery decks and floors and sustain serious injuries such as fractured ankles, knees and hips. Injuries on the cruise line’s wide variety of recreational attractions are common, including skating rinks and rock climbing attractions.  Injuries on the Royal Caribbean FlowRider surfing simulator are frequent.  Royal Caribbean passengers have sustained serious, permanent and debilitating injuries, and have even been killed, on the highly dangerous FlowRider. 

The FlowRider is a major money making attraction for Royal Caribbean, but it's unreasonably dangerous in my opinion.

You can read about FlowRider accidents and injuries here.

Types of Clients:  We represent cruise ship passengers and crew members. Most of the passengers we represent are from the United States. We have represented clients literally from across the United States. 

Our crew member clients, who sustain back, neck and wrist injuries due to the long hours and repetitive nature of their work, are typically from Jamaica, St. Vincent, India, Argentina, Venezuela, Bosnia, Croatia, and Serbia, among other countries. 

If you or a family member have been seriously injured due to the negligence of Royal Caribbean, consider hiring a law firm which focuses its experience and resources on cruise ship lawsuits – not auto accident or dog bite cases.

Call our office at (305) 995 5300 or email me at jim@cruiselaw.com. 

 

Photo Credit: Royal Caribbean FlowRider Sign - Jim Walker

Miami Cruise Ship Injury Lawyer - Jim Walker

Injured on a cruise ship and looking to retain an experienced maritime lawyer? Consider Miami lawyer Jim Walker.  

Jim studied maritime case in law school in the early 1980's and has practiced maritime law for the past thirty years.  For the last fifteen years, Jim has focused his law practice exclusively on representing passengers and crew members injured on cruise ships. He has handled many hundreds of cases against cruise lines such as Carnival Cruise Lines, Celebrity Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Princess Cruises, and Royal Caribbean Cruises. 

There are lots of lawyers who advertise themselves as "cruise ship lawyers" on the internet, but who Jim Walker Cruise Ship Injury Lawyerhandle only a claim or two against a cruise line a year.

Jim handles only cases involving injuries on cruise ships sailing the high seas.  

Jim is a well known cruise ship safety advocate. He has attended seven hearings before the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives regarding issues of cruise passenger safety, sexual assault, disappearances of passengers at sea, crime, and cruise ship fires and collisions.  

The major press outlets routinely ask Jim for his perspective on cruise ship mishaps. This year alone, Jim has appeared in over 75 television, cable news & radio shows, newspaper articles, special programs & documentaries regarding cruise ship accidents, crimes and controversies.

This year CNN asked Jim to write an editorial about the state of the cruise industry: "What Cruise Lines Don't Want You to Know." 

Here's what people are saying about Jim:

"Top Maritime Lawyer" - ABA Journal.

"Top Cruise Lawyer" - USA Today.

"Prominent Private Practice Maritime Attorney" - Fox News.

"A Premier Lawyer for Cruise Passengers" - Reuters.

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

"Leading Miami Attorney" - Newsweek Magazine

"Leading Maritime Lawyer in Miami" - Arizona Republic / USA Today

"An Outspoken and Candid Maritime Attorney Who has Represented Some of the Highest Profile Cruise Plaintiffs in History" - CruiseMates

"Internationally Renowned Maritime Lawyer and Cruise Safety Advocate" - Times of Malta

"Man For the Other Team" - International Shipping Publication Tradewinds.   

"Prominent Florida-Based Lawyer for Cruise Ship Passenger" - Staten Island Live.

"Leading U.S. Based Cruise Lawyer" - eTravel Blackboard (Australia)

If you were inured or assaulted on a cruise ship, don't hesitate to contact Jim:

jim@cruiselaw.com

305 995 5300

1 (800) 256-1518 (U.S. Toll Free)

Jim Walker Cruise Ship Injury Lawyer

Cruise Ship Cocaine Smuggler Lucky to be Alive

Cruise ship Cocaine SmugglingDuring a six day cruise out of Miami, Norman Mosch swallowed 87 pellets of cocaine during a stopover in Jamaica back in December of 2012.

The Sun Sentinel writes that cruise passenger Mosch swallowed 2 pounds and 2 ounces of cocaine-filled pellets after he had been recruited to smuggle the drugs back to Miami. Not surprisingly, he felt ill and spent the remainder of the cruise in his cabin.

When Mosch returned to South Florida at the end of the cruise, he spent the next several days in agony on the floor in a garage at the house of his "friend" who had involved him in the cruise drug deal.

Mosch couldn't pass the pellets although he took lots of laxatives. One of the pellets exploded and Mosch ended up in an emergency room where he underwent surgery to remove over 80 remaining pellets. He unconscious for over a month. When he came out of the coma he was charged with criminal conspiracy to import the cocaine 

The article explains that Mosch is a Vietnam Vet who has gone through some hard times. He's heading for a jail term but he's lucky to be alive.

Legal Rights of Crew Members Injured on Royal Caribbean Cruise Ships

Royal Caribbean Crew Member When injured Royal Caribbean crew members contact us, there are a few things that they usually say:

"The ship doctor would not take me seriously and just gave me Ibuprofen;"

"My supervisor told me that if I didn't want to work I would be sent home;"

"The company would not send me to a doctor in the Miami but sent me to Nassau instead;"

"The ship doctor would not authorize a MRI;"

"The company sent me home and I have no money;"

"The company sent me home and no medical treatment is arranged;" 

"I called my medical case manager and she didn't call me back;" and

"I emailed my medical case manager and she didn't email me back."

One of the problems which Royal Caribbean crew members face is that they are required to work excessive hours (12 hours or more) seven days a week all month long. Repetitive injuries to their back, neck and wrists are common. Complicating matters is that there is constant pressure to keep working. Stateroom attendants have to clean the 20 or so cabins assigned to them each and every day; a negative comment from a guest may be the kiss of death and result in a 10 year cabin attendant finding herself summarily dismissed from the cruise ship.  

The next problem is that there is very little actual diagnosis of crew members injuries taking place on cruise ships. Rather the focus is on giving pain relievers to the injured crew which just masks the problem and can result in the injury becoming worse.  Many crew members tell us that ship infirmaries Royal Caribbean Crew Member have baskets of Ibuprofen pills out at the nurse's station, not unlike a bowl of candy to eat.

And when the crew member can no longer work and gets sent home? In most cases, the cruise line has not scheduled any medical treatment. Nor has the company provided a check for the crew member's sick wages or living expenses.  

The crew medical personnel in the company's offices in Miami are understaffed. A single medical case manager may be required to handle over 150 crew member cases.  If you are a sick or injured Royal Caribbean crew member and feel that the company isn't paying attention to you, that's because it isn't.

Under the U.S. maritime law, cruise lines are required to provide you with prompt and adequate medical care on the cruise ship. Cruise lines like Royal Caribbean also have to provide full and complete "maintenance and cure" when a crew member is home on medical leave.

Over the last decade we have represented RCCL crew members from around the world. We are currently representing cleaners, waiters, assistant waiters, cooks, and cabin attendants from Jamaica, India, Guyana, Nicaragua, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia, Serbia, Canada, Mexico, Trinidad, St. Vincent, Peru and other countries.

If you were injured on a cruise ship operated by Royal Caribbean (or sister company Celebrity Cruises) due to an accident, over-work or bad medical care, and are frustrated by the way the cruise line is treating you - don't suffer alone.  We will be pleased to help you.

We will explain your rights and answer any questions you have.

Email me at jim@cruiselaw.com or call our office at 305 995 5300.

 

Photo Credit - Jim Walker with clients:

Top: RCCL cabin attendant from St. Vincent in Miami for medical treatment

Bottom: RCCL cook injured in galley / photo taken in front of Allure of the Seas in Jamaica

50,000 Facebook Fans Can't Be Wrong

This morning Cruise Law News hit a milestone when the 50,000th person "liked" our Facebook page.  

The motto of this blog is "everything the cruise lines don't want you to know." One of our main goals is to educate the public about dangers and problems on cruise ships that the cruise industry would like to keep secret. So it's exciting to see that many people become a fan of our Facebook page.  

We post most of our blogs on Facebook as well as links to other sites which write about newsworthy (and sometimes not so newsworthy) events in the crazy world of cruising.  Unlike our other social Cruise Law News Facebookmedia pages like Twitter which has almost exclusively a U.S. audience, our Facebook Cruise-Law-News page has primarily non-U.S. readers. 

Who are the top readers outside of the U.S.? In order they are from India, Mexico, Peru, Venezuela, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Turkey, Croatia and Serbia, as well as many other countires.

Why the reference to "50,000 fans can't be wrong?" It's a take-off on the famous Elvis Presley album "50,000,000 Elvis fans can't be wrong."  (OK so I'm only 49,950,000 behind Elvis).

Thanks to everyone who like our Facebook page, read our articles, and leave comments! 

Cruise Shipping Miami: What the Cruise Executives Did Not Tell You

When the Cruise Shipping Miami's "State of the Industry" presentation started yesterday at 9:30 AM, I wondered whether anyone would mention Costa Concordia.  

Keynote speaker, David Scowsill,World Travel and Tourism Council President, briefly mentioned the Concordia disaster in passing, saying "despite the tragic cruise ship incident last year" cruising is still "safest" form of transportation.

Holland America Line CEO Stein Kruse was the first to say the words "Costa Concordia" over 1 hour into the CEO's presentation which I quickly noted in a tweet at 10:33 AM.  It was one of the few State of the Cruise Industryreferences to reality the entire morning.

All of the CEO's covered the CLIA talking points that cruising was "safe" and the cruise industry is also supposedly "highly regulated."  The hyperbole was extraordinary.

Christine Duffy was the first to say that the Triumph fire was "rare." Carnival's President Gerry Cahill then topped her saying: “Something like this is very rare."

NCL's Kevin Sheehan said that cruising was the "safest, safest, safest" vacation option.   

RCCL President Adam Goldstein said that the cruise industry was "highly regulated" by the IMO "regulatory scheme." He said words to the effect that he was sure "that no one in the room would dispute that."

Carnival's Cahill added that his cruise line intends to conduct safety audit all of its ships. CLIA would also be performing audits as well.

All of these statements sounded great. But there was little of substance discussed. There were all types of precise statistics presented about the number of new ships, the number of passengers and the revenue generated by the cruise lines. But when it comes to statistics regarding fires and other accidents, the cruise executives offered nothing but their personal opinions.

It was interesting what the cruise execs didn't say rather than the talking points they repeated over and over.     

Last year I attended a Congressional hearing where a cruise expert detailed some 79 cruise ship fires between 1990 and the hearing in 2011. I have discussed in this blog that over 10 cruise ship fires occurred since the Splendor. That's 90 fires in 23 years.

That's hardly "rare." The "safest, safest, safest" form of transportation does not catch on fire every 4 months.

Keeping statistics away from the public is how the cruise industry works.  Assuring the public that the unregulated cruise industry is allegedly "heavily regulated" is also how the cruise lines work.

Senator Rockefeller presided over the post Concordia safety hearing last year and told the cruise representatives "You Are A World Unto Yourselves."    There is simply no real oversight by the U.S. over foreign flagged cruise ships.

Carnival's Cahill promised that his cruise line would police itself with its own safety audits. But what he didn't say was whether the audits will ever be released to the public.  

Trust me, they will never see the light of day.

Cruise Shipping MiamiCahill also said that Carnival "learned its lesson" after the Splendor fire in 2010. But he didn't say what lesson Carnival learned. He also didn't mention that the country of Panama, where Carnival registered the Splendor to avoid income tax, has still not even released a report about the investigation into the fire which occurred over two years ago.  What lesson can be learned if the official report into the fire has still not been released at this late date?

Does anyone really think that the audits by Carnival and CLIA about the Triumph last month will ever be shared with the public when there is no public report about the Splendor which caught on fire 28 months ago?

Until the cruise industry truly falls under the scrutiny of U.S. federal regulators and there is transparency in releasing statistical information and accident investigation reports, all we will hear at the state-of-the-industry presentations are more and more self-serving opinions of an industry which is a world unto itself.       

Cruise Shipping's State of the Industry: Where are the Women & Minorities?

Cruise Shipping MiamiIt's 11:25 AM Tuesday morning. I'm sitting here in the 4th row at the Miami Beach Convention Center listening to the final moments of the Cruise Shipping Miami (CSM 2013) State-of-the-Industry speeches by the cruise line executives.

Before me the kings of the cruise industry are speaking: Royal Caribbean President Adam Goldstein; NCL CEO Kevin Sheehan; Celebrity Cruises President Michael Bayley; Carnival President Gerry Cahill; HAL CEO Stein Kruse; MSC CEO Pierfrancesco Vago; and Silversea Cruises Chairman Manfredi Lefebvre d’Ovidio. Plus a keynote speech from World Travel and Tourism Council President David Scowsill.      

My first thought as I scanned the panel of cruise executives on the stage in front of me this morning: Do you have to be a white male to speak about the state of the cruise industry at CSM?  

This is essentially the same all men-in-dark-suits line up from prior years. Where are all of the women cruise executives?

Cruise Shipping MiamiLooking around me, I see some plenty of women in the audience. Why are there no women on stage talking about the future of the cruise industry?   Seven suits and ties on stage and not a single cruise line executive in a dress or high heels.

Is the cruise industry the least diversified business in the U.S.?

I work in a law firm where the smartest lawyer is a woman; where the hardest workers are women; and where the decision makers are mostly women. 99% of our crew clients from around the world do not resemble any of the men here lecturing the audience at the auditorium.

Its going to be a weird week here at CSM.  

 

Photo Credit: CMS 2013 - Jim Walker

6 Problems the Cruise Industry Needs to Fix - No. 5: Disappearances of Passenger & Crew Members on the High Seas

As part of Cruise Shipping Miami (CSM 2013), I have raised 6 problems which I believe the cruise lines need to address.

Problem No. 5: Disappearance of Passengers and Crew Members from Cruise Ships:.

The problem is not just that approximately 200 people have vanished from cruise ships since year 2000, but the attitude of the cruise lines when families try and find out what happened to their loved ones is just plain nasty.

When Seattle businessman Son Michael Pham's parents disappeared during a Carnival cruise, he voiced his frustration that he received greater responsiveness upon losing a piece of luggage.

Insurance company president Ken Carver's daughter disappeared from a Celebrity Cruises ship and the cruise line responded by discarding her personal items without so much as a call to the FBI. Rebecca Coriam - Disney Wonder Cruise Ship 

Today, a reader of this blog sent me a link to an article which discussed how Disney youth counselors on the Disney Wonder lost track of a three year old child whose parents dropped the little boy off in the cruise ship's Oceaneer Club (for children aged 3 to 12).  The cruise line's response was not only incompetent but heartless.  

The youth counselors had no clue where the little boy entrusted to their care was on the ship. They appeared indifferent to the parent's understandable fears. No announcements were made over the course of 45 minutes while the ship sailed along as the parents searched frantically for their child.

This cavalier attitude is business as usual for the floating Magical Kingdom ships. Almost two years ago exactly, a 24 year old youth counselor from the U.K., Rebecca Coriam, disappeared from the Disney Wonder. The ship continued on sailing. The cruise line's attitude and response, in my opinion, seemed motivated to protect its own marketing image and cover-the-truth-up, rather than to find out exactly what happened to young Rebecca.

Today is Rebecca's 26th birthday which her parents and sister are celebrating in sorrow.  Neither Disney nor the country of the Bahamas, where Disney incorporates its cruise ships to avoid U.S. George Smith Royal Caribbean Cruise Shiptaxes, will cooperate with the Coriam family.  No one will provide the Coriams with a copy of the Bahamas report on the disappearance of their daughter. The callousness demonstrated by Disney and the Bahamas is the product of a foreign flagged scheme which is designed to keep cruise lines like Disney away from real oversight except by Caribbean islands whose loyalties lie exclusively to the cruise industry.  

I touched upon this problem briefly in an opinion piece for CNN entitled "What Cruise Lines Don't Want You to Know."

There are many other examples of a cruise industry which would rather spend it efforts trying to create an image to vacationers that cruising is safe rather taking reasonable steps to make certain cruising is actually safe.

George Smith disappeared in July 2005 during his honeymoon. Going on eight years later, there remain no answers and no arrests, It was only last year that the public learned that Royal Caribbean had possession of a video of a certain passenger on the cruise ship who was taped telling his friends "we gave that guy a paragliding lesson without a parachute."  We represented Mr. Smith's wife and were never told that the video existed; instead, we watched as the cruise line stonewalled our investigation and tried to convince the public that Mr. Smith just got drunk and fell overboard.

HAL Disappearance Jason Rappe EurodamLast November, HAL passenger Jason Rappe' disappeared from the Eurodam while cruising with his wife.  We asked the cruise line for information like videotapes, passenger addresses, statements and other basic information.

HAL refused to provide anything to us.

Instead HAL insisted that it was Mr. Rappe's wife who first had to agree to provide all of her missing husband's medical records, life insurance policies, work information and any psychiatric records before they would even think about cooperating.        

No airline would act like this if a passenger or crew member disappeared in flight. But then again the aviation industry is overseen by the strict and serious Federal Aviation Agency (FAA). There is no equivalent to the FAA on the high seas - only ships flying flags of convenience in countries like the Bahamas which care only their relationships with the cruise industry.   

