In our first article regarding the excursion tour bus accident in Tortola, we explained that while Princess Cruises sent "customer care" representatives to the island to meet with the survivors of the crash – the cruise line also sent Miami defense trial lawyers to defend the cruise line’s interests.
The Cruise Line Gets Lawyered Up
The attorney heading up Princess Cruises’ defense is Jeffrey Maltzman from the Maltzman Foreman law firm in Miami. Mr. Maltzman is an experienced and skilled trial lawyer who routinely defends cruise lines and excursion companies in high profile trials.
Mr. Maltzman is best known for his successful defense of Cunard Line and Fun Water Tours following the crash of an excursion truck in Tortola British Virgin Islands (BVI) in November 2005. The case is highlighted in an article appearing in the National Law Journal entitled "Defense Team Found the Needle in the Haystack."
The article explains that 8 cruise passengers from Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 visiting Tortola were injured when the brakes of the excursion truck failed, causing the vehicle to crash in the side of a mountain. The issue of the brake failure and whether the excursion company and cruise line knew of the brake problem were the central focus of the trial. As the article explains, millions of dollars in compensation were at issue.
Although the article explains that "odds were overwhelmingly against" the cruise line at the beginning, Mr. Maltzman and his partner, Jeffrey Forman, successfully defended the case. Mr. Foreman is quoted as saying "there’s a saying that pigs get slaughtered . . . If you make them look like they’re greedy . . . that usually has an impact. So we tried to paint them as greedy, exaggerating, malingering." The tactic worked, as the jury decided against all of the cruise passengers and Mr. Maltzman won a defense jury verdict for the cruise line and excursion company.
Princess Cruises Denies Brake Malfunction?
Mr. Maltzman has been on the Caribbean Princess cruise ship this week interviewing the passengers injured in the latest excursion crash in Tortola. His firm has what is called an "Emergency Response Team" where defense lawyers are scrambled to respond to cruise disasters.
Some passengers suggest that a "customer care" representative from Princess and Carnival introduced Mr. Maltzman as an "independent investigator" (although Mr. Maltzman identified himself as a lawyer for the cruise line).
Mr. Maltzman is reportedly telling some of the passengers that the tour bus’ air brakes were checked out by investigators and no problems were discovered. It is less than clear whether the investigators were retained by the police or the defense lawyers on behalf of the cruise line.
The defense strategy is already taking shape – the cruise line will deny that the accident was due to brake failure or any defect in the excursion bus or, if there was a problem with the brakes, neither the driver nor the excursion company or cruise line knew about it beforehand. Princess Cruises will argue that it should not be responsible because this was just an isolated incident due to the momentary carelessness of the bus driver.
Or in other words, the bus driver may turn out to be the "fall guy."
The Bus Driver Gets Lawyered Up
BVI Platinum News, which is providing excellent coverage of this tragic accident, reports that the bus driver, Roland Allen, retained a defense lawyer, Stephan Daniels. BVI News reports that Mr. Allen is also known as "Crash Dummy."
Mr. Daniels appeared in Court yesterday in an effort to try and get his client out of jail, following his arrest two days ago. In an article entitled "Mechanical Problems May Have Caused Tuesday’s Accident," BVI News describes what the bus driver’s lawyer argued to the Court:
"Daniels told the court that his client was not aware that there was a brake malfunction when he was going down the hill, however as he applied the brake, he realized that it had failed.
Further, Daniels told the court that once Allen realized what was occurring, he tried his best to avoid the accident by gearing down, while attempting to brace the vehicle to the side of the hill to slow down the bus.
Daniels explained that the vehicle collided with the foundation of a church ruin and toppled. The Lawyer said that if this was not done, the accident could have been worse.
He said that it was clearly a mechanical malfunction that resulted in the accident and his client was not reckless."
The Court nonetheless declined to release Mr. Allen, but will consider the matter further at a hearing on March 2nd.
The Cruise Continues
Although none of the passengers have even ended their ill fated cruise, the defense lawyers for the cruise line and bus driver are posturing to defend their clients. Princess Cruises has an excellent lawyer in Mr. Maltzman who has won this type of case before. The bus driver should hope that his defense lawyer is equally talented.
Jeffrey Maltzman Superlawyers
Excursion Bus BVI Platinum News
Roland Allen BVI Platinum News