Congress introduced legislation on Wednesday which will strengthen the rights of cruise passengers to seek compensation when cruise lines negligently cause the death of their loved ones on the high seas.

As matters now stand, the statute which governs deaths in international waters, the Death on the High Seas Act ("DOSHA"), bars the recovery of emotional damages, such as pain and suffering and mental anguish, when a passenger dies outside of state territorial waters. This means that when a non-wage earner, such as a retiree or a child, dies due to a cruise line’s negligence, their surviving family members can recover only very limited compensation, usually only burial and funeral expenses.

Proposed improvements to the Cruise Passenger Protection Act, if enacted, would permit the families of Miami Cruise Linespassengers who die on ships in international waters as a result of the negligence of a cruise line to seek "non-pecuniary" compensation, as permitted by most states, such as damages for grief and bereavement. 

Congresswoman Doris Matsui, Congressman Ted Poe and Congressman Jim Himes sponsored the legislation in the House of Representatives, while Senator Richard Blumenthal and Senator Edward Markey sponsored similar legislation in the Senate. You can read a press statement by Congresswoman Matsui here and the statement of  Mr. Blumenthal and Mr. Himes here.

Congress originally enacted DOSHA back in 1920 when few state wrongful deaths statutes permitted family members to recover damages for the emotional suffering experienced by family members who lose a loved one. Since then, the majority os states have substantially improved their statutes to permit the full recovery of emotional damages. In 2000, Congress amended DOHSA to permit damages in commercial aviation accidents which occur in international waters. DOSHA used to bar emotional damages in such cases.

At the moment, DOHSA remains the same in maritime cases as when it was enacted 97 years ago. The proposed amendments to DOSHA will ensure that families of victims at sea are provided with the same rights as airline passengers.and are finally able to pursue fair compensation. 

Kelly Hammer Lankford and Jill Hammer Malott, the daughters of Larry and Christy Hammer, who perished during a deadly river cruise fire last year, are part of the efforts to amend DOSHA. Their parents died aboard the Estrella Amazonica, operated by International Expeditions of Alabama, on the Amazon River in Peru. International Expeditions is trying to dodge accountability by using DOSHA as a liability shield. (International Expeditions subsequently renamed the ill-fated La Estrella Amazonica as the Amazon Star). The daughters commented on the proposed legislation, saying:

“We are thrilled that our legislators are trying to do what the cruise companies have not: Protect passengers. Through legislative reform, American travelers would finally be able to hold cruise companies accountable when tragedy strikes, stopping these companies from hiding behind an antiquated law to avoid responsibility for their actions.”

The cruise industry, which has lobbied heavily against efforts to reform the antiquated maritime statute, is expected to resist the proposed legislation.

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

Photo Credit: Jim Walker

April 28, 2017 Update: The Miami New Times covered the story in Congress Introduces New Cruise Ship Safety Regulations.

This week several people died during cruises on ships owned by Carnival Corporation.  A young seafarer died on the Carnival-owned Cunard Queen Victoria cruise ship.  A crew member from the Carnival Conquest was crushed to death at the port of New Orleans. And most tragically, a 6 year-old boy needlessly drown on the Carnival Victory in a swimming pool which, incredibly, did not have a life-guard.     

What do all of these seemingly unrelated incidents have in common?  

Because of antiquated laws and recent legal developments advanced by the cruise industry, the cruise Qwentyn Hunter - Carnival Cruise Shipline will escape virtually all legal accountability for the deaths.

Let’s look first at the sad case of little 6 year old Qwentyn Hunter who died on the Carnival Victory last week. He died underwater in a swimming pool that Carnival decided not to supervise with a lifeguard for, what I believe to be, purely financial reasons.

A child on vacation dead at age 6.

Is it foreseeable that a child may drown in a pool?  Of course. We have written recently about a 4 year old boy who is severely brain injured after slipping under the water on a cruise ship Disney which also didn’t bother to assign a lifeguard to the pool.    

Put aside the debate whether the boy’s death was a lack of personal responsibility of the parents or a lack of corporate responsibility due to the the malfeasance of the cruise line (or both), what is the maximum exposure presented to Carnival?

The answer, sadly, is just the child’s burial and burial expenses. How is that possible?

There is a law in the U.S. called The Death On The High Seas Act ("DOHSA").  

DOHSA is an archaic law enacted in 1920 which provides only "pecuniary" losses to the survivors of someone who dies on the high seas. "Pecuniary" damages means only those financial losses, such as lost wages or medical expenses, suffered by those who are dependent on the dead person. In cases of a dead child or a dead retiree, there are no lost wages and no one dependent on the child or retiree for support. In Qwentyn’s situation, there are obviously no lost wages or medical expenses.  So all that the family could possibly receive in compensation after an expensive, long-drawn-out lawsuit is whatever it costs to bury a child these days.      