Its too easy to commit a crime on a cruise line and get away with it. Even in cases where there is no foul play, the cruise industry's knee-jerk reaction is to deny and delay and obfuscate rather than treat families respectfully and transparently. Until this attitude changes, cruise lines will always appear that they have something to hide.   

  

You can read our prior articles about 6 problems the cruise industry needs to fix below:

Problem No. 6: Cruise Pollution of Air & Water

Check in this week as we explore problem number 1 - 4 during CSM.

Cruise Shipping Miami: 6 Problems the Cruise Industry Needs to Fix

Tomorrow we will hear the state of the cruise industry from many of the CEO's of the cruise lines. After a deadly and disastrous year, questions arise whether the cruise industry is heading in the right direction.

In many ways, the cruise industry is going backwards. I targeted what I consider six of the major problems which the industry needs fixing. Today we'll look at:  

Problem # 6 - Pollution of Air & Water: The cruise industry is heading the wrong way on environmental issues.  It just fought a very public battle with the state of Alaska which, in 2006, enacted the most responsible waste water restrictions in the world to address cruise ship pollution.

A typical cruise ship produces 210,000 gallons of sewage, over a million gallons of greywater, 130 gallons of hazardous wastes such as poisonous metals, and 25,000 gallons of oily bilge water in a single week-long cruise. Considering there are 28 cruise ships operating 150 days annually in Alaska, this results in over one billion gallons of sewage and waste water being dumped into Alaska state waters every year.

The Alaskan initiative targeted this nasty problem with sewage, while also prohibiting the discharge of heavy metals like zinc, copper and nickle from cruise ships' plumbing systems. In response, the cruise lines threatened to pull its ships from Alaska and lobbied legislators heavily. The major polluters of Alaskan waters, like Carnival owned Holland America Lines and Princess Cruises, led the charge to Oasis of the Seas Pollutionrepeal the green legislation in order to avoid the expense of installing advanced waste water treatment technologies.

While polluting the waters, the cruise industry is resisting clean air legislation as well. CLIA cruise ships still burn bunker fuel, the dirtiest and most deadly fuel on the planet. and the industry is resisting complying with clean air laws, citing reduced profits.

As the industry's ships get bigger and bigger, there is increased damage to coral reefs and the environment of the fragile ecosystems from the Caribbean to Alaska. To accommodate giants of the seas like the Oasis and the Allure into its new port in Falmouth Jamaica, Royal Caribbean oversaw the dredging of 35 million cubic feet of coral reefs which were crushed and dumped onto old mangroves. The Oasis and Allure can now squeeze into the once quaint fishing village, where they sit and burn high sulfur bunker fuel.

The cruise industry has a historical reputation of abusing the seas, with the major lines like Carnival, Royal Caribbean and NCL all pleading guilty to environmental crimes and lying to the U.S. Coast Guard and federal prosecutors. Although it has promised to protect the waters on which its business depends, the cruise industry has consistently chosen the cheaper and more destructive path on environmental issues. 

The cruise industry needs to clean up its act. It must distance itself from its renegade past of being the conservator from hell.    

 

Read the other problems facing the cruise industry:

Problem No. 5: Disappearance of Passengers and Crew Members

Cruise Shipping Miami "CSM2013" Starts Tomorrow!

Cruise Shipping Miami ("CSM 2013") starts tomorrow morning.  Word on the street is that notwithstanding rough times for the cruise industry over the past year, there will be a record attendance.

Formerly known as "Seatrade," CSM is a huge trade show in the Miami Beach Convention Center with all types of cruise vendors, tourism delegates and port representatives.  

You can appreciate just how dynamic and wealthy the cruise industry is by attending the show.

Here's the official schedule.

Cruise Shipping Miami I will be there all week.  

Here's my review of the last Cruise Shipping Miami trade show I attended:

Cruise Shipping Miami (SeaTrade) - the Good, Bad and Ugly

Email me at jim@cruiselaw.com if you want to meet. My perspective - "everything the cruise lines don't want you to know" - is a little different than that of most people attending.

i will be blogging and tweeting all week.

See you there.

Happy Birthday: Cruise Law Celebrates 4 Years on Twitter!

Today marks the 4th year Cruise Law has been on Twitter.  Check out our page here. Over 10,000 tweets and over 10,000 followers later, it has been a fun four years.  Tweeting is just micro-blogging in 140 characters and led me to create this blog Cruise Law News.

If you are not on Twitter you should be. It has led me to meet literally thousands of lawyers, travel agents, cruise industry people, journalists, travelers and crew members around the world.  Lots of news about the cruise industry breaks on Twitter before the mainstream media knows what's going on.

Speaking of social media, we have been busy in the world of cruise law news this year. The Carnival Triumph fire and the "ensuing cruise from hell" were the latest cruise fiascos which focused the world on the unregulated foreign-flagged cruise industry.

Jim Walker Cruise Law News BlogOur firm and this blog were featured in over fifty television, cable news, & radio shows and internet, magazine and newspaper articles. Take a look here at a listing of some here of the programs and articles.

Cruise Law News (CLN), now over 3 years old, remains a top 10 law blog in terms of popularity. It is currently ranked #9 per the Alexa popularity rankings. The 8 law blogs ahead of us consist of 6 blogs which are commercial sites or are run by law professors. There's only one other law blog operated by a full time lawyer (China Law Blog) ahead of us. So we are the #2 law blog in the U.S. and Canada written by a full time lawyer.

Last month in the 28 days of February, readers visited some 415,960 pages of this blog.  If we keep this pace up, we are approaching 5,000,000 page views a year!   

Our Facebook page is booming, with over 45,000 likes. It is by far the most popular page by a law firm on Facebook.   

Thanks for following us.  If you have a question or want us to cover a particular issue or story, contact me: jim@cruiselaw.com

Carnival Triumph Lawsuits - A Just Cause or a Money Grab?

On February 10th the Carnival Triumph's engine room caught fire fire and was quickly extinguished. No one was burned. No one choked and gasped for air. No one died. No family members mourned the loss of their loved ones or buried their dead.

Three weeks later there is a litigation frenzy with lawyers from New York to Miami to Mississippi suing Carnival for billions of dollars.

And you wonder why people hate lawyers.

Star Princess Cruise Ship FireDon't get me wrong.  I don't like the cruise lines. As a former National Transportation Safety Board chairman said, the cruise lines are an "outlaw industry" which suffers from "bad actors."

But suing Carnival if you are not physically injured or seriously sick is wrong, as I have said in other articles.  

There are a hoard of lawyers out there soliciting your business who will sue Carnival whether you have bothered to see a doctor or not.  Just Google "Triumph cruise lawyer" and see the long line of lawyers asking you to call them, such as:

"Carnival Triumph Lawsuit Attorney" - Video - New York lawyer asking for one billion dollars!

"Carnival Triumph Cruise Ship Lawyer" - Video - Florida lawyer who filed class action lawsuit.

What are these attorneys advocating?  None of these lawyers have ever gone to Congress advocating the rights of cruise passengers or crew members injured at sea. Is this just about money?

Contrast this latest Carnival fire on the Triumph with the last fire where a passenger was killed on the Carnival-owned Star Princess cruise ship (above right). Georgia resident Richard Liffridge died when he and his wife, Vicky, tried to crawl down a burning smoke filled hallway as the fire engulfed the ship.

Star Princess Cruise Ship FireAs explained in the LA Times article "Cruise Industry's Dark Waters:"

"Victoria Liffridge recalled that she and her husband crawled along a passageway filled with thick, black smoke as flames shot above their heads. It was "like being in an oven," she said. The couple became separated. 'The last words I heard him say were, "Vicky, don't let me die, she said. Victoria Liffridge crawled to safety, only to be told later that her husband had not survived. When she identified his body it was covered in soot from head to toe."

Mr. Liffridge left behind his wife, four children and many grandchildren.   

We represented the Liffridge family. Richard's daughter, Lynnette, joined the International Cruise Victims organization and testified before Congress regarding the cruise ship fire. She demanded changes to protect future cruisers. She later boarded the same cruise ship where her father died and made certain that the ship was retrofitted with sprinkler systems and heat detectors which were lacking from the ship's balconies where the fire started which killed her father.

Will anyone of the inconvenienced passengers on the Triumph call on their Congressional representatives and ask for a Congressional hearing about cruise ship safety like Lynnette did?  Will anyone travel to Washington D.C. at their own expense to hold the cruise lines accountable?  Will anyone demand changes on the cruise ships to protect the public?  Will anyone work behind the scenes and board the Triumph and see with-their-own-eyes if anything has been done to ensure the safety of the next families who will cruise on the ship?

Or is this just a lawsuit money-grab for a few thousand dollars and a free Carnival cruise? 

Cruise Ship Fire

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Costa Concordia Litigation: Tactical Blunder By Carnival Opens Door For Lawsuits in Miami

A couple of weeks ago (February 4th), Carnival won a major victory in defending the personal injury cases arising out of the Costa Concordia disaster when a federal judge in South Florida granted Carnival's motion to dismiss and ordered that the case must be filed in Italy if the passengers wish to proceed. 

In the case of Wilhelmina Warrick v. Carnival Corporation, Judge William P. Dimitrouleas held that he was "thoroughly convinced that dismissal in favor of an Italian forum is proper."  The order states that the Court carefully considered the matter and concluded that every single factor weighed in favor of dismissing the passengers' case from Florida. 

Costa ConcordiaYou can read the opinion here courtesy of another maritime law firm's website. I considered the decision to be essentially a final nail in the coffin regarding attempts to hold Carnival or Costa responsible here in U.S. courts.

But on February 15th, the same federal court judge reached an opposite result in two other cases involving 104 Costa cruise passengers claiming compensation arising out of the Concordia capsizing.  Denise Abeid-Saba et al., vs. Carnival Corporation (companion case is Scimone v. Carnival Corporation). 

These cases were filed in state court here in Miami.  Carnival removed the cases to federal court pursuant to the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA)  of 2005 which permits defendants to remove cases which involve monetary relief sought by 100 or more persons.  However, there is an exclusion where there are 100 plaintiffs because the defendant seeks to consolidate the cases.  

The Court noted that the Abeid-Saba case involved 57 persona and the Simone cases involved 47 persons. Therefore, because neither case involved 100 or more person, there was no basis for removal of the cases from state court.

The Court further held that there was no foreign interest or foreign policies sufficient to create federal court jurisdiction.  Judge Dimitrouleas ordered that the cases should be remanded back to state court.

But then the judge went further. He held:

"There is no indication that the Italian government owned or ran the vessel. There is no evidence of the importance of the Costa Concordia or cruising to the Italian economy. Italy has not taken a position in this lawsuit. Put simply, there is a dearth of evidence to show that Italy has a strong foreign interest in this case. This case is about international and U.S. passengers injured on a pleasure cruise run by a private corporation and whether that corporation properly adhered to safety standards or was otherwise negligent. U.S. - Italian relationships will not be rocked if a Florida state court judge awards money damages because and Italian corporation was negligent."

The decision is surprising in so far as Judge Dimitrouleas essentially reached a completely different result in his orders just 11 days apart.  The lawyers for the 104 Concordia victims were understandably pleased with the outcome and issued a press release earlier this week.     

Judge Dimitrouleas' strongly worded opinion is hard to reconcile with his earlier opinion that he was "thoroughly convinved" that the cases should be filed in Italy.

But there are two things that all lawyers learn in law school: first, federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction and in practical terms are always looking for a way to get rid of a civil personal injury case; and secondly, federal judges decide only those issues squarely before the court.   

Costa Concordia SimoneThe issue of forum non conveniens (whether the case should be filed in Italy versus the U.S.) was not before Judge Dimitrouleas. The only issue before him was whether the case belonged in federal court (as Carnival wanted) versus in state court (as the plaintiff wanted). The court did not conduct the same forum non conveniens analysis as in the earlier Warrick case. The court reached a decision solely addressing the issue whether federal jurisdiction was properly invoked.

Rather than moving to dismiss the state court cases based on the argument that the only proper location was in Italy, Carnival preferred to try and take the cases into the federal courts. This was a clever technical argument that turned out to be a bad idea. Carnival gambled with a removal argument based on CAFA. It lost and received some bad language from the federal court in the process.   

But the Concordia victims can't count their chickens yet.  Carnival will still have an opportunity to raise the forum non conveniens argument in the state court proceedings.  Carnival will argue that the language in the judge's order is just dicta, and is not binding on the state court in any event. The cruise victims will argue that the rationale in the court's latest ruling is correct and the cases should remain in Florida state court. 

I met the lead plaintiff in the Scimone case (photo above right) while attending the Congressional hearings last year. These families have experienced quite an ordeal and deserve a trial in Miami. I hope they are successful in keeping the cases here.  

Triumph Fire: Here Comes the Lawsuits! (Part 2): Miami Firm Files Class Action Lawsuit

Go big or stay home, so the saying goes.  

This weekend there have been several articles discussing the two lawsuits filed last Friday against Carnival arising out of the Carnival Triumph "cruise from hell."   I have thrown in my two cents in television & radio appearances and in a number of local and national newspapers. Bottom line:

Unless you have a serious physical injury or physical illness, families on the disabled cruise ship face an uphill climb proceeding with a lawsuit against Carnival for the inconvenience and unpleasant Carnival Triumph Class Action Lawsuitcircumstances they suffered last week.

You can read my blog today about the issue of whether to sue or not. 

But one law firm here in Miami is going for broke by filing a class action lawsuit today against Carnival.

The firm's press release contains links to an appearance of one lawyer on Fox and another lawyer on CNN, but contains no information about the cruise-passenger client on whose behalf the proposed class action was filed.

Lawyers working on contingency fees in Florida collect up to 40% of the gross recovery. Passengers thinking of trying to join in this attempt at a class action need to act smart. If you want to gamble with a big case, make certain that you accept for yourself the cruise fare reimbursements, waiver of expenses, free cruise voucher and $500 (which you can accept without waiving your rights).

Don't let any lawyer suck you into a class action boondoggle and take 40% of whatever has been offered to you already.     

Carnival Triumph Cruise From Hell: Here Come the Lawsuits!

Last Friday, the day the Carnival Triumph passengers were finally going home from the "cruise from hell," the first two lawsuits were filed.

The first case mentioned in the press was filed by a Texas lawyer representing a woman from Brazoria County Texas. I printed a copy from the court's online docket to read this weekend. The lawsuit alleges that the passenger was forced to "endure unbearable and horrendous odors on the filthy and disabled" cruise ship.  Because of the "sweltering temperatures, lack of power and air conditioning, lack of running water, and lack of toilets," the woman "feared for her life" and was threatened with Carnival Triumph Cruise Ship Fire"contracting serious illness by the raw sewage" filling the ship. 

The problem with allegations like these is that they are excluded by the terms and conditions of the ticket issued by the cruise line.

Experiencing psychological distress or being afraid of getting sick are not a basis for a lawsuit unless there is a physical injury or actual physical illness.

The lady's lawyer later told the press that his client had a fever and felt nauseous, but notably lacking from the lawsuit or the lawyer's comments were any mention of an actual illness diagnosed by a doctor.  This may be explained by the fact that the woman probably had not been to a doctor yet.        

The other lawsuit was filed on behalf of another Texan passenger by a lawyer here in Miami. As described by USA Today's Cruise Log, the lawsuit alleges that the 42 year old passenger suffered severe dehydration and bruising from aggressive food lines on the crippled ship. Her lawyer said she was so ill from the five-day ordeal that she had to be given intravenous fluids in an emergency room when she returned home to Houston. Severe dehydration may be sufficient to meet the physical injury requirements of the law but it is unknown whether this is just a temporary injury.

I have made my thoughts of litigation in cases like this well know.

Following the last "cruise from hell" engine room fire disaster in 2010 when the Carnival Splendor was stranded off the coast of Mexico and had to be towed back to the U.S., I wrote an article "Three Reasons Why You Will Lose If You Sue Carnival."  The same conclusions I reached two years ago apply to this latest Carnival debacle. 

It's not that I am unsympathetic to the people's plight. But I have represented clients who waved goodbye to family members at the dock and their loved ones either didn't return from the cruise or they returned in a body bag.   

If you are on a cruise ship that catches on fire on the high seas and you return with your family physically uninjured, count your blessings.

Cruise passengers returning from the Triumph need to rest, relax and start trying to recover from the stress.  They should go to a doctor and be checked out. Get your blood tested if you are afraid.  Send the medical bills to Carnival to Carnival to be reimbursed. But filing a lawsuit before going to a doctor puts the cart ahead of the horse. 

Let's hope that no one develops a truly serious and permanent illness from sloshing around in sewage for a week. If the feces and urine cause an innocent passenger to contract hepatitis or Legionnaires Disease or some other debilitating or deadly illness, then the afflicted passenger should sue the hell out of Carnival.

But inconvenience, aggravation, anger and being afraid of disease won't get you very far in a federal courtroom here in Miami.

Update: Triumph Fire:  Here Comes the Lawsuits! (Part 2): Miami Firm Files Class Action Lawsuit!

