One of the purposes of this blog is to educate the public of dangers of cruising and the legal hurdles passengers face when things go wrong during a cruise.
One of the first issues I felt compelled to write about when I started this blog over two years ago was the Death On The High Seas Act ("DOHSA"). DOSHA does not permit cruise passengers to recover pain, suffering, grief, or bereavement if a loved one dies outside of the territorial waters of the U.S. DOSHA provides only limited financial damages, such as lost wages.
If a child is killed during a cruise or shore excursion due to the cruise line’s negligence, there is no recovery at all because the child is not a wage earner. I wrote about this in my series of the "ten reasons not to cruise" – Reason No. 5: If You Are Retired Or A Child, The Cruise Line Considers Your Life Worthless.
Cruise lines love DOSHA. It eliminates all consequences of their negligence and provides no incentive to act responsibly. The cruise industry spends millions of dollars lobbying Congress to make certain that DOSHA is not amended to provide reasonable compensation to grieving families.
This weekend, I received the following comments from a Mom who lost her daughter during a Holland American Line cruise, while on HAL’s "private island" Half Moon Cay.
Holland America Line’s "Family Cruise" – Half Moon Cay
"My 3 year-old daughter was killed on Christmas Eve of last year while on a Holland America cruise with her biological father. She drowned in the designated children’s swim area of a private island in the Bahamas owned by HAL. This tragedy occurred in plain view of hundreds of people present and right near where a lifeguard SHOULD have been actively on duty.
I would never have considered allowing her on the cruise if I believed for a moment that I was putting her in harm’s way.
Imagine what it feels like to receive a phone call on Christmas Day and fully expecting to hear a relative calling with a Christmas greeting. Instead, you are informed, with no preamble or warning, that your darling daughter is dead.
Holland America has made it perfectly clear to us that they feel they have no responsibility in the matter, and even if they did have any liability, that their interests are fully protected by the Death on the High Seas Act. Never mind the fact that the children’s swim area contained many bright toys to lure children into the water, and deliberately lulls the guests into a false sense of security with signs nearby that say "Paradise — you’ll want to stay forever" (or similar.) Because the DOHSA does not cover pain and suffering (only loss of a paycheck, and let’s face it, my daughter didn’t have a steady job), they have informed me that I am entitled to absolutely nothing.
Thanks, Holland America. And a Merry Christmas to you as well.
Be aware of this stance before you go on one of Holland America’s "Family Cruises" (one of their employees told me their target market is families for their Christmas Cruises). Holland America is only too happy to take full advantage of their supposed protection under a law that they themselves have so much as admitted as being archaic. For some terribly naive reason, I actually had hoped that instead of hiding behind the cover of an inappropriate law to protect themselves from their failures to provide a safe environment for my child, that they would actually be moved to simply do the right thing. Silly me.
The DOHSA Act was originally passed in 1920 to cover scenarios of a fisherman (read: breadwinner) lost at sea. The intent of the law was certainly never to cover the loss of a child on a cruise, but the cruise industry is taking full advantage of its existence and has opposed efforts to change this law.
The lesson that Holland America has taught me with their brush-off treatment of my complaint is loud and clear: pain and suffering are worthless. I can’t even bring myself to contemplate what their message communicates with regards to their perceived value of the life of my daughter."
Were you on the cruise or at Half Moon Cay at the time of this incident?
Should DOHSA be amended to provide the same remedies as land based law?
Please leave a comment below . . .
For other articles on DOHSA, consider reading:
What Does BP, Al Qaeda and a Cruise Line Have In Common?
Death On The High Seas Act Protects BP and Cruise Lines at the Grieving Family’s Expense