If the cruise line is negligent for a child’s death in an unattended pool, it will pay a maximum of $10,000 or so if liability is proven. Big deal. From a financial perspective, the cruise line is ahead of the game by not paying millions to employ lifeguards on over a hundred Carnival cruise ships to keep the kids safe. Carnival’s Micky Arison, worth around 6 billion dollars, gets to keep his bounty.    

Cruise lines love DOHSA. It exculpates the cruise lines when they act irresponsibly.  The cruise industry has lobbied hard against amending the law.  Read about that here and here. Don’t miss reading: What Does BP, Al Qaeda and a Cruise Line Have In Common?  

Crew members who die due to the negligence of the cruise lines face the same hardship of DOHSA. 

But that’s not all. The cruise lines have also fought tooth & nail to keep the claims of "foreign" crew members outside of the U.S. legal system and deprive injured crew members from having their cases heard by U.S. juries by insisting that they resolve their cases through "arbitration."  

Read about this injustice here. The Filipinos face a "schedule" of compensation depending on the Filipino Crew Member - Cruise - Burn Unitinjury. A lost finger, or hand, or an arm may result in an award of only $7,500 or $25,000 or $35,000. A death? $50,000, plus only $7,000 per child with a limit of 4 children. 

One of the worst cases involved a Filipino crew member who received 35% burns on his body in a clear case of the vessel operator’s negligence. At the ship owner’s request, the disabled and disfigured crew member’s case was dismissed from the U.S. legal system and sent to Manila where a Kangaroo Court awarded the burned Filipino just $1,870.00 (US).

The cruise lines don’t want you to understand what happens when the nice, smiling Filipino waiters or bartenders who serve your family are subsequently seriously injured or die on cruise ships. It is fundamentally different and absolutely unfair compared to when people are injured or die on land. 

And this is exactly how the multi-billion dollar cruise industry wants it.  

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

Congressional Cruise Safety HearingThe first blog I wrote when I started Cruise Law News three years ago was about the Death On The High Seas Act (“DOHSA”).  It was called “Death On The High Seas Act – Screwing American Passengers for 89 Years.”

Under this archaic law, families who have lost a loved one on the high seas due to the negligence of the shipping company are entitled to recover only the lost wages and burial expenses of the decedent.  In cases where the dead passenger is a child or a retired grandfather or grandmother, and hence no wages to be recovered, the recovery is limited to funeral expenses.  There is no entitlement to the decedent’s pre-death pain and suffering or the sadness, bereavement and mental anguish of the surviving family members.

The current status of DOHSA provides no financial incentive for the cruise lines to improve their operations to make cruising reasonably safe for the traveling public.  I have written a number of articles about DOHSA over the years, including “If a Cruise Line Drops Your Grandmother in the Ocean, Don’t Expect Any Compensation.”

Cruise lines love DOHSA.  Even when a cruise line is clearly negligent or even acts recklessly, there is no accountability when that negligent or reckless conduct kills a child or elderly passenger.

The cruise lines and their trade organization, Cruise Line International Association (“CLIA”), have spent millions lobbying Congress to kill efforts to amend the law to include additional remedies. Two years ago, when victim groups were getting close to amending DOSHA, CLIA and its lobbyists went into overdrive and killed the amendment.

Tandy Bondi and Christine DuffyTake a moment and read: “Cruise Industry Lobbies Congress To Kill Amendment To Death On High Seas Act.”

You can read about how Alcalde & Fay lobbyists, including Tandy Bondi, met with Congressmen and Congresswomen to derail efforts to amend DOHSA back in 2010.

The issue of DOHSA came back into the news last week during the Congressional cruise safety hearings.

Congresswoman Mazie Hirono of Hawaii raised the issue why families have virtually no legal remedies when they lose a family member during a cruise, but enjoy the full range of remedies if the accident occurs in an automobile or airplane.  She asked the cruise line panel whether they thought this was fair.

Congresswoman Hirono asked CLIA’s President and CEO Christine Duffy to answer first.  Ms. Duffy was unprepared for the question and initially did not respond.  Everyone in the hearing room knew that CLIA was absolutely against amending DOHSA, and that the victims groups, like the International Cruise Victims (ICV), were absolutely for the amendment.

But instead of answering honestly before the C-Span audience, Ms. Duffy hemmed and hawed and tried to deflect the question by saying “I’m not a lawyer.”  But right next to her was the CLIA lawyer Michael Crye and behind her was maritime lawyer Bradley Rose who is CLIA’s outside legal counsel. These lawyers were key players for CLIA in submitting a position paper to Congress against revising DOHSA.  Lawyers Crye and Rose just watched Ms. Duffy squirm.

Sitting close to CLIA’s lawyers were the CLIA’s lobbyists, including Tandy Bondi (photo above left, chatting with Ms. Duffy right before the hearing).  Ms. Bondi, you will recall, was one of the main lobbyists who helped CLIA kill the DOHSA amendments just two years ago.