 

Photo Credit: Fox40

CNN Opinion: What Cruise Lines Don't Want You to Know

Today CNN asked me to write an opinion piece regarding the state of affairs of the cruise industry following the fire aboard the Carnival Triumph.  CNN permits only the first 150 words of the article to be published so here you go:

Editor's note: James M. Walker is a maritime lawyer and cruise safety advocate involved in cruise ship law and maritime litigation with his law firm, Walker and O'Neill. He has represented crew members and passengers against cruise lines, including Carnival and Royal Caribbean. Formerly, he worked as a lawyer for the cruise industry.

Carnival Cruise Ship Triumph - Cruise Fire (CNN) -- A Carnival cruise ship was adrift 150 miles off the coast of Mexico after an engine room fire. Cruise passengers were complaining about the lack of air conditioning, hot cabins, cold food and toilets that wouldn't flush.

As I watched the news broadcast, I thought it was a documentary about the Carnival Splendor, which suffered a disabling engine room fire in November 2010 off Mexico. But the story was about the Carnival Triumph, which caught fire early Sunday after sailing from Galveston, Texas, with more than 3,100 passengers.

The cruise industry says cruise ship fires are rare, but they are not rare. They happen with alarming frequency . . .  

Read the rest of the article here. 

Cruising, "Eh!" to Z! What Canadians Should Know Before Getting On-Board . . .

Danielle Gauer, JD Candidate 2013 University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law, joins us for another guest blog.  You can read about Danielle's background and read her first guest blog here. This blog is an interesting inside look at cruising for our friends north of the border:

More and more Canadians are looking for a way to escape the cold and snow during the winter months and instead catch some sun. Cruise ships seem like the perfect way to spend a family vacation offering passengers an experience similar to that of a five star all-inclusive resort in the Caribbean. With luxury travel, activities catered to the entire family, world class-cuisine and entertainment, and Canada Cruise Shipssome of the most fascinating ports of call, Canadians are hopping on-board these monster ships to enjoy the family vacation of their lives. However, with the move towards accommodating more passengers and offering more “risky” activities, such as rock-climbing and surf simulators, there is inevitably an increased possibility of catastrophe occurring.

When serious personal injury arises as a result of negligence on the part of the cruise line, it is imperative that Canadian cruise ship passengers know how to assert their rights and obtain compensation for their damages. Being injured on-board a cruise ship is frustrating. Injured passengers also experience physical, emotional and financial loss. In many situations, Canadians fear that taking legal action in the U.S. will be pointless. They can feel defeated at the outset. The choice not to advance their rights can stem simply from the perception that retaining a U.S. attorney can be expensive and time consuming. The thought of “competing” against a large corporate enterprise, that has equipped itself with a team of lawyers that have unlimited resources at their disposal, can be intimidating.

When Canadians pay for a vacation on a cruise ship, they also agree to certain contractual terms and conditions. Cruise ticket contracts generally include a “forum selection clause” stating where a lawsuit can be brought. This informs the passenger where they can file documents to commence legal action against the cruise line. Most cruise ship companies have inserted an exclusive foreign selection clause in their cruise ticket contract. What this means is that when signed, passengers have submitted to the jurisdiction chosen by the defendant cruise line, whether it is the State of Florida (Carnival and Royal Caribbean), California (Princess), or Washington (Holland America Line). This limits the plaintiff’s choice in selecting a location to file a lawsuit that is more convenient and close to home (i.e. in Canada).

Sometimes these ticket contracts may include clauses that place a limit on the types of lawsuits that a plaintiff can bring. Some of these conditions are valid and legally enforceable; other conditions are illegal and unenforceable. For example, Norwegian Cruise Lines has inserted a clause to limit its liability for injuries or damages resulting from participating in specific activities on-board (i.e. rock Canada Cruise Ship Passengersclimbing wall, ice skating, onboard water-slides). Royal Caribbean has similar conditions which attempt to protect the cruise line from lawsuits arising out of injuries from participating in flow-riding or zip-lining. These types of conditions have been struck down in Florida although the cruise lines still insert the illegal language in their passengers contracts.

Before commencing an action against a cruise line, Canadians must be aware of any clauses in the passenger ticket contract that can limit their claims. Canadian laws make it difficult to challenge forum selection clauses in cruise ship contracts, so Canadian plaintiffs should be fully aware of those challenges before contemplating litigation in Canada instead of the United States. Contacting a US attorney who specializes in cruise ship litigation will helpful as they will be fully equipped with the resources and knowledge to assert their client’s rights and allow a Canadian plaintiff to obtain the most accurate information regarding their claim.

Canadians should also realize that passengers have only one year to file suit, and most cruise lines require that the passenger notify them in writing of their intention to file suit within six months.  

Cruises can be very enjoyable, but Canadian passengers should be aware of their rights before getting on-board!

 

Photo credit: "Winter in Ottawa" - Danielle Gauer

Cruise Passenger Rights and Wrongs - Interview With Maritime Lawyer Jim Walker

Over 14 years ago, I was interviewed by Linda Coffman who has a very nice and exceedingly polite blog called CruiseDiva. Ms. Coffman's Twitter handle is @CruiseDiva

It was my first interview by anyone as best as I recall, long before I was interviewed on Larry King Live and Greta Van Sustern and the endless cable news talking heads.  I was a heck of a lot skinnier and had a nice head of hair 15 years ago. What the heck, 1,000 or so cases later, I certainly know a lot more now than I did then.

I have always felt a great appreciation to Ms. Coffman for the thoughtful interview well over a decade ago. I have added a few newer photographs, but the article is re-printed verbatim below:

CRUISES . . .  LIKE NO OTHER VACATION IN THE WORLD

Things that go bump in the night happen. And when they happen on a ship, the horror of the possibilities are heightened. Who would have paid to see the movie Titanic if the ship hadn't sunk? No one embarks on a cruise expecting the worst and no major cruise line purposely puts their guest and ships in danger, but the unexpected and unavoidable can occur during any voyage. In my travels, I've been rousted in the middle of the night by a fire alarm, spent the day at a Red Cross evacuation center, and suffered the indignity of Norovirus--all on dry land.

Cruise divaPerhaps the idyllic and carefree perception of cruise vacations is as much to blame as anything for passenger discontent when the slightest out-of-the-ordinary incident crops up. Cruise lines tout their products as 'simply the best' and 'like no other vacation on earth.' Are they telling the truth? Absolutely. It's true--the worst day on a cruise is better than any day on land. Unless, of course, your ship is on fire, the plumbing doesn't work, or you're dead in the water with a tropical storm fast approaching.  

No cruise line or ship's officers would purposely put their passengers and vessels in harms way. That simply wouldn't make sense. Often decisions to change course and skip a port are beyond their control, particularly when Mother Nature is calling the shots. And there are accidents. However, "unavoidable" is not much consolation to a cruising couple celebrating twenty-five years of marriage on the second honeymoon of a lifetime. 

Distracted by glamorous photos or dreams of moonlit walks on deck and midnight buffets, few passengers take the time to read the fine print, either in the cruise brochure or their ticket. Even if they do read it, the legal language can intimidate the average person.  

For an explanation of passengers' rights and assistance in translating the "contract of carriage" (cruise ticket), I turned to James M. Walker.  A specialist in maritime law, Mr. Walker is a member of the Miami Cruise Ship Lawyer - Miami Florida Maritime Law Association and serves on the Admiralty Law Committee of the Florida Bar. In addition to having the unique perspective of representing both cruise lines and passengers, he has handled cases for clients throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, and South America.  

Mr. Walker graciously answered my questions, providing insight into passenger rights and what to do if things go terribly wrong on your vacation. 

How did you become involved in maritime law involving cruise ships? 

I grew up in a port city and our family traveled a lot. Our vacations seemed to revolve around the water - a trip down the Rhine, vacation in Malta, sailing in the Mediterranean Sea, and so on. I have always had an interest in the water. This turned into an interest in maritime law once I started law school at Tulane University, which has a pretty good maritime curriculum. Once I moved to Miami, rightfully called the “cruise ship capital of the world,” I joined a large firm which defended some of the larger cruise lines.  

Now that I am exclusively representing passengers and crew employees, I find myself traveling again on a regular basis. My practice provides me with the opportunity to travel to beautiful places like Vancouver and London, as well as small towns across the heartland of the United States, to meet with our clients.

What are your thoughts as a maritime lawyer regarding the collision involving the Norwegian Dream in the English Channel and the fire aboard Carnival’s Tropicale in the Gulf of Mexico some time back? 

These incidents raise important questions whether the cruise lines are devoting sufficient resources to protect passengers’ health and personal safety. Unfortunately, these mishaps are not isolated incidents. 

Cruise ship fireTake the fire aboard the Tropicale. Despite wide spread media coverage, few major news organizations reported the Tropicale’s prior problems which could be traced back to 1982 when a fire broke out during its inaugural cruise. 

Before the Tropicale fire, Carnival’s Ecstasy caught fire the previous year. Between those two incidents, the Sun Vista ignited off of the coast of Malaysia and 1,000 passengers found themselves in lifeboats in the Straits of Malacca. The video images of the Ecstasy on fire off of Miami Beach are hard to forget, but few people remember that the Ecstasy caught fire in 1996 as well. Carnival‘s experience with ship fires is not limited to the Tropicale or the Ecstasy. Remember the fire aboard Carnival’s Celebration in 1995 which forced 1,700 passengers to evacuate? All of this, and more, occurred in just four years.

Cruise ship fireAfter each incident of this type, the cruise lines immediately offer a reimbursement of some type and, perhaps, a free cruise. Inevitably, the story becomes old and everyone - including the cruise line - forgets about what happened, until the next collision, fire, or other mishap occurs.

A LOOK AT COMPENSATION

What do you think of the practice of some cruise lines offering free cruises to “compensate” for these type of mishaps?

It’s a good start, but is it adequate compensation? Lets look at the “cruise from hell” stories from the Tropicale. These passengers included families who brought their minor children aboard, couples honeymooning, or elderly citizens who used their limited savings for a relaxing vacation. Through no fault of their own, these nice people quickly found themselves in a nightmare - drifting in the Gulf of Mexico, nauseated, with a tropical storm approaching. Carnival’s offer of a full refund and a free cruise is a good idea, but is it adequate remuneration for their experiences? Does this reflect a greater commitment to safety, or just a more savvy public relations department?

The cruise lines are more likely to offer free cruises now than just a few years ago. Compare Carnival’s approach today with its attitude just a few years ago. In 1996, hundreds of passengers became sick and frightened when highs seas rocked the Tropicale as Hurricane Roxanne approached. 600 passengers signed a petition for a full refund. They believed that the captain threatened their safety by taking the cruise ship too close to the hurricane. Carnival responded with a $40 shipboard credit to make up for port charges on the missed ports in Grand Cayman and Cozumel. Does anyone really think this was sufficient compensation? Or was this just a public relations nightmare?       

Do you have any feel for how the passengers themselves regard these offers? 

Some passengers appreciate the “full-refund-plus-a-free-cruise” offer. But many people are not satisfied. The last thing they want to do is to step foot on a particular cruise ship again. 

Cruise law Of course, the debate of a “free cruise or not” ignores the real issue of passenger safety. The important question is whether the cruise industry is devoting adequate financial resources to make their fleet as safe as possible for families and their children. Things like state of the art sprinkler systems, sophisticated security monitoring, and vigorous background checks on their employees.

Remember, this industry earns literally billions each year in profits, and pays less than one percent in U.S. taxes by registering their vessels in Liberia and Panama. The notion that the traveling public should be happy with a free cruise and a tote bag trivializes the fundamental issue of protecting the precious lives and personal safety of millions of passengers every year.

What is the most common complaint you hear from a cruise passenger?

There are two general types of complaints. The first is what I call the “disappointed expectation” complaint. A passenger becomes disappointed because he or she feels that the service was poor, the weather was bad, their cabin had too much engine noise, or something like this. These type of complaints generally do not belong in a courtroom.

The second type of problem is when a passenger has been injured aboard the cruise ship, due to an accident, food poisoning, or an assault. The most common situation is when a passenger slips on a deck, trips on an elevated threshold, or falls down a flight of stairs. It happens on every cruise.

The most common complaint we hear is when a passenger writes to the cruise line regarding a particular problem, and does not receive a response after several months. Most passengers who contact us are not the least bit “lawsuit-minded.” Yet, they find themselves frustrated by the cruise line’s lack of response after they return home.

What are some of the interesting cases you have handled?

When we defended several of the cruise lines in Miami and Fort Lauderdale, we saw virtually every imaginable type of claim. Of course, with more than five million people sailing on cruises from U. S. ports each year - and everyone attempting to escape from reality - there are a lot of unrealized dreams which turn into strange lawsuits. Single women sue claiming that there were not enough single men aboard the cruise ship. The next week, single men sue claiming that there were not enough single women.

My favorite story involves an elderly widow from Miami Beach who loved to sail aboard from Miami at least three times a year. Unfortunately, she would trip or slip or fall every other cruise. She would file suit every year in December and then try to settle the case as soon as possible for at least two free cruises - first class no less. She still sends me a holiday greeting card every December. 

You would agree that there is no constitutional or absolute right to a perfect vacation or cruise?

True.

So what are the types of things which go wrong that are not the cruise line’s responsibility?

Most problems which fall into the “disappointed expectation” category are not the cruise maritime lawyerline’s legal responsibility. An example would be when cruise lines change the itinerary and the passengers miss a popular port.

The courts determine whether a cruise line is legally responsible to a passenger by reviewing the terms of the passenger ticket. I saw one judge literally pull out a magnifying glass to read the fine print buried in the ticket. The passenger invariably loses when this occurs, which is not surprising. The cruise lines have spent considerable effort drafting language which protects them from virtually every imaginable situation. The exception is when a passenger has been injured or assaulted - there is a federal statute which prohibits cruise lines from limiting their liability in these circumstances. However, this exception may not apply if the cruise ship does not call on a U.S. port. 

Cruise lines reserve the right to change their itineraries at their discretion. Do passengers have any right to compensation or a refund (other than port charges) if such a change is made?

No, based on the “fine print” in the ticket. For example, Royal Caribbean’s language says that it “may at any time and without prior notice cancel, advance, postpone or deviate from any scheduled sailing or port of call.” As a public relations gesture, some cruise lines offer $100 or so for missing a port. But this is dependent entirely on the cruise line; they hold all of the cards in these type of situations. 

Theft from staterooms is pretty uncommon on cruise ships, but if something disappears mysteriously from my cabin, what recourse do I have?      

Virtually none. Again, most tickets limit the cruise line’s liability for theft. Carnival excludes any liability for money, jewelry, or other valuables “left lying about the vessel or cabin.” This Cruise attorneyseems reasonable enough. But even if the cruise lines is negligent, there is a $100 limit of liability for lost valuables, and a $500 limit if the valuables are deposited in a safe-deposit box in the purser’s office and then lost or stolen. 

One reported case involved a passenger who reported the loss of several hundred thousands of dollars in jewelry. The court dismissed the case based on the language in the passenger’s ticket limiting the cruise line’s liability to $100. My only advice is to leave your priceless jewelry at home, or buy insurance before you sail. 
 
STEPS TO A RESOLUTION
 
Before seeking the assistance of an attorney, what steps should a passenger take to resolve a claim?

First, read your ticket and take steps to protect your rights! Passengers who are injured have to send a letter to the cruise lines within a short period, usually six months, advising the cruise line that they intend to seek compensation. Also, passengers have a very short period - usually only one year - in which to file suit when they have been injured. If they are one day late, they lose their right to seek compensation.    

When a passenger is injured on a cruise ship, what proof should they present to substantiate a claim for personal injury?

Of course, not all injuries are compensable. There are two issues to consider. The first issue is liability - it is the passenger’s burden to prove that the cruise line is legally responsible for the accident. The second issue is damages - medical expenses, lost wages, and other intangible losses caused by an injury. This issue is simple; keep receipts of all of your out-of-pocket expenses, insurance claims, and medical bills. Be sure to request your shipboard medical records before you disembark. The cruise lines will usually try to put you off the ship without them, but remember - these are records of your health, and you are absolutely entitled to obtain a copy before you leave. 

The most important issue is liability. A passenger will need proof that the cruise line was negligent. First, passengers have to establish that there was a danger aboard the ship, such as an unexpected step-down without any warning signs. Secondly, they must establish that cruise lawyerthe cruise line knew or should have known of the hazard, yet failed to correct the hazard or warn passengers of the danger. This is often quite difficult to establish.  

As a practical matter, passengers need to take photographs and video of the accident scene, take notes and document what occurred, and record the names and addresses of all witnesses. In seventeen years of practicing law, I have never seen a cruise line respond to a passenger’s complaint by saying “yes, we are responsible - sorry, here is your check.” Cruise lines are not in the business of giving away their money. You have to be prepared to fight for what you are entitled.   

What is the most important thing for a passenger to remember if they intend to seek compensation from a cruise line?  

Don’t forget the one year limitations period! Many cruise lines correspond, quite pleasantly, back and forth with passengers regarding their claims. They invite the passenger to submit medical reports. A month or two later, they request other documents, implying that additional information is necessary to evaluate the claim. The cruise lines never mention the one year limitations period, but they know that the clock is ticking away on the passenger’s rights. On the 365th day, when the limitations period has expired, they notify the passenger that the claim is barred. I cannot tell you how many times passengers contact us after the one year period has expired. The ball game is over! There is very little we can do at this point.

Could you explain what steps you take to negotiate a resolution between a passenger and a cruise line?

If we believe that the cruise line is at fault, our approach is always to send correspondence to the cruise line’s risk management department and attempt to establish a dialog.  

Cruise lawyerMany lawyers by-pass the negotiation stage and file suit immediately. This is not always in a passenger’s best interest. The passenger usually lives in a distant state or in Canada or Europe. All cruise lines require that the lawsuit must be filed in a certain city, such as Miami. The passengers will therefore have to travel to Miami to appear for a deposition and for trial. Over 90% of our clients live outside of Florida, and over 30% live abroad. It is expensive to travel to and from Miami, and these expenses usually cannot be recovered from the cruise line even if they are found responsible.     

We therefore try to make a good faith effort to present our client’s case efficiently, and to submit the medical documentation necessary for the cruise lines to make a reasonable offer without the necessity of a lawsuit. Certain cruise lines offer fair compensation in meritorious cases. Other companies play “hard ball” on every claim. They will not offer anything until the lawsuit is filed and the trial date is approaching.

When all else fails and a lawsuit is the last resort, how long can a passenger expect the process to take?

It depends from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. In Florida, it can take a year to two years before the case is tried. Then there is the potential for another year if an appeal is taken. Patience is a desirable trait to develop.

Is there anything you’d like to add?

We hope that your readers have a safe and enjoyable cruise. 

 

Photo Credits 

Linda Coffman   Ms. Linda Coffman

Sun Vista cruise ship      Sun Vista "Were You There?" website

 

Merry Christmas & Season's Greetings from Cruise Law

As we close out another exciting year here in Miami, I'd like to extend a Merry Christmas and Season's Greetings from the lawyers at Cruise Law. 

It's that time of the year to be thankful for your family and friends as we celebrate the Holidays. 

Many, many thanks to my friends, clients and extended family.

Merry Christmas! And don't forget, Its a Wonderful Life.

Photo by Jim Walker

Cruise Law to Visit Jamaica in December

Jamaica No Problem RoomThe lawyers here at Cruise Law are traveling again to Jamaica. We will be visiting our clients to see how they are doing. We will also make ourselves available to meet with any crew members (or their family members) who need to learn about the legal rights of cruise ship employees if they become ill or injured on cruise ships. 

Our team will be traveling to Montego Bay on Tuesday December 11, 2012 and will be available from December 11th through December 13th for consultation.  

On Wednesday December 12th from 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM, we will be hosting a conference at the "Jamaica No Problem Room" in the beautiful Hibiscus Lodge in Ocho Rio. If you live in Ocho Rios or the Montego Bay area you of course know where that is. But if you don't, the address is 83 Main Street in Ocho Rios.

My partner Lisa O'Neill and co-counsel Jonathan Aronson will be will me.

The photo above was from our last visit to the famous "No Problem Room." We met a number of cruise ship employees from Jamaica whose problems we helped solve this year.

In the last two years, we have obtained over $3,000,000 (US $) in compensation and medical benefits for injured and ill Jamaican crew members. 

If the company has been unfair to you after you were injured on the cruise ship, or if you have medical problems like hypertension, diabetes. cancer or other illnesses which require treatment, please don't hesitate to contact us.

The flyer below has been posted on our facebook page.  We hope to see you in the "No Problem Room" in two weeks.   

Jamaican Crew Members - Miami Lawyers

Cruise Law News Facebook Page Reaches 25,000 "Likes"

A few minutes ago, Cruise Law News hit a milestone with the 25,000th person "liking" our page on facebook.

For the longest time, our involvement with social media involved mostly this blog and our feed on Twitter, CruiseLaw.  

What I have observed this year is that our Twitter feed (with over 10,000 followers) is largely followed by cruise passengers, travel agents and cruise line employees. Most of the people on Twitter who follow us reside in the U.S. In contrast, our facebook page is mostly "liked" by many thousands of crew members from around the world. We have made friends with lots of crew members from India, Cruise Law News - Cruise Ship Crew MembersRomania, Croatia, Serbia and Jamaica on facebook.   

The other thing that I have noticed is that crew members and other friends from outside the U.S. are far more likely to interact with us on facebook.  They leave comments on facebook. The people who read our articles and interact with us on facebook far outreach the number of people who socialize with us on twitter or contact us after subscribing to this blog.

For example, after a number of crew members went overboard from Royal Caribbean cruise ships a few months ago, I posted a couple of comments asking whether Royal Caribbean was working its crew members too hard.  One of the posts was read by over 350,000 people on facebook.  Another posting about the working conditions on Celebrity cruise ships was read by over 100,000 people. We also had many hundreds of comments to these articles, mostly by crew members who have first hand knowledge of what "ship life" is really like.

Crew members are the backbone of our law practice.  Yes we have assisted many hundreds of cruise passengers over the years. But the majority of our clients are crew members (like the crew member above from Trinidad).

Whether they are crew members or not, the biggest supporters of this blog reside outside of the U.S.  The last four people to "like" our page were "Raja" from India, "Natalija" from Croatia, "Novi" from Bosnia & Herzegovina, with "J.J." from South Africa being the 25,000th person to like our page. I have learned that the international community has a different perspective about things than Americans do. People outside the U.S. are far more sympathetic to the hard times many crew members face.  Most Americans, on the other hand, just want a nice cruise vacation. Long hours and low pay are not their concerns.   

Crew members often leave us messages on facebook, asking us for help or informal advice about their rights on cruise ships. Often crew members from places like India, Indonesia or the Caribbean islands have no one to turn to for information while working long contracts on the high seas far away from home. Problems with supervisors, long hours, bad medical care, prejudice & sexual harassment put crew members in a stressful situation. We are pleased to respond without any obligation. We hope that we can help you.

Our blog is read over a million times each year. Thanks for helping us spread the word on facebook. If you have information about working conditions on cruise ships and things that need fixing in the cruise industry, send us tips. We promise to maintain your confidentiality.  

If you are a cruise ship employee, thanks for "liking" us on facebook and reading this blog. If it is helpful to you, recommend us to a friend. Share our articles with your past or present crew member friends. Help us get the word out about "everything the cruise lines don't want you to know."  

Cruise Law News - The Most Popular Cruise Law and Maritime Personal Injury Blog in the U.S.

According to AVVO which ranks the popularity of law blogs, Cruise Law News (CLN) is currently the 9th most popular law blog in the U.S.  You can read the list (updated daily) here.  The list does not pretend to be a compilation of the "best" blogs.  It is based primarily on the number of readers and the number of pages read for each blog, if I understand correctly how AVVO works.

Of the eight blogs ahead of CLN, four of the blogs are written by law professors (Legal Insurrection, Althouse, Law Professors Blog Network, and the Volokh Conspiracy).  Three other blogs are commercial (accepting advertising) types (Lawyernomics, Above the Law, and Lawyerist). There is only one blog ahead of us which is written by a lawyer who actually practices law full time, China Blog,Cruise Law News Blog - Jim Walker - Miami Lawyer which is authored by Seattle attorney Dan Harris.  

That makes our blog the most widely read blog about our practice areas - cruise law and maritime personal injury law - in the U.S. Around 300,000 pages of CLN are read a month. We expect at the end of this year there to be well over 3,000,000 pages of CLN read just this year alone. 

Our Cruise Law News facebook page is the most popular facebook page for a lawyer and our Twitter feed is also popular. 

Being a widely read blog is admittedly a goal of CLN. The purpose of our blog is to educate the public about "everything cruise lines don't want you to know." There are a lot of problems, like sexual assault of women, molestation of children, and abuse of crew members, that cruise lines try and keep secret. 

Thanks for reading our blog, and thanks for sending us tips about things that happen on cruise ships which the Carnivals and Royal Caribbeans prefer the public not to know.

 

If you want to track the popularity of websites and blogs, download the Alexa toolbar.  Its simple and takes less than 30 seconds.

Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery

A couple of my friends on Twitter asked me about a maritime law blog in Miami which tweets under the Twitter handle @cruiseshiplaw. They were confused whether it was my blog, because it looked strikingly just like mine and had a similar name.

I clicked on the blog and, yes, it looks pretty much just like mine. A big white cruise ship in the upper right corner and the same blue theme.

Its a blog by my main competitor for cruise line clients. Very good lawyers no doubt.  But why rip off my design?  

IJim Walker Cruise Law News Blog - Miami Florida Law Blog have an approach in life and in my blog to give credit where credit is due. So when I write about maritime lawyers in Miami winning cases against the cruise lines I credit them by name.

But this blog not only copied my design but actually writes about our cases.  Look to the right and you can see the article "Carnival Cruise Lines May Be Liable For Child's Death." That's a precedent setting case against Carnival where we recently prevailed in the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeal, which we wrote about earlier this month.

Ah another law firm sponging, mooching, free-loading and otherwise riding on our coattails.

No worries.

I suppose imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. 

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?

Port of Miami Cruise Webcam

To watch the Port of Miami webcam, click here.

Port of Miami Cruise Webcam

Have You Liked Us On Facebook Yet?

Cruise Law News has been on line since September 2009.  We have several thousand people who subscribed via e-mail, RSS or Google Reader.  A little over !0,000 people have followed us on Twitter over the last three years. Most of the subscribers and Twitter followers are from the U.S. with many travel agents, cruise planners, and regular cruisers reading the blog. 

But our readership has changed dramatically over the last several months. In June, I started posting information regularly on Cruise Law News' facebook page. I've added lots of stories and photos which are not in my blog.

Since June, over 13,000 people have liked us on facebook. The majority of the new readers are from Europe, South America and India. From Europe, we have seen an unprecedented number of people from Romania, Serbia and Croatia liking us. Many are crew members or former crew members.   We receive more comments to our face book page than on my blog.

If you haven't done so, consider going to our facebook page and clicking the like button.  Leave us a comment and give us your thoughts about our page.

Thanks for reading . . . 

 

Costa Concordia - Cruise Ship

Cruise Law - Coming to a Theater Near You!

People ask me why I practice "cruise law." My answer?  It's the most exciting type of law practice possible, like being in a movie - except it's the real world with real people.

Consider the news in the world of cruising this year. 

A showboating and debonair Italian captain runs a $500 million luxury cruise liner into the rocks.  He puts his blond girlfriend into one of the first lifeboats to safety. His officers announce on the PA system that "the situation is under control. Go back to your cabins." He abandons ship, claiming that his slipped and fell into a life boat. Passengers as young as 5 and as old as 70 then drown.

Cruise Law News - Cruise Ship DramaIf this were a movie, no one would believe such an outrageous script.        

Click on the TV and chances are you'll see Images of cruise ships adrift on the high seas. These are not rusting freighters from third world nations.  They are the cruise lines' best, biggest, safest and most technologically advanced cruise ships carrying the most precious cargo in the world - your families.

This year alone we've seen cruise line abandonment of mariners in distress, abuse of crew members, capsizing, collisions, conspiracy, cover-ups, crimes, disappearances, engine failures, fires, groundings, and union busting involving Azamara, Carnival, Costa, MSC, Norwegian, P & O Cruises, Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean, Saga Cruises and many other cruise lines.

When a passenger or crew member is injured or a victim of crime on the high seas, the cruise lines are their worst enemy.  The deceit and double-dealing by the cruise lines are right out of a bad movie script.

I have written over a thousand articles about bad behavior of cruise ship over the last couple of years.

There will be no end of the stories in the future. 

Our firm is on the edge of the drama, always ready to help a cruise passenger in distress or a crew member needing medical care.  In an industry which cares most about it's own image and reputation rather than your family's health and safety, we are always eager to help the underdog.  In the process, we will expose "everything the cruise lines don't want you to know."    

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.      


Sexually Assaulted On A Cruise Ship? Call Cruise Law in Miami.

There has been a lot of news lately about cruise ship disasters, like ship fires, groundings and sinkings. But the most likely danger that a passenger, woman or child, faces during a cruise is rape.

Cruise ships are essentially floating cities.  Increasingly larger floating cities at that. Like any city, a cruise ship has crime.  Over the past decade the most likely crime on a cruise ship we have seen is rape.

Cruise lines deny that rapes occur frequently.  Just two days ago the cruise lines issued a PR release Cruise Ship Crime - Rape - Sexual Assaultstating that cruising is "absolutely safe." This is part of the problem.  The cruise lines are so motivated to portray an image of an "absolutely safe" vacation experience that they will go to great lengths to protect that marketing image, including cleaning crime scenes and covering the crimes up.

A decade ago, we obtained a confidential internal study (pursuant to a court order) in which one cruise line concluded that sexual crimes occurred "routinely" in its fleet of cruise ships.  It then embarked on a campaign of representing to the public that such crimes were "rare."

During a series of Congressional hearings several years ago, the same cruise line told Congress that it had 66 rapes over a period of 3 years, for an average of 22 rapes a year.  But during a court case, a trial court in Miami ordered the cruise to to produce its internal documents which revealed the truth - the cruise line actually 273 incidents of sexual assault, harassment and "inappropriate sexual touching."

All of the major cruise lines track sexual crimes and know that there are hundreds of incidents of sexual assault and battery each year during cruises.   

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

Our firm has handled many sexual assault cases and molestation cases involving against Carnival, Celebrity, Cunard, Norwegian, Princess and Royal Caribbean cruise lines.

In the cases we have handled, the shipboard rapes were committed by a wide variety of cruise employees - staff captain, ship doctor, chief engineer, hotel director, security guard, cabin attendant, bartender, cleaner, and child supervisor.  The sexual assaults occurred in various locations on the cruise ship, with the most common locations being the passenger cabin, storage room, and crew bathroom.  The most likely assailant?  A male cabin steward from a country outside of the U.S. where it is impossible to conduct a meaningful background check.

Don't expect the cruise lines to be your friend.  They will take the side of their employees every time. And for a number of reasons, law enforcement, especially the FBI, has a terrible record of prosecuting crimes which occur on the high seas.   

Jim Walker - Walker & O'Neill Maritime Lawyers - Cruise LawJim 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.

Jim and Lisa have represented several sexual assault cruise victims who testified before our U.S. Congress.  These women were assaulted by a bartender, a part-time security guard and even a diving instructor during a cruise sponsored excursion.  

Examples of settlements for cruise ship rape and molestation we obtained include: over $3,000,000, $2,500,000, $1,500,000, $1,000,000, $900,000, $650,000, $500,000, $385,000 and $250,000. (All cases are different, depending on the facts.  These settlements may not be reflective of the reasonable compensation in your case).

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).

If you or your child were assaulted 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 or call our toll free number for a free and confidential consultation: 1 800 256-1518.

 

Photo credits:  Carnival cruise ship at Government Cut, Miami - Jim Walker 

How Much Bigger Will Cruise Ships Get?

Twenty years ago I was a defense lawyer defending the cruise lines.  It seems like a different life way back then. Something that I did as a foolish kid.

One of my clients was Majesty Cruise Lines.  It's flag ship (and only ship) was the Royal Majesty.  I thought it was a huge ship when it came out in the early 1990's.  Majesty Cruises lines sold the ship to Norwegian Cruise Lines.  NCL renamed it the Norwegian Majesty.  It sailed a Boston-to-Bermuda cruise for over a decade. 

The ship left the NCL fleet in 2009 and is now the Louis Majesty.  Unfortunately it is best know for the horrific incident when a large wave smashed through glass windows leading to death and injuries to passengers.

Twenty years ago I thought it was huge. But this was no big ship, compared to today's monsters of the seas. Under 50,000 tons and less than 1,500 passengers, it's a tug boat compared to Royal Caribbean's Genesis class of cruise ships.  The Oasis and Allure each weigh well over 220,000 tons with well over 7,500 passengers and crew.

Last week a friend sent me a photo of the port of Miami circa 1971.  I'm a history major and like the vintage perspective. Look at those little cruise ships!  

Now compare the photo on top with the photo below, circa 2007.

How much bigger will cruise ships get?  Will it ever stop?   

Cruise Ships - Port of Miami 1971

Cruise Ships - Port of Miami 2007

 

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)

Cruise Lines, FBI & Coast Guard Caught Altering Cruise Crime Law

NBC Bay Area reports that Congress is pointing the finger at the the FBI and the U.S. Coast Guard for watering down a cruise crime law on behalf of the cruise lines to make it easier for the cruise industry to withhold statistics about crime at sea from the American public.

The Cruise Vessel Safety and Security Act of 2010 was intended to provide greater transparency regarding the number of cruise ship crimes which occur on cruise ships each year. The FBI has previously stated that over 400 serious crimes occur a year on cruise ships leaving U.S. ports.

However, last minute maneuvers by the FBI and Coast Guard on behalf of the cruise lines altered the bill so that only crimes "no longer under investigation” by the FBI would be reported in the public database.

Crimes not reported to the FBI, and therefore no longer under investigation, don't have to be disclosed to the public. This encourages the cruise lines to engage in cover-ups, which was the problem which the new law was intended to correct.

The result of the alteration of the law is that only a few crimes are reported to the public rather than the hundreds which actually occur.

Ken Carver, CEO of the International Cruise Victims Association, spent months trying to figure out how the bill was altered.  He learned that the Senator who introduced the law, John Kerry, agreed to permit the law to be altered.

Mr. Carver said he's disappointed that the agencies he’d worked with to make crime statistics more transparent are to blame for the radical changes to the cruise crime law.

"We do feel betrayed there has been a close relationship built up over the years between the Coast Guard, FBI and cruise lines," Carver said. "Why did they want to change it so that instead of working to protect the U.S. citizens it protected the cruise line industry?"  

 

  

Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas Intercepts Cuban Rafters (Again, Again & Again)

WSVN News 7 in Miami reports tonight that Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas cruise ship sent a lifeboat to pick up five Cuban refugees who were floating in a raft after escaping Cuba. 

A cruise passenger sent Channel 7 a video of the "rescue" operation.  A cruise passenger was quoted saying  "I was kinda hoping that if they were brave enough to make it out to see from Cuba that they'd have a chance to stay here but who knows?"

I have a love / hate feeling about these situations.

Yes, its great that the cruise lines "rescued" Cubans on the high seas in rafts.  No one wants to see another situation where a Princess cruise ship callously sailed by three Panamanian young men in a disabled little fishing boat 100 miles out to sea, causing two men to die.

But on the other hand, there is no question that the Cubans will be sent back to Cuba, where they will meet whatever fate Castro's regime decides to impose.

I have written a dozen articles like this.  It seems like Royal Caribbean cruise ships for some odd reason are usually involved. Take a look here, hereherehere and here. The Allure and its sister ship, Oasis, have had multiple "rescues."

But there is no "rescue."  It is in essence an interception.  Current U.S. immigration policy is that if Cubans make it ashore they get to stay here. Good for them I say.  But if they are caught on the high seas, they go back to Cuba. Period. 

These brave Cubans will not die at sea, but they may now die in a Cuban jail for seeking freedom.  

    

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.     

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!    

Who's Reading Cruise Law News?

One of the interesting things about having a website or blog is that it is easy to see how many people are clicking on your site and reading your stuff.

Google Analytics is an easy (and free) program that lets me see how many people visit Cruise Law News, how long they stay and how many pages they look at.  It interesting to see where the readers are based and what page they look at.  

The analytics program has been around for years. 

For the first four months of this year, 392,335 unique visitors have made 470,053 visits and looked at 1,385,586 pages.  The Costa Concordia disaster brought in a number of new readers. 

Costa Concordia Cruise DisasterAll types of statistics are available.  One of the more interesting statistics is how many people are reading Cruise Law News blog on a regular basis as opposed to randomly appearing from search engine results and quickly leaving.

22,904 people have read the blog 9 or more times in the last four months.  So I have a small town of people who are reading it over 2 times a month.  

The most interesting statistic is that 2,296 people have each read Cruise Law News over 200 times since the beginning of the year.  That's more than once a day for the past four month. Many leave comments or call or email me with tips for stories. 

I'd like to think that Cruise Law News is providing information and a perspective that you can't anywhere else.  Maybe, maybe not.  Our motto is "everything the cruise lines don't want you to know . . . " 

If you are a daily reader, take a moment and leave a comment about what you like (and dislike) about the blog. Are there topics about the cruise industry which I am overlooking?  Are there regular readers who would like to write a guest blog? 

Be sure to subscribe by entering your email address in the box at the left, or sign up for our RSS feed. Like our facebook page too.

Thanks for reading! 

Cruise Shipping Miami 2012 - Cruising is Safe, It Really Is, Trust Us

I am out of town with my family on Spring Break for a couple of days.  This morning I was on my computer reading the Twitter feed for Cruise Shipping Miami 2012.

As all of you know, the Cruise Shipping Miami event (previously known a SeaTrade) is the annual event sponsored by the cruise industry where the cruise line vendors, excursion companies, port agencies, and foreign tourism boards fill the Miami Beach Convention Center advertising their services.

It sounds like a rather surreal environment this year.

The Mexican tourism people are telling everyone how extremely safe Mexico is.  Let's not talk about the 22 Carnival cruise passengers robbed at gunpoint last month.

Cruise Line International President Christine Duffy - two weeks after her disastrous performance before the U.S. Senate where she was chastised for a lack of candor - started off her moderation of the cruise line president's discussions with the usual talking points about the cruise industry's incredibly safety record.   

Carnival executive Howard Frank said cruise ships are safe and his Costa crewmembers were the "true heroes" in the Costa Concordia disaster.   A Celebrity Cruise president and a NCL captain raved about the safety of cruise ships and so on and so forth.

If you ran a computer analysis of the words spoken by the cruise line leaders at the convention, "safe," "incredibly safe" or "remarkably safe" would be at the top of the list. 

But the first two months of this year have been as disastrous a period of time for cruising as I have ever seen.  Not just the Concordia capsizing and the Allegra ship fire.  There have been nine gastrointestinal sickness outbreaks in 2012, a new record.  Plus a steady stream of child molestation cases, crewmembers and older passengers raping teenage girls, deaths and overboard crew and passengers, including another highly suspicious disappearance of yet another woman during a recent cruise.

Cruise experts like Professor Ross Klein, who maintains the most comprehensive list of cruise ship overboards, norovirus cases and cruise mishaps - are not invited, and are not welcome, at the cruise convention.

We will read newspaper accounts from the cruise friendly press and travel agent publications reciting the safety "facts" touted by the cruise industry as the Gospel Truth.

This is the cruise industry's happy fest.  Critics, complainers or independent thinkers stay away.

Cruising is safe, remarkably safe, the cruise executives say.  Repeat after us - cruising is safe.  It really is.  Trust us.

Now can I sell you a discounted cruise to Mexico?

Are Cruise Ships a Perfect Place to Commit Crimes?

Rebecca Coriam - Missing - Disney Wonder Cruise ShipFollowing the airing of "Lost at Sea" program on Australia's Dateline television program, a newspaper in Australia published a short article entitled: "Cruise Ships Perfect Ground for Predators - Investigation."

The Herald Sun mentions our firm and the case of Rebecca Coriam who disappeared from the Disney cruise ship Wonder.  The article also mentions case of members of the International Cruise Victims (ICV) organization:

"Criminals are more likely to get away with serious crimes on cruise ships than anywhere else, a maritime lawyer has warned, with 200 people vanishing at sea worldwide in the past decade.

Jim Walker said about half the disappearances have some factor of foul play.

"The place to get away with a crime is on a cruise ship,'' he told the SBS program Dateline.

"The place to be a sexual predator and prey on children is on a cruise ship."

"If you're a rapist, you're more likely to get away with committing the crime on a cruise ship on the high seas.

"All of this is happening out in international waters, typically.

"There are no policemen on the scene . . . You can't summons a police officer who will run onto the crime scene. So they're out there by themselves.'' 

In Australia, the death of Australian woman Dianne Brimble received widespread media coverage with Dianne Brimble - Cruise Ship Victimstrong criticism of the party culture that existed aboard cruise ships.

Ms Brimble died aboard a P&O Cruise ship of a drug overdose after consuming a date rape drug and is alleged to have received callous treatment from passengers she was with at the time of taking the drug.

Mr. Walker said the cruise industry knew it had a problem more than a decade ago and tried to fix it through slick advertising and marketing, rather than taking the hard steps they needed to really clean their act up.

"You have cabin attendants now who are being hired from Third World countries - no disrespect to small Caribbean islands - that have no databases.

"You can't track them even if you wanted to."

"You don't know what you're getting. But you're hiring a 28-year-old man to be responsible for 12-year-old girls' cabin.

"Mum and dad don't know what's happening. They're at the casino, they're at the show, they're up at the nightclub, and the cabin attendant gets back into the cabin - that's still happening. Those cases are still happening.''

While the cruise industry has followed some guidelines, such as installing peepholes in cabin doors, Dateline reporter Nick Lazaredes said few ships had upgraded their video systems or installed man-overboard alarm systems.

Those who have gone missing at sea include 23-year-old English woman Rebecca Coriam, who disappeared while working on the Disney Wonder cruise ship.

Her family was shocked to learn that there would be no US involvement in investigating her disappearance.

When the family of 20-year-old son Blake Kepley, who went missing on a family cruise to Alaska, Merrian Carver - Missing - Celebrity Cruisesrequested that the captain review footage from security cameras, they were told that wasn't possible.

Ken Carver's 40-year-old daughter, Merrian, also vanished off a Celebrity Cruises voyage to Alaska in 2004.

Mr Carver, who is now president of an activist group called International Cruise Victims, said he was stonewalled at every turn as he searched for answers to her disappearance.

The story eventually became the subject of five congressional hearings, which resulted in America's cruise, vessel and safety act.

The newspaper contained links to some of the more disturbing stories the cruise lines would prefer you not know about:

CBS: Woman Speaks Out About Cruise Ship Crime

BBC: Cruise Passengers 'Not Protected From Serious Crime'

Guardian: Rebecca Coriam - Lost at Sea

ABC (US): Cruise Cover-Up?

I am also posting the Dateline Special "Lost at Sea" in case you have not seen it yet:

 

Cruise Ship Accident Google Lawyers

I read an interesting article today about the high prices that some attorneys are paying to advertise on Google.  The paid ads, sometimes called "sponsored listings," appear at the top or the top right side of the Google search engine search results.

There are two types of search results on Google: (1) "organic" listings which rank sites based on the value of their content and popularity of the site, and (2) paid listings which list results based on how much the lawyers pay for certain words or phrases.

The article, "Lawyers Outspend Obama On The Web," discusses a study conducted by the Institute for Legal Reform for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.  The study found that some lawyers are spending as much as $79 for a single "click-through" ad word.  When the sponsored ad is "clicked-on," the lawyer is charged the amount bid on for the word or phrase.   

Google Lawyer AdsSome 25 lawyers across the country are spending over $100,000 for Google click-through ads.  The report states that one law firm in Houston is paying $16,600,000 for Google ads.

The report also identifies one of our main competitors in Miami as most closely associated with the phrase "cruise ship assault" both via paid ads and search engine optimization.  Some other Miami attorneys are paying to advertise phrases on Google like "cruise rape," "cruise sexual assault" and so forth.

There is nothing wrong with Google ads, although we do not pay for any advertisements like this or any advertisements at all for that matter.   Our blog is strictly "organic" in nature, meaning that it is ranked solely on the relevancy and current status of the content, the number of sites which link to it and so forth.  Based on the Alexa/AVVO ranking system, Cruise Law News is a top ten most popular law blog in the U.S.  In the first two months this year, Cruise Law News had 289,530 visits and the visitors read 862,721 pages.

My only criticism about the concept of Google ads is that there are law firms which I have never heard of who probably have handled only a few cruise line cases at best.  Nonetheless, they are advertising themselves on Google as "cruise lawyers."  I call these lawyers "Google lawyers."  

I saw this happening after the Costa Concordia cruise ship crash.  All types of lawyers across the U.S. began billing themselves as "cruise ship accident lawyers" on paid Google ads.  An internet marketing company has an interesting article about what it calls ambulance chasing marketing

If you want to see where a law firm's website or blog is ranked based on objective criteria, download the Alexa toolbar here.  It's easy to install and will take less than 30 seconds.

If you are looking for a lawyer to handle a cruise ship case, don't be fooled by the top listings on the click-through Google ads.  Many of these lawyers are not even licensed to practice in Florida where most cases have to be filed. Be certain to inquire into how many cases they have actually handled and the success of those cases.  Be sure to ask to speak to former clients for their opinion on how their cruise line cases turned out.   

 

Image: Avalanche Internet Marketing

Cruise Law News Round Up: February 19, 2012

A rather ordinary couple of weeks in the world of cruising: 1,000 passengers or so sick with diarrhea and vomiting caused by gastrointestinal outbreaks on five cruise ships, 16 brawling passengers kicked off a cruise, a crewmember (a child activities supervisor no less) arrested on charges of molesting a child, a cruise passenger acquitted of rape due to jurisdictional loopholes, two passengers sentenced to 6 years in prison for smuggling pot, 3 passengers arrested for smuggling 13 kilos of coke, 1 dead and 9 sickened with flu on a cruise in Brazil, and another dead cruise passenger found face down in the water in the Cayman Islands.

All of this is in addition to the continued bad press caused by the Costa Concordia disaster.  The latest bad news out of the Concordia mess is that cocaine was found on a hair sample of Captain Schettino. The news is confusing because the captain's drug tests were reportedly negative.  The cocaine was allegedly found on the hair rather than in the hair - meaning that Schettino apparently did not ingest the drug.  These fine points will undoubtedly be lost on the public who now will associate the word "cocaine," along with "coward" and "womanizer," with the infamous captain.

Last week also saw the filing of an amended lawsuit against Costa and its parent company Carnival in the Miami-Dade courthouse in Miami.  You will recall that non-maritime lawyers from New York announced that they would be filing a "class action" lawsuit, which turned out to be be a dud. They finally filed suit on behalf of just 6 passengers, 2 from New York, Florida and Italy each.  The amended complaint adds an additional 33 passengers for a total of 39 plaintiffs.  The lawyers said that the media mis-characterized the lawsuit as a class action, even though their website advertised the case as a class action.

The lawyers filed suit in Miami, even though the passenger ticket requires the lawsuit to be filed in Genoa, Italy, because Carnival and its deep pockets are located here.  

The lawsuit now seeks $528,000,000, for just the 39 passengers.   

Good luck with that. 

Costa Concordia Cruise Ship  - Lawsuit 

Photo credit:  Reddit

Are Lawyers Taking Costa Cruise Survivors Into Dangerous Legal Waters?

As rescue and recovery attempts continue to try and locate the bodies of passengers missing from the Costa Concordia disaster, law firms in the United States are moving forward to file class action lawsuits against Costa Cruises and its parent company, Carnival Corporation, in Miami, Florida.

One of the firms advertising for such cases and taking a high profile position is the New York firm of Proner & Proner.  On its page "Costa Concordia Passengers: We Are Here for You," the Proner firm states that it intends to seek "at least $160,000 on behalf of each of the passengers aboard Costa Concordia Class Action Lawsuit - Miaimithe ship at the time of the wreck. Those who were injured, as well as those with wrongful death claims, may be able to collect multiple times that amount." 

In a telephone interview with a local reporter in Miami, the Proner firm said it intends to represent passengers of "all nations" from "Peru to Shanghai."  It will be seeking to recover "millions" on behalf of the dead or missing passengers.  During the interview, the New York lawyer said a lawyer was flying to Miami to file the class action lawsuit and would include Carnival as a defendant.

Whoa Nellie!  Lets slow down and collect our thoughts for a second. 

Cases against cruise lines are governed by a specialized area of maritime law which is different than land based law.

The courts have applied maritime law to uphold certain contractual limitations set forth in the passenger ticket issued by the cruise lines.  These terms and conditions of the cruise passenger ticket are quite draconian in nature.  Take a minute and read one of our articles about this issue: Top 10 Shocking Clauses In Your Cruise Contract.

One of the most important contractual terms includes what is called a "forum selection clause."  This clause specifies where the lawsuit must be filed.  The cruise lines identify a location that it convenient for them and inconvenient for the passenger.  The location is usually where the cruise line is located, which gives the cruise line a home court advantage so to speak.  It is inconvenient, time consuming, and expensive for passengers injured during a cruise to travel to the location chosen by the cruise line to file suit.

The cruise lines have been successful in enforcing these type of clauses.  In the case of Shute v. Carnival, the United States Supreme Court required a passenger who lived in Oregon, and injured during a cruise from California to Mexico, to file suit here in Miami.  No the passenger terms and conditions are not fair, but they are routinely enforced.  

For the Concordia disaster, the Costa passenger ticket contains a clause specifying Genoa, Italy as the location for the lawsuit.  Most tickests issued by cruise lines based in Miami like Carnival and Royal Caribbean select Miami as the place where the lawsuit must be filed.  But Costa's ticket is different.  For Costa cruises which call on an U.S. port, the lawsuit has to be filed in Broward County in South Florida.  If the cruise itinerary does not include a U.S. port, the lawsuit must be filed in Italy.

Last year, we wrote about a similar situation.  In Seung v. Regent Seven Seas Cruises, a passenger was injured while cruising on the Paul Gauguin cruise ship, operated by Regent Seven Seas Cruises, in the Pacific Ocean.  After Ms. Seung filed suit in South Florida where the cruise line is based, the defense lawyers moved to dismiss the case arguing that the forum selection claim required the lawsuit to be brought in France.  The federal court here dismissed her case.  The 11th Circuit Court of Appeal affirmed the dismissal and held that the passenger, from California, had to travel to Paris to pursue her remedies.  Our article is entitled Cruise Forum Selection Clauses: Do You Speak French?

As soon as lawsuits are filed against Costa in this jurisdiction, the cruise line will move to dismiss the cases and will cite the Shute and Seung cases discussed above. 

The cruise line defense lawyers will argue that the lawsuits cannot be filed here.  The Costa company is incorporated in Italy and based in Genoa.  The cruise ship is flagged in Italy.  The disaster occurred in Italian waters.  The Italian Coast Guard responded.  The Italian authorities are investigating the cause of the crash and the casualties. The criminal proceedings are taking place in Italy.  The lawyers for the passengers will be hard pressed to explain why the cases should not be filed in Italy. 

The Costa cruise ticket has another curious twist.  It specifies that Italian law should apply.  For death cases, Italian law may actually provide for a more equitable remedy that the U.S. General Maritime Law and statutory law - particularly where the deceased passengers are retired. 

In the U.S., wrongful deaths on the "high seas" (non U.S, territorial waters, including territorial waters of other countries) are governed by a federal statute called the Death On The High Seas Act ("DOHSA").  There is no recovery under DOSHA for pre-death pain and suffering or emotional losses of the surviving family members such as grief and bereavement.  The only recovery is for financial losses such as lost wages of the decedent.   If the decedents are retired or children, then there are no recoverable damages except for burial and funeral expenses assuming the bodies are located. 

So if the wrongful death cases are filed in the U.S., and the court applies U.S. law, there may be no recovery in certain death cases.  Yet if the cases were filed in Italy, there could be recovery under Italian law.  A passenger could conceivably file suit in a more convenient forum in the U.S. yet receive no recovery; whereas if the passenger filed suit in a less convenient location in Italy there may be greater recovery in some cases.

Then there is the matter of Carnival.  Yes it is the parent company of Costa.  And yes, as the Proner lawyers mention to the news reporter, it collects over 14 and 1/2 billion dollars a year.  But  that does not automatically give anyone a basis to sue it in Miami every time one of its subsidiary company's cruise ships around the world suffer a casualty.  

There are often severe consequences of filing suit in the wrong location or against the wrong party, including the assessment of costs and in some circumstances attorney fees. 

We hope that the lawyers who are working faster than the recovery teams in Italy to file suit here in Miami know what they are doing and are not navigating their clients into dangerous legal waters. 

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 Radio: Six Tips to Staying Safe on a Cruise Ship

Yesterday award winning cruise radio host Doug Parker (photo left) broadcast an earlier interview with me about tips about staying safe during a cruise.  The text of his blog is below.  Don't forget to listen to the interview at the bottom link:  

Cruise Radio - Doug Parker - Cruise Safety Tips"It’s not something you like to think about but just like on land, crime too happens on cruise ships, too.  This week’s news has been about the George Smith case, a man who disappeared on his honeymoon cruise back in July 2005, aboard Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the Seas.  A follow-up “Overboard” will be on NBC’s Dateline this Friday night.

A lot of people let their guard down while cruising and think it’s safe to get crazy drunk or let their kids have full rein of the cruise ship because it’s a “safe-haven,” but that’s not always the case.  I mean you can drink all-you-want and not have to drive anywhere, right?

Maritime attorney Jim Walker of Cruise Law News sat down with us and gave us ”Six Tips for Staying Safe at Sea.”  This interview aired in January 2011 on Cruise Radio but we think this is a good time to reinforce what could be consequences of letting your guard down.

You will want to forward this article to any frequent cruisers in your life."

Listen to this short but informative interview here.

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

Bomb Scare Forces Evacuation of Cruise Terminal at Port of Miami

CBS Channel 4 reported today that a check of a suspicious package at the Port of Miami resulted in the evacuation of a cruise ship terminal.  The evacuation was ordered after a police dog alerted to the package.

Miami police ordered the evacuation of Terminal C, which was in use Friday by NCL's Norwegian Sky cruise ship.  CBS reported that the evacuation covered only cruise and port employees working in the terminal because cruise passengers arriving Friday had yet to be allowed inside to board Friday’s cruise. 

The Miami-Dade bomb squad and HazMat crews were was called to check the package.   A port official eventually said the package turned was harmless.

The CBS video explains the event below. 

 

Happy Thanksgiving From Miami

Today was a beautiful sunny 75 degree day in Miami.  Usually we spend Thanksgiving with my parents in Arkansas where the leaves have fallen and its colder. 

Last year was my Dad's last Thanksgiving.  It was strange not seeing him carve the turkey today.

This year we stayed in Miami.  Lots of family members and friends came over.  Kids splashing in the pool is a fun backdrop to turkey day.  We had a blast.

We have a lot to be thankful for, like my great aunt Anita, just 89 years old, and my in-laws Dr. O'Neill and Ms. O'Neill, who are approaching their mid-80's, and my Mom who is only 79, and is Thanksgiving from the Walker & O'Neill family - Cruise Lawgetting around pretty good now that she lives here in South Florida with us.  The words lively, active, brisk, and vigorous come to mind whenever I see them.  

We are thankful for our children who are healthy.  My oldest son finished his second homemade skateboard and took off this afternoon with me yelling at him to buckle his helmet.  My youngest son trounced me one-on-one in basketball.  When I demanded a re-match, he shut me out in front of the elders who seemed to be cheering for the youngest in the family.  I'm not even going to try and take my older son on.  When did they get taller, faster, and can shoot better than me?

I am thankful for my wife (and law partner).  I'm blessed to be with someone who's not only a heck of a lot smarter than me but who can cook for 23 without stressing out a bit.  Yes, that's her, standing where she should be - in the middle.

I am thankful for my co-counsel Jonathan Aronson and his wife Ilene who have been a constant support for our firm, and me personally, day in and day out.

I am thankful for my brother and sister and their families, who couldn't be with us this year, but are in my thoughts every day. 

We are thankful for our clients who live across the U.S. and all over the world.  We are blessed to have clients from the U.K., Germany, Russia, Croatia, Serbia, India, Honduras, Jamaica, St. Vincent, Trinidad, Bahamas, South Africa and Mexico.  (If I have forgotten someone's home country please email me and give me a hard time.)

Take a moment on this day of Thanksgiving and be thankful for your family and friends.  Count your blessings. 

Happy Thanksgiving my friends.  

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

Welcome to Miami Nana!

Welcome to Miami Nana!This past week I have received a few emails from Cruise Law News subscribers wondering why there have been no blogs for the past week. 

There certainly have been no shortage of interesting cruise stories.  Another public relations snafu by Royal Caribbean, a cruise ship collision, a couple of interesting legal cases, and even a happy story of a young woman who went overboard from a ferry in the U.K and was saved (thank God) have unfolded this month.

But the biggest story is that my Mom moved down from Arkansas to Miami.  Yep, Mom moves to Miami.  I spent a good amount of time (and had a good time) helping her make the move to Miami this past week. 

After my Dad died this past March, her choices for relocation were Houston where my brother lives, Park City Utah where my sister lives, or here in Miami.      

There is quite something about pulling up your roots and moving from your birthplace for good.  Especially when you move from a nice friendly Southern town to a fast paced place like Miami.  

Mom asked me if she would be an imposition living here with us.  With two teenage boys, four dogs and two full time lawyers I asked her if she minded living in a house which I call Grand Central Station?   Never a dull moment here in casa Walker.

The boys stepped up to the plate and had balloons ready for a party when she arrived.

Welcome to Miami Nana!

Cruise Law News RoundUp - Monday June 13, 2011

This past week has been a busy time for our firm with many international news stories being published about the cruise industry.

Jim Walker - Jamaica - Cruise Ship LawyerOur firm is off and running with our advertising in Jamaica.  We spent Sunday fielding questions from prospective clients in response to our ads in local Sunday newspapers.   We are in discussions with advertisers in other Caribbean countries where injured and disabled crewmembers are abandoned by Miami-based cruise lines.

Our firm received a fair amount of press in the last week.  We were quoted in the Los Angles Times (discussed below) regarding a major cruise story.  The South Florida Business Journal and the U.K.'s Telegraph mentioned Cruise Law News' article about the bizarre 7 hour interrogation of British passengers by the U.S. Customs and Border police. 

it seems like some over-zealous Federal agents in Los Angeles mistook the geriatric British passengers on the luxury cruise ship as al-Qaida terrorists and subjected them to a nightmarish situation where the 2,000 elderly passengers underwent detailed passport checks, extensive background interviews, and biometric checks, including fingerprints of both hands and Interrogation Cruise Ship Passengersretina scans after standing in the heat for 7 hours.  You can read about the misguided way our Federal government treats tourists in my blog U.S. Customs Officials Take Revenge Against Elderly British Cruise Passengers?

Turning to more serious legal news, last Friday a Federal Court Judge in Miami rejected an attempt by Oceania Cruises to limit its potential liability at no more than $65,000 for alleged damages suffered by a 13 year old child raped on the Regatta cruise ship.   

Can you imagine having your child raped during a vacation cruise and then have the cruise line try to limit its liability for damages to only $65,000?  Only a cruise line could handle its PR like this.  You can read about the case here.    

The major event this weekend involved the Los Angeles Times' article about the sad tale and continuing mystery of missing youth counselor Rebecca Coriam from the Disney Wonder cruise ship.  Written by Corina Knoll, the LA Times article is entitled "Bereft Parents' Loss is as Deep as the Ocean."  It contains an iconic photograph (bottom) of Rebecca's parents, Mike and Ann Coriam, standing at the dock in San Pedro as the Wonder cruise ship sailed off for another cruise to the Disney Wonder Cruise Ship - Disappearance Rebecca CoriamMexican Riviera.  The Coriam family returned to Chester England with no answers regarding what happened to their daughter.  You can read our article here about the many questions which remain unanswered by this disturbing case.  

It amazes me that parents on the next cruise would drop off their kids to the care of youth counselors on the Disney cruise ship, after one of the counselors "vanished" during the last cruise.  How can a young woman completely "disappear" from the Magical Kingdom's cruise ship with no CCTV cameras capturing the events.  Are there "blind spots" in the CCTV cameras coverage of the ship?  Not a good idea on a cruise ship catering to family vacations with kids.  Does Disney have a serious problem with its security cameras?   Or do the cameras work just fine, but Disney is hiding information?     

The LA Times' article referred to our firm, as well as Congresswoman Doris Matsui who was instrumental in Congress' passage of the 2010 Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act

A disturbing  issue with this latest cruise disappearance is that Disney Cruise Line is incorporated in the U.K. and Ms. Coriam is from England as well, but a single policeman from the Bahamas is involved in the "investigation" because the Disney Wonder flies a flag of convenience from that third Rebecca Coriam - Disappearance - Disney Cruise Lineworld country.  There is something wrong when a British citizen hired by a British corporation to work on a U.S. based cruise ship disappears, and no U.S. or U.K. agencies are allowed to board the cruise ship to investigate. 

This suits Disney Cruise Lines just fine.  They can work behind the scenes, as the policeman in the Bahamas sits in the police station in Nassau pretending to investigate what happened on a cruise ship sailing between LA and Mexico. Meanwhile, the Coriam family remains in England with no answers. 

I suppose that our U.S. Federal agents in Los Angeles could do a better job investigating the case of missing British citizen Rebecca Coriam.  But then again, they probably are busy harassing elderly British cruise tourists. 

Cruise Law Update from Miami - the Cruise Capital of the World

This past week has been an exciting period of time for the lawyers at Cruise Law.

Jamaica:

Jonathan Aronson and I returned from visiting clients in Jamaica.  There are a number of injured crew members who the cruise lines have dumped back in their home country after they were injured working the long hours demanded of cruise line employees.  Under an ancient maritime doctrine called "maintenance and cure," maritime employers are required to provide all necessary medical treatment and pay the living expenses for the ill or injured crewmembers.  All too often, the Jamaica - Cruise Ship - Crewmember - Maritime Lawyercruise lines refuse to do so, and abandon their employees back in their home countries hoping that they will not obtain legal representation.   

Billboards, Newspapers and Radio:

During our trip to Jamaica, we met with representatives from billboard, newspaper and radio companies to begin advertising our legal services in Jamaica.   Unlike the U.S., Jamaica has a culture where litigation is not encouraged.  Plus there are virtually no Jamaican lawyers who advertise. Injured crewmembers are often from countries like Jamaica where few people file lawsuits, there is no legal advertising, and it is difficult to obtain basic information about your legal rights.  (The billboard above is near the port of Falmouth, by the Mayor of Trelawny Parish). 

That's about to change.

Over the next few months, Jamaicans will see our firm's name and photos on billboards, in newspapers, and on the radio throughout the country.  We know first hand that there are many Jamaican men and women who dedicated their careers to cruise lines like Royal Caribbean, only to be sent a one way ticket home and forgotten when they are seriously injured and can no longer work at sea.  We are educating these crewmembers regarding their right to obtain compensation here in Miami when they are disabled from cruise ship employment.

Wrongful Death Suit Filed Over Death of 14 Year Old Girl in St. Thomas:

USA Today, the Miami New Times and the Virgin Islands Daily News have reported on the case of 14 year old Liz Marie Peréz Chaparro, who was killed during a stopover in St. Thomas while on a Carnival cruise.   Cruise lines have a legal duty to warn their passengers of dangers in the ports of call which they select.  For our article about this terrible crime, read: More Caribbean Crime - Carnival Passenger Killed In St. Thomas

A copy of the lawsuit is available on line here (via courthousenews.com).  

More Publicity Over $1,250,000 Arbitration Award Against Royal Caribbean:

The media continues to cover the arbitration award which our firm obtained against Royal Caribbean for an injured crew member from Serbia.  The South Florida Business Journal first Jim Walker - Lisa O'Neill - Walker and O'Neill - Maritime Lawyers - Cruise Lawreported on the award in an article "Royal Caribbean to pay Injured Worker $1.25M" and referred to our blog article about the case. Miami's Daily Business Review and Law.com then ran articles about the case.

Royal Caribbean's defense lawyer Curtis Mase was quoted in a follow up article by the South Florida Business Review "Royal Caribbean Case Highlights Arbitration" that the outcome of the case "flies in the face of 200 years of maritime law."  Mr. Mase was referring to his argument that the cruise line should not be liable for the bad medical care provided to the injured crewmember after the cruise line abandoned her, an argument which the arbitration panel rejected. 

Maritime employers have been legally responsible for the medical care and treatment of injured crewmembers actually dating back beyond 200 years to the Medieval Sea Codes.  The arbitration panel not only found this cruise line's failure to provide appropriate medical treatment to be unreasonable, but it found Royal Caribbean to have acted negligently and to be 100% at fault in causing the crew member's accident.

The last crew member case which went to a final hearing or trial against Royal Caribbean and Mr. Mase resulted in an even larger award for a crew member who received bad medical care - Miami Jury Hits Royal Caribbean With $2,900,000 Verdict.

Epilogue to Losing Disqualification Motion

This arbitration award was the first crew member outcome from the team of Walker & O'Neill and former Royal Caribbean defense lawyer Jonathan Aronson.  Mr. Aronson "switched sides" two years ago.  In response, Royal Caribbean and Mr. Mase unsuccessfully tried to disqualify Mr. Aronson and our firm from suing the cruise line, which we reported on in articles Royal Caribbean Forces Defense Lawyer to Switch Sides and Its Not Personal . . . Its Strictly Business.  After losing its first two disqualification motions, the cruise line gave up.  It now has one of its best defense lawyers successfully suing it.

A Near Miss - Independence of the Seas Hauls Ass Out of Gibraltar   

An explosion from a large fuel tank near Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Seas resulted in Independence of the Seas - Explosion - Gibraltar - Oil Tank - North Molewhat the cruise line describes as "minor" injuries to a dozen passengers.  Seems like many guests on the top deck may have suffered flash burns when the tank exploded.  A potential disaster was averted when the captain and his officers made a quick assessment of the situation and sailed the cruise ship away from the burning tank and out to safety in the harbor.  You can see dramatic video and photos in our articles here and here.   

Although the story ended happily, the issue arises whether cruise ships are attractive targets for terrorists particularly when they are positioned for Mediterranean and Middle East itineraries.  Parking a cruise ship next to three large fuel tanks (especially during welding operations), needs to be re-thought.    

A Guest Blog Goes Viral   

The summer is here again and our firm's legal intern, law student Caitlin Burke has returned to help us with our cases.  She quickly volunteered for another "guest blog" which is one of the most popular articles this year.   Take a moment and read "Top 10 Shocking Clauses In Your Cruise Contract" and learn how cruise lines have stacked the deck against its cruise passengers.  A hell of a way to treat your customers!

If you are a cruise critic or a cruise fan and think you are up to writing a guest blog here on Cruise Law News, contact us and we will be pleased to discuss this with you.

Safe cruising .  .  .     

 

Photo credits:

Top:  Trelawny Billboard - Jim walker

Middle:  Port of Miami, Majesty of the Seas, Jonathan Aronson, Lisa O'Neill, Jim Walker - Jim Walker

Bottom:  Panorama newspaper in Gibraltar (Douglas Cumming)

Cruise Forum Selection Clauses: Do You Speak French?

One of the surprises awaiting passengers after they have been injured or assaulted on a cruise ship is language in the passenger ticket which requires them to file suit in a jurisdiction far from their home.

Most passengers are required to file suit here in Miami.  Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, and Forum Selection Clause - Cruise - Regent Seven Seas CruisesNorwegian Cruise Lines have prepared "forum selection clauses" which include Federal District Court in Miami as the location where the passenger is required to file suit.  The United States Supreme Court has upheld the right of cruise lines to use "forum selection clauses," even though the passenger lives far away in California or New York and travel to Miami provides an economic hardship.

A case decided recently by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeal illustrates the extreme lengths cruise lines will go to prejudice the ability of passengers to obtain compensation for their injuries.     

In Seung v. Regent Seven Seas Cruises, a passenger was injured while cruising on the Paul Gauguin cruise ship, operated by Regent Seven Seas Cruises.  After Ms. Seung filed suit in South Florida where the cruise line is based, the defense lawyers moved to dismiss the case arguing that the forum selection claim required the lawsuit to be brought in France.

It turns out that the Regent Seven Seas passenger ticket (like most other cruise tickets) requires suit to be filed in Federal Court in the Southern District of Florida.  However, this ticket contained a curious twist - if the cruise ship did not call on a U.S. port, the passenger has to file suit in Paris, France.

Mrs. Seung argued that traveling to Paris was unfair and unreasonable because she was an Paul Gaugin Cruise Ship - Regent Seven Seas Cruises elderly woman; she was financially unable to bring a lawsuit in Paris; she was a California resident with medical limitations, due in part to her injury, that prevent her from traveling to Paris; she would not be entitled to Medicare benefits if she became ill in France during her case; and Paris is a remote, alien forum chosen merely as a means of discouraging passengers from bringing legitimate claims.

The Eleventh Circuit rejected all of Mrs. Seung's arguments and upheld the district court's dismissal of her case. 

We hope that Ms. Seung knows how to speak French.

 

For other articles about cruise line forum selection clauses, consider reading:

Cruise Passenger Rights and Wrongs - Interview With Maritime Lawyer Jim Walker

Cruise Ship Accident and Injury Law - Miami Florida - Forum Selection Clauses 

Miami Cruise Ship Accident and Injury Lawyer  

 

Credits:  Case summary by Leagle.

Jury Hits Royal Caribbean With $1.7 Million Verdict for Injured Crew Member

A jury reached a verdict yesterday in the amount of $1,700,000 against cruise giant, Royal Caribbean Cruises, here in Miami.  The crew member is a musician who slipped on stage and suffered an injured shoulder which required surgery and ended his music career.

The Miami Herald reports on the case this morning, explaing that the defense lawyers for the cruise line suggested to the jury that they award less than $130,000 for the crew member's injuries.

Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship VerdictThe case is now being discussed on USA TODAY 's Cruise Log, a popular cruise blog frequented mostly by cruise fans.  The type of comments on this website are often in defense of the cruise industry.  You will often read comments that a verdict like this will cause cruise fares to increase.

The fact of the matter is that Royal Caribbean will collect over $6,000,000,000 (billion $) from its passengers this year.  It will pay $0 in Federal taxes because it registered its business in Liberia and flies flags of foreign countries to avoid taxes, safety laws, and wage regulations.  It is also part of an international "Protection and Indemnity" insurance group with hundreds of billions of dollars in assets.

The verdict will have no effect on the cruise line or any of its cruise passengers.  

Royal Caribbean is considered by many to be the worst cruise line in Miami regarding the mistreatment of ill or injured crew members.  Take a moment and read:

Royal Caribbean Cruises - An Epidemic of Sick, Injured & Neglected Crew Members

Cruise Ship Medical Care - Royal Caribbean Gives Their Crew Members the Royal Shaft

Leave a comment below if you agree or disagree. 

Miami Cruise Ship Accident and Injury Lawyer

This weekend while cleaning out a file cabinet, I ran across an article published by the Miami Herald entitled "Lawyers Turn Cruise Lawsuits Into Industry." The article stated that between 2001 and 2006, over 2,000 lawsuits were filed against the Miami based cruise lines - Carnival, Celebrity, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean.

Cruise Ship Lawyer - Miami - Accident - InjuryThe article mentioned that I was one of the "big three" leading adversaries of cruise lines. This was a nice compliment, I suppose, coming from a newspaper like the Miami Herald which is a big supporter of the cruise industry.

The article discussed lawsuits filed on behalf of passengers and crew members against cruise lines:

"The $25 billion-a-year cruising industry has faced more lawsuits than it cares to count over the past few decades -- some 2,100 in South Florida alone since 2001.

Many are filed by a small group of lawyers -- about 15 locally -- who specialize in representing injured cruise passengers and crew members and make up a thriving cottage industry in South Florida.

But the cruise lines aren't exactly sitting back -- far from it. They have teams of lawyers to fight or settle the suits, and they've quietly begun putting into place measures to make it more difficult to sue them."

"Prime Location For Passenger Claims"

One of the obstacles cruise lines use is the requirement that lawsuits by passengers must be filed here in South Florida.  Cruise lines have included forum selection clauses in the passenger tickets requiring the passenger to sue here in Miami rather than in their home town. The Miami Herald articles states:

Cruise Lawyer - Miami Florida - Accident - Injury - Cruise Ship"For lawyers interested in suing cruise lines, South Florida is the place to be.

If you want to do this kind of work, you pretty much have to do it in Miami," said Martin Davies, a maritime law professor at Tulane University.

Davies said plaintiffs' lawyers occasionally try to sue somewhere else, but they almost always fail. The perception is that the cruise lines are getting a hometown advantage. Davies disputes that, arguing that it makes sense for cruise lines to be able to limit the number of places where passengers can sue. "Their passengers come from all over the world," he said.

The cruise lines won't say how much money they spend on lawsuits, but most cases do get settled, with payouts ranging from a couple thousand dollars to more than $1 million."

 

For additional information about passenger lawsuits against cruise lines here in Miami, we suggest reading some of our other articles: 

Cruise Ship Accidents - Miami Maritime Lawyer

Cruise Ship Accident and Injury Law - Miami Florida - Forum Selection Clauses

Cruise Passenger Rights and Wrongs - Interview With Maritime Lawyer Jim Walker

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

 

A Beautiful Day In Miami - Cruise Ship Capital of the World

Miami - Cruise Capital of the WorldToday was a beautiful day in Miami - 68 degrees, bright blue skies, and a gentle breeze from the south.

This is the type of weather which reminds me why I live in Miami.

My family decided at the spur of the moment to drive over to South Beach. 

All afternoon long, jet - after - jet flew over Miami Beach filled with passengers ready to head from the airport over to the port to board a cruise ship or take a taxi to the beach to unwind and party for the week.

We had a nice lunch at the Lord Balfour hotel, on the front patio, between 4th and 5th street.  My boys then headed over to the beach, mentioning something about looking for the topless beach.  Mommy said no way.  I said take my camera.  We reached a compromise and headed to "SouthPoint."  

"SouthPoint," where South Beach ends, has a nicely developed board walk where tourists can watch the cruise ships sail up Government Cut and head south to the Caribbean.  Thousands of passengers, tiny specs on the top decks, waive to the tourists ashore who waive back.  You can hear the music pumping from the ships and you know everyone aboard is excited to be beginning their much deserved vacation cruises.     

Today, four cruise ships sailed by.  Carnival's Destiny and Liberty, NCL's Norwegian Pearl, and Royal Caribbean's Navigator of the Seas headed out to sea from the port of Miami.  I took a photo of the Liberty and caught my older son running along the jetty after the cruise ship passed by.

Miami is a beautiful and exciting place to live.  More cruise passengers sail out of Miami on a weekend than live in my hometown back in Arkansas. 

We had a nice afternoon.

I hope I don't hear from any of the passengers Monday morning when I return to work.

Miami - Cruise Capital of the World

 

Credits:

Photographs         Jim Walker

Cruise Ship Accident and Injury Law - Miami Florida - Forum Selection Clauses

Miami is called the Cruise Ship Capital of the World.

Most of the major cruise lines are based in South Florida. Azimara, Carnival, Celebrity, Costa, MSC Cruises, Norwegian, Oceania, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Royal Caribbean, Seabourn, SeaDream, Silversea, and Star Clippers all call Miami or Fort Lauderdale their headquarters.   

And if you are injured on one of these cruise ships anywhere in the world, the cruise lines require Cruise Ship Accident and Injury Law - Jim Walker - Cruise Lawpassengers to make a claim in South Florida - no matter where you live or what port you may have sailed from. 

Twenty years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the right of Carnival cruise line to enforce a "forum selection clause" in a passenger's ticket which requires passengers to file their claims in Miami, Florida.  The case is called Shute v. Carnival.  The Shute family was from Oregon and a family member was injured after sailing from Los Angeles to Mexico. 

The Shute family tried to file suit in Oregon.  Carnival moved to dismiss the case because there was a clause in the Shutes' ticket requiring that all lawsuits against Carnival must be filed in Miami, where Carnival in headquartered. The Shutes argued that having to travel several thousands of miles to Miami was an economic hardship.  And why should Carnival - which  registered its business in Panama to avoid U.S. taxes - have a home court advantage in Miami for every case?  But the U.S. Supreme Court sided with Carnival and ruled that the Shute family had to file suit in Miami and be prepared to fly here to pursue their case.

Since the Shute decision, all cruise lines have included "forum selection" clauses in the passengers' cruise tickets.  Most cruise lines require that the lawsuit be filed here in Miami. These clauses are legally binding and the cruise line will always enforce them. 

The passengers' cruise tickets also require that the passenger (or their lawyer) notify the cruise line of the accident and intention of filing a lawsuit within six (6) months of the accident and the lawsuit must be filed within one (1) year.         

If you are a passenger interested in further information, please consider reading:

Cruise Passenger Rights and Wrongs - Interview With Maritime Lawyer Jim Walker

Cruise Law Photos - Clients, Causes, Cruise Ships and Cruise Law Team  

 

If you wish to receive our blogs via email, please enter your email address to the left - or sign up for a RSS feed.  Thanks!  Jim Walker 

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

 

About Jim Walker

The New York Times describes Jim Walker as "a maritime lawyer in Miami who has attended more than half a dozen Congressional hearings about cruise ship crime and passenger safety." Jim has been involved in maritime litigation since 1983.  Based in Miami, Florida, Jim represents passengers and crew members injured or assaulted on cruise ships around the world.

Cruise Law - Jim Walker - Miami Florida

As this year (2014) begins, Jim has been one of the "go to" maritime lawyers when things go wrong on the high seas.

He has appeared this year in the Nassau Guardian "U.S. Attorney Raises Alarm Over Crime;" Caribbean360 "Bahamas "One Gunshot Away' From Being Dropped by Cruise Lines;" ABC News' "How Prepared Are Cruise Ships If You Go Overboard?; Nine News World "Woman Suing Cruise Company for Drunken Fall;" ABC 20/20 Program "Man Overboard Cases" (video); Il Mattino "Ubriaca vola in mare dalla nave da crociera. Le drammatiche immagini delle telecamere di controllo;" CNN "Cruise Ship Nightmares;" Wikipedia "Carnival Cruise Lines;" CTV News (Canadian Child Drowns In Cruise Ship Poolelevision) "Explorer of the Seas Norovirus;" CTV's Kevin Newman Live; Antigua Observer "Cruise Lawyer Says German Ship Has No Case;" U.K.'s Daily Mail "Coast Guard Searches for Celebrity Cruise Line Chef Who Fell Overboard in the Caribbean;" Nassau Guardian "Challenging the Status of Crime in the Caribbean;" Dominican Today "Social Media and Managing Reputation;"  Huff Post Crime "Child Drowns In Cruise Ship Pool;" Baltimore Post-Examiner "Bahamas Fight Violent Crime in Midst of Hotel Boom;" Agenda (a Financial Times Service) "Critics Rip Carnival Exec’s Golden Parachute;" Washington Post "Norovirus Outbreaks Make Both Cruise Lines and Passengers Leery;" WKMG TV-6 (CBS Orlando) "Top Cruise Spots Also Top List for Crime;" CNN New Day, "Crew Member Accused of Attacking Cruise Passenger, Tying to Push Her Overboard," Sun Sentinel, "Assaults on Cruise Ships Happen, But Not Often;" Liberty Voice "Holland America Line Room Service Included Rape Assault," ABC NEWS Channel 7 Chicago "Woman Alleges Cruise Ship Sex Assault by Angry Crew Member;" FOX 45 "Cruise Attendant accused of Sexual Assault;" Market Watch "Do Cruise Lines Have a Crime Problem?;" Seattle Times "A sick way to cruise - Who’s to blame and what’s the compensation when norovirus strikes a cruise ship?;" KSAT "UTSA Student Sexually Assaulted During Cruise Vacation;" Nassau Guardian "Christie and Davis' Troubling Statements on Crime;" "Fire Cruise: Crime, Drugs and Fires on Cruise Ships" by Ken Rossignol ("the Cruise Law News website was invaluable in assembling material for this book);" ABC Local News 5 Cleveland "Concern Grows Over Cruise Ship Crime Reporting; Local Law Enforcement Agencies Lack Jurisdiction;" Chicago Tribune "Taking the Kids -- and keeping them safe around the water;" New Times "Videos Show MSC Cruise Line Employees Tossing Bags of Trash Overboard;" eGlobal Travel Media "MSC Cruises Magnifica Accused of Dumping Garbage in the Ocean Off Brazil;" Huffington Post "Cruise Ship Workers Appear To Throw Bags Of Garbage Right Into The Ocean (VIDEO);" U.K.'s Daily Mail  "Caught on camera: The moment cruise ship crew member hurled garbage bags straight into the ocean off Brazilian coast in violation of international law;" AOL Travel "Cruise ship worker filmed 'throwing rubbish bags into ocean' (video);" FOX News "What's the deal with no lifeguards on cruise ships?;" Le Martin (Switzerland, French speaking newspaper) "Des ordures jetées à la mer! — Vidéo à l’appui, un avocat affirme que la compagnie italo-suisse MSC Croisières jette des poubelles dans l’océan" Reizen (Dutch newspaper) "Betrapt: bemanning cruise kiepert vuilnis zomaar in zee;" Travel Pulse "Royal Caribbean Faces PR Backlash After Issues On Three Separate Cruises;" Philly.com "Rough sailing when virus comes aboard;" Travel Pulse "Following Death Of Crew Member, Norwegian Cancels Calls to Roatán;" CNN "33 Dead in Ferry Sinking, Captain Faces Charges;" Big John & Amy Show 560 AM (Chicago) Korean Ferry Disaster; St Lucia OnLine "St. Lucia ranked in top 10 most dangerous cruise destinations in the world;" St. Maarten Island Time "Port of St. Maarten Not Listed in Cruise Law News Top 10 Most Dangerous Cruise Destinations in the World - Destination must remain safe, secure and hospitable;" Barbados Nation News "US Blogger Takes a Swipe at Barbados;" Nassau Guardian: U.S. Based Attorney Lists Bahamas As "Most Dangerous" Cruise Port;" OB2 "Legal expert ranks worst crime-torn cruise destinations;" U.K.'s Daily Mail "Riding the crime wave: Lawyers reveal the world's most dangerous cruise ports of call;" Travel Mole "Report identifies most dangerous cruise destinations;" Nassau Guardian: Most Dangerous Cruise Destination Claim Not Accurate;" Nassau Guardian "Bahamas Spot On Crime List causes Skepticism, Concern;" Business of Tourism "Crime Levels Continue to Be Major Problem for Destination Bahamas;" Times Picayune "Coast Guard searching for man who jumped from cruise ship;" NB12 News (Video) "Bahamas Named Most Dangerous Cruise Destination;" WINN FM "Questions raised about fatal boat accident;" Il Fatto Alimentare "Passeggeri della Crown Princess vittime di un’infezione gastrointestinale causata dal Norovirus;" CNN "Brutal Cruise Ship Assault;" Cruising Done Right "Crime On the Rise? Find Out Yourself!; USA Prepares "Trash of the Wealthy Dumped in the Ocean;" LexBlog "Cruise lawyer Jim Walker captures media attention, forces response from government officials;" Nassau Guardian "Canadian Man Warns of Crime in the Bahamas;" Professional Mariner "Cruise industry debates whether mega ships are safe enough;" LexBlog "Blogging with Passion Turns Cruise Lawyer Jim Walker into Industry Watchdog;" Above the Law "On Blogging: Throw Your Heart Over The Bar, Let Your Writing Follow;" USA TODAY "The Top 20 Best Cruise Bloggers;" Cayman Compass "Tourism chiefs vigilant over crime threat;" Canna Law Blog "Pot Is Illegal And Don’t You Forget It: Royal Gazette "Island’s tough line on cruise ship passengers with drugs is criticized;" Royal Gazette "The Best of Times, the Worst of Times;" Maritime Executive "Man Overboard from Carnival Spirit;" Naples Daily News "Cruise ship crimes: What you should know (Video);" Opposing Views Family Not Allowed To Re-Book Norwegian Cruise Lines Reservation After Son Diagnosed With Cancer; TravelPulse Norwegian Faces PR Backlash For Refusing Cancer Family Refund; CNN Cruise Ship Horror Stories (Includes our client Laurie Dishman); Miami Herald / AP Carnival plans to build cruise port in Haiti; CBS Money Watch Haiti looks to welcome back tourists; Washington Post Some cruise lines take a hard stance on refunds, even when a relative dies; Maritime Executive Another Death in Cruise Ship Swimming Pool; Montreal Gazette Transgender cruise raises concern; Independent (Macedonia) Denisa Fell Off the Ship, the Captain Reported Her Missing.

In 2013, Jim appeared in the following television shows, newspapers and radio programs: CNN Opinion's "What Cruise Lines Don't Want You to Know", AP's "No Central Agency Oversees, Inspects Cruise Ships,"  WGN Radio (Chicago), Miami Herald, Newsday's "Carnival Triumph: First Lawsuit Filed in Cruise Ship Fiasco," Wall Street Journal Law Blog's "Why Suing Carnival Could be a Waste," Reuters, American Bar Journal's "Cruise Ship Fires Occur with ‘Alarming Frequency,’ Maritime Lawyer Says;" Forbes' "Ship Isn't The Only Thing That Stinks At Carnival: Low Tax Rate Stirs Ire," WWL Radio (New Orleans) "Cruise Ship Safety," CNN Travel's "Lawsuit Filed Over 'Floating Hell' Cruise" (Video), U.K's Daily Mail, ABC News' 20/20 "Troubled Waters" (Video), CNBC's Squawk on the Street's "Carnival & Legal Obligations" (Video), CTV's "Will Compensation Keep Cruise Ship Lawsuits at Bay?, Business Insider's "Passengers On Stranded Cruise Ship Are Camping On Deck And Waiting In Line For Food," Times of Malta's "International Lawyer Praises Malta on Cruise Liner Tragedy," Bloomberg's "Carnival Ship Fire Strands 3,100 Guests Off Mexican Coast,"  Sun Sentinel's "Carnival Cruise Nightmare: Why Evacuation is not an Option," America Public Media's "Worst Cruise Ever: Can I Sue?;" Yahoo Finance's "Cruise Ship Fire Highlights Past Incidents."

The GO-TO CRUISE LAW ATTORNEY - FEATURED IN HUNDREDS OF TELEVISION, CABLE NEWS, RADIO, DOCUMENTARY, MAGAZINE & NEWSPAPER ARTICLES AND PROGRAMS ABOUT CRUISE SHIP ACCIDENTS, INJURIES, SEXUAL ASSAULTS AND CONTROVERSIES 

Rush Limbaugh's "Media Targets Evil Carnival Cruise Company," Insurance Journal, Travel Blackboard, Local 10 News (Miami), Business Insider's "Good Luck Finding Out If The Cruise Ship You're Traveling On Is Safe," South Florida Business Journal"s "New Twists in Boozing and Ocean Cruising," ABC's 20/20 "Troubled Waters" (Video), U.K. Daily Mail, Times of Malta's International Lawyer Praises Malta on Cruise Liner Tragedy," Business Journalism's "Cruise Ship Saga: Business Story Angles and Resources," ABC News' "Death of Cruise Ship Singer Jackie Kastrinelis Remains a Mystery," KRPC TV (Houston) "Local 2 Investigates Carnival Cruise Fires" (Video), U.K. Daily Mail's "First Passenger Sues Cruise Line Over 'Horrifying' Conditions on Stricken Carnival Vessel," WOR 710 Radio (New York), Thomson Reuters' Triumph Passengers Bring Class Action Against Carnival," Seattle Times' Cruise Lawsuits Are In, But Carnival Has Advantage," Travel Weekly's "Triumph Suits Add to CCL's Woes," Newsweek's "Carnival Cruise from Hell," Daily Business Review: "Justice Watch: Triumph Passengers Face a Sea of Issues," Travel agent Central's "Update on Carnival Triumph - Lawsuits Filed, One First-Timer Weighs In," CBS Peter Greenberg "Why It’s Hard for Passengers to Sue Post-Carnival Triumph," Local 10 (Miami) "3 Carnival Cruise Line fires since Nov. 2010" (video), Travel agent Central's Can Victims of Costa Concordia Sue in the U.S.?, Daily Business Review's and National Law Journal's "Federal Judge Sends Concordia Lawsuits back to Miami-Dade," CruiseMates' "Cruise Ship System Failures," Quaratz's "One of the Secrets to Carnival Cruise’s Unsinkable Business Model: Free Coast Guard Rescues," Philadelphia Inquiry's "Pregnant?You May not be Able to Cruise," South Florida Business Journal's "Carnival Shares Drop with Reputation Under Assault," CBS Baltimore's "FBI Investigating Suspicious Death On Cruise Ship That Set Sail From Baltimore," International Business Times' "Cruise Ship Death: FBI Probes Suspicious Death Aboard Royal Caribbean Baltimore Cruise; "MSN News' "Cruise Ship Death Spotlights Murky Waters of Fatalities at Sea;" Cruising Done Right's "Maritime Lawyer Raises Questions," NBC Rock Center with Brian Williams' "Carnival CEO Comes Under Congressional Heat" - Watch NBC Video here; South Florida Business Review's April Fool's Day: Carnival Will incorporate in the United States, NBC's "Would Your Cruise Have Fewer Problems if Americans Ran It?," E-Travel Blackboard's US law firm spends $3 million to charter cruise ship;" NBC's "Family Seeks More Answers in Disappearance of Man From Cruise Ship;" Huffington's Post's "Paul Rossington, Missing Carnival Cruise Passenger, May Have Been Trying To Rescue Girlfriend Kristen Schroder;" Seattle Times' Taking a Hard Look at Cruise-Ship Problems:" CNN's "FBI to Review Honeymooner's 2005 Cruise Ship Death;" Boston Herald's "Murder, Crime Warnings in Nassau;" The Economic Times' "How Normal are Cruise Ship Mishaps Like Fires and Power Failures?; eTravel Blackboard (Australia)'s "Cruise Lawyer Says Bridge Being Unaware of Man Overboard Situations Should Not Happen;" The Slant's "Carnival is Taking on Water But Don't Abandon Ship;" KGW News Station (Oregon) Salem Cruise Passenger Missing and Presumed Drowned;" U.K. Mirror's What can cruise passengers expect from their own Bill of Rights?; Sun Sentinel's CLIA, "Cruise Operators Adopt Passenger Bill of Rights," Travel Weekly's "Cruise Lines Adopt First ‘Bill of Rights’ for Clients at Sea;" eTravel Blackboard's US Cruise Lawyer: "Cruise Ship Fires: When is Enough, Enough?;"  K-Talk Utah Radio (NBC) Malcolm Alvin's Malcolm Out Loud Show; eTravel Blackboard's "US Judge Changes Mind About Legal Jurisdiction;" Anderson Cooper AC 360 Keeping Them Honest - "Who's Keeping Cruise Passengers Safe?;" HuffPost Music Canada's "Sean Richard Bell, Manitoba Cruise Ship Musician, Arrested On Child Pornography Charges;" Florida Today's "Cruise Ship Crime Stats Aren't Smooth Sailing;" Florida Today's "Who's Working on the Ships You're Sailing Aboard?;" USA Today Watchdogs Urge Better Reporting of Cruise Ship Crime;" Chicago Tribune's Can You Trust the Cruise Lines' New Passenger 'Bill of Rights?; Miami Daily Business Review's "Plaintiffs Celebrate Ruling In Concordia Shipwreck;" e-Travel Blackboard's "National Lawyers Strike Suspends Concordia Schettino’s Trial;" New York Times' "Those Wordy Contracts We All So Quickly Accept;" Global Travel Industry News's "Cruise Line Bill of Rights - Trustworthy?;" Trusted Luxury Cruises' "Silversea Cruises: Silver Shadow Failed Inspection;" eTravel Blackboard's "US Lawyer Says Silversea’s Silver Shadow Fails Sanitation Inspection;" Alaska Dispatch's "Corporate Interests 4, Alaska Zero. Game Over?:;" Skift Travel's "Cruise Lines to Begin Disclosing All Onboard Crimes on Own Websites;" CNN's "Luxury Cruise Fails Surprise Health Inspection;" eTravel Blackboard's "US Senate Cruise Industry Hearing Reveals Cruise Crime is Hidden;" NBC News' "Luxury Cruise Line Vows Changes After Ship Fails CDC Inspection;" KOAA's "More Problems for Cruise Ships;" NBC News' "Lawmakers Turn Attention to Crime on Cruise Ships;" NBC 6's "Major Cruise Lines Begin Posting Crime Stats;" Miami Herald's "Report, Punish Crimes in Cruises:" Washington Post's "Will a New Law Force Cruise Lines to Better Report Onboard Crime?;" Yahoo Voices' "Are Cruise-Safety Concerns Justified? Bigger Ships, More Destinations, Limited Accountability - Should Passengers Think Twice?;" Coach Class - Travel for Real People's "Cruise Passenger Bill of Putative Rights;" Travel Weekly's "Cruise Editor's Bookmarks: Three Interesting Reads;" Wall Street Journal's "Reputation, Regulatory Issues Dog Cruise Industry;" Noticias 25 Internacionales' "Uno de los cruceros más lujosos del mundo no pasó la inspección sanitaria;" About Cruise Ship's "Disney Line Sexual Assault;" Lloyd's List "MLC: Cruiseship Employees Work Ever Longer Shifts;" Associated Press/ CBS "Carnival Cruise Lines Says 6-Year-Old Boy Drowned in Pool at Sea;" CNN's New Day Reports: "Costa Captain Says Not My Fault;" Travel Agent Central "Dawn Princess Hit by Electrical Fire, Guests Called to Muster Stations;" Huffington Post "Woman Overboard On Grand Princess Cruise Feared Dead;" Miami Herald "Overboard Cases on Cruise Lines Often Under-Reported to Public;" Wikipedia - "Carnival Cruise Lines;" WPTV-NBC "Law Requires Man Overboard Systems on Cruise Ships to Detect a Passenger Falling Overboard;"  Cay Compass "Critics Urge Caution on Cruise Port Deal;" Change.org "P&O Ferries: Install CCTV Cameras on Passenger Decks;" Tampa Bay Business Journal "Raising the Sunshine Skyway Could Open the Bay for Giant Cruise Ships;" This is Kent "A Mum is Forever;"  Global Travel Industry News "Royal Caribbean Cruise: Passenger overboard - Coast Guard Taking Over;" Daily Mail "Coast Guard Searches for Passenger Who Jumped Overboard Royal Caribbean's Adventure of the Seas;" Lund University "Cruise Ship Passengers and Their Rights."

In 2012, Jim appeared 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. 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. He also appeared on CNN's special "Cruise to Disaster" which explored the Concordia disaster.

Jim attended Duke University and graduated cum laude in 1980. He attended Tulane University School of Law, graduating in 1983 after taking Tulane’s internationally renowned admiralty curriculum.

Jim has experience regarding issues of cruise ship crime and sexual assault. Over the past ten years, he has represented over 1,000 clients including over 75 individuals who have been victimized on cruise ships, cruise excursions and ports of call. Six of Jim’s clients have testified before the United States Congress regarding cruise ship safety. Jim has handled the following cases in the past ten years: 

  • The case of Laurie Dishman, sexually assaulted on Royal Caribbean’s Vision of the Seas. Her case resulted in changes to the cruise industry and the introduction of the Cruise Ship Safety and Security Act of 2010.
  • The “Missing Honeymooner Case” involving the disappearance of George Smith IV of Greenwich Connecticut from Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the Seas cruise ship. Jim represented Mr. Smith’s widow, Jennifer Hagel.
  • Over 75 sexual assault cases against women and children on cruise ships, resulting in many million and multi-million dollars settlements.
  • The 2006 Star Princess fire disaster. The cruise ship fire resulted in one hundred cabins being destroyed and the death of one passenger, Richard Liffridge. Jim represented Mr. Liffridge’s family in litigation against Princess Cruises in California.
  • Numerous cases involving serious injury and death of passengers and crew members aboard Carnival, Celebrity, Costa, Norwegian, Oceania, Princess and Royal Caribbean cruise ships.

Jim is married to Lisa O’Neill who he met while they were undergraduates in college thirty years ago. Jim and Lisa are also law partners.

Watch 5 Years Later (facebook video).

Lisa is also a Duke cum laude graduate, and attended the University of Florida School of Law in Gainesville, Florida. She served on Law Review as the Senior Articles Editor, won the prestigious Gertrude Brick Award, and graduated cum laude. Jim and Lisa work on all cases together.


In 1999, the firm created the web site CruiseLaw.com as an information resource for passengers and crew members worldwide. Here is what some publications are saying about Jim Walker:

"Top Maritime Lawyer" - ABA Journal.

"Top Cruise Lawyer" - USA Today.

"Prominent Private Practice Maritime Attorney" - Fox News.

"A Premier Lawyer for Cruise Passengers" - Reuters.

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

"Leading Miami Attorney" - Newsweek Magazine

"Leading Maritime Lawyer in Miami" - Arizona Republic / USA Today

"An Outspoken and Candid Maritime Attorney Who has Represented Some of the Highest Profile Cruise Plaintiffs in History" - CruiseMates

"Longtime Maritime Lawyer Who Represents Clients Suing Cruise Lines" - New York Times

"Internationally Renowned Maritime Lawyer and Cruise Safety Advocate" - Times of Malta

"Man For the Other Team" - International Shipping Publication Tradewinds.

"Prominent Florida-Based Lawyer for Cruise Ship Passenger" - Staten Island Live.

"Leading U.S. Based Cruise Lawyer" - eTravel Blackboard (Australia).

"Prominent Miami Maritime Lawyer" - Travel Agent Central.

"Industry Watchdog" - LexBlog

"King of anti-cruise tirades . . . his impressive background and litigation record against cruise lines must be taken seriously." - Travel Weekly.

"Perpetual Pain-In-The-Cruise-Lines-Neck Jim Walker" - Gadling.

Jim is the author of Cruise Law News - described as a "Hard-Hitting Blog" by Miami's Daily Business Review.

The U.K. Metro newspaper refers to Jim as the "Devil of Cruise Reporting."

Professional Associations

  • Admiralty Law Committee of the Florida Bar (former member)
  • American Association for Justice, Admiralty Law Section
  • Florida Admiralty Trial Lawyers Association
  • Maritime Law Association of the United States
  • Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum
  • Southeast Admiralty Law Institute

Education

  • Kent School, Kent Connecticut 1976
  • Duke University, Durham North Carolina 1980
  • Tulane School of Law, New Orleans Louisiana 1983

Bar Admissions

  • Florida Bar Association
  • Louisiana Bar Association (not active)
  • United States District Courts, Eastern District of Louisiana and Southern District of Florida

Media, Television, Radio, Magazines and Newspapers


Jim and his clients have been featured well over a hundred times on television, cable news and radio shows, as well as in documentaries, newspapers and magazine articles.

ABC, CBS, MSNBC, CNN, FOXNews, DATELINE, 48 HOURS, 20/20, Larry King Live, A & E Investigative Reports, Hannity & Colmes, Greta Van Sustern, Nancy Grace, Inside Edition, Julie Banderas, Big Story Weekend, CourtTV, Catherine Crier, Montel Williams, Joe Scarborough, Rita Cosby, Mike & Juliet, Geraldo Rivera, Nancy Bloom, Dan Abrams, UK’s BBC-Radio 4, Heartland w/John Kasich, E! Entertainment, TruTV, Canada’s CATV-5, Good Morning America, TIME Magazine, National Law Journal, RADAR Magazine, Lawyer’s Weekly USA, Miami Herald, American Law Media, Tradewinds, Fort Lauderdale’s Sun-Sentinel, Miami Business Review, LA Times, NY Times, Salt Lake Tribune, Florida Today, Daytona Beach Journal, Sacramento Bee, Washington Post, Greenwich Times, Greenwich Citizen, Greenwich Post, San Francisco Chronicle, U.K.'s Telegraph, St. Petersburg Times, Miami’s New Times, U.K. Mirror, London’s Guardian, Edmonton Post, Chicago Sun-Times, Bahamas Journal, Italy's "Chi l'ha Visto?" television show, Germany's Wunderwelt Wisen, CruiseCritic, South Florida Business Journal, Open Secrets organization, Queerty, Baltimore Sun, Bahamas Tribune, National Public Radio (NPR), USA Today, Gadling, FOX Business, Slate Magazine, ABA Journal, Australia's The Age, Attorney at Law Magazine, Huffington Post, U.K.'s Daily Mail, BBC, Freeport (Bahamas) News, Haaretz, Trip Advisor, Wikipedia, Palm Beach Post, India Times, E Turbo News, Global Travel News, Comunidade News (Brazil), Canada's CTV, OutFront with CNN's Erin Burnett, Slate, The Daily, London's Financial Times, Newsweek Magazine, Newsweek's The Daily Beast Blog, Fund Web, Reuters, Consumer Affairs, Australia's Herald Sun, Canada's NewsTalk 1010 Radio, Houston Chronicle, Wall Street Journal, Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), Tampa Bay Business Journal, Perez Hilton, Business Insider, Greenwich Magazine, Herald Sun, CNN Money, the Australian newspaper, Christian Science Monitor, International Business Times, Maritime Executive, Businessweek, Bloomberg, Alaska Dispatch, Minnesota Post, Virgin Islands Daily News, Arizona Republic, Trip Advisor, Daily Kos, Jamaica's Gleaner newspaper, Antigua Observer, N.Y. Daily News, U.K.'s Daily Mail, UPI, Inquisitr, Christian Post, KTIC Radio, Cordova Times, Bloomberg News, Business Insider, Times of Malta, CNN Opinion, Wall Street Journal Blog. Newsday, CBC Radio (Canada), American Public Media Market Place, WGN Radio (Chicago) Chicago Tribune, WWL Radio (Miami), CNBC Squawk on the Street, WIOD Radio (Miami) and the Associated Press have all covered Jim’s cases and his client's causes.

Watch Jim on ABC's 20/20 program in January 2012 about the Costa Concordia disaster:

Watch Jim on Australia's Dateline program "Lost at Seas" in March 2012 about cruise ship disappearances:

Watch Jim on PBS / NOVA's "Why Ships Sink"

Watch Why Ships Sink on PBS. See more from NOVA.