As this year comes to a close, it’s time to look back at some of events of 2011.
Last 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 tried 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.
2011 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?
The 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)
Second weirdest story: Life In Jail For Cruise Passenger Who Threw Wife Overboard
Most 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
Do you have a question about cruise law? Don’t hesitate to email me – firstname.lastname@example.org.