Ms. Duffy knew good and well that CLIA opposed changing DOHSA.  But instead of choosing to be transparent, she chose the gobbledygook I’m-not-a-lawyer non-response.  She had just testified at length about how international laws, flag state laws and U.S. laws supposedly regulate the cruise industry, but now she was no longer competent to give an opinion about an unfair law that screws U.S. cruise passengers.

None of the other cruise line representatives at the hearing would answer the question either.

 

Photos credits:  Jim Walker

The cruise community has been closely following the sad story of 73 year old grandmother, Janet Richardson, who was dropped into the frigid Artic Sea two weeks ago during a botched transfer between the Ocean Countess cruise ship and an awaiting rescue vessel. 

She died this past weekend.

We have posted stories on this sad incident and photographs of the debacle.

Janet Richardson - DOHSA - Death On High Seas ActYesterday Cruise Critic U.K. posted an artice on its blog asking the question "Would You Sue" if this happened to your wife or grandmother? 

The article was directly primarily to its U.K. readers and assumes that a bereaved husband who lost his wife under these circumstances would be legally entitled to significant compensation. 

But in the U.S., sadly this is not the case.

If a retired passenger like Ms. Richardson was on an U.S. based cruise line like Carnival or Royal Caribbean which negligently dropped her overboard to her death, the case would be governed by a U.S. law called the Death on the High Seas Act ("DOHSA").  DOHSA does not provide any basis for the recovery by the grieving family members for their grief and bereavement.  It also does not provide any compensation for the pre-death pain and suffering of the deceased passenger either.  This is because the only compensation permitted under DOHSA involves "pecuniary" damages (meaning financial losses). 

Pecuniary damages include primarily lost wages.  But in cases of retired passengers (or children for that matter) they are not working so there are no such damages.

The only "pecuniary" damages when a retired passenger is rescued and died would be medical expenses (assuming the passenger is rescued and makes it to the hospital).  If the hospital expenses are covered by insurance and/or by Medicare, there are liens which apply which will be asserted by the insurance companies and the federal government.  The only other potential damages are burial and funeral expenses.  However, if the retired passenger is not rescued or the body is not recovered, hence no obligation for funeral or burial expenses, there are no recoverable damages at all.

So before a passenger’s surviving family decides to file a lawsuit, the question not only is there is a reasonable basis to win the lawsuit, but what are the damages if the lawsuit is successful?

In the U.S., the only damages may well be the cost of burying your loved one.  The expenses of hiring experts to prove liability for the passenger’s accident and to prove that the death was caused by the fall and shock of exposure to freezing water (as opposed to a pre-existing medical condition) may exceed the funeral expenses the surviving family incurs. 

The cruise line defense lawyers understand this completely.  In a worst case scenario, if Carnival drops your grandmother into the water and kills her, the most the cruise line will pay your family is the cost of putting her in a casket and then burying her in the ground.

Most passengers don’t understand this.   The cruise line won’t explain this before you take your grandparents on a cruise.  Take a moment and consider:  If You Are Retired Or A Child, The Cruise Line Considers Your Life Worthless   

DOHSA is an archaic law which was enacted in 1920.  The cruise lines love it, but it is fundamentally unfair to the families of loved ones who die at sea.  It provides no financial incentive for the cruise lines to improve their procedures to make cruising reasonably safe for the travelling public. 

 

 

For additional information, please read our cases discussing DOHSA.

Photo credit: Patrick Hill via U.K.’s Mail Online

 

Today the Senate will debate amending the Death On The High Seas Act (DOHSA) to permit the families of the oil workers killed in the BP Deepwater Horizon explosion to recover compensation for their emotional damages for losing their husbands and fathers.  The House of Representatives previously voted to amend DOHSA.

We have discussed the inequities in this archaic law which has been denying just compensation to families for 90 years.  

Senator Rockefeller introduced the "Fairness In Admiralty and Maritime Law Act" (S 3600), which Senator LeMieux - Cruise Industry - Oil & Gas Supporterwill permit recovery of compensation for the families of oil workers, cruise cruise passengers and crew members on maritime vessels killed in international waters. 

But the cruise industry has unleashed its lobbyists to work the Senators over to try and kill the amendment and exclude the families of cruise passenger and crew members from the Rockefeller amendment.  With the urging of the cruise lines, Florida Republican Senator LeMieux (left) introduced an amendment to exclude everyone except the BP widows from compensation.  The Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) is once against trying to strip the rights of cruise passengers and crew members.  CLIA’s Michael Crye (below right) has been working with the cruise industry’s lobbyists. 

CLIA has assembled its usual cast of characters to try and kill the Senator Rockefeller’s amendment to DOHSA, including the Alcalde & Fay lobbying firm.  The cruise lines have paid millions to the lobbyists at Alcalde & Fay.  

Cruise Line International Association - Micahel Crye - CLIACruise Law News (CLN) has learned that Alcalde & Fay lobbyists, including Tandy Bondi (below left) and Harold (Hal) Creed, have been been working with Senator LeMieux’s staffers to grow support for the cruise industry’s interests.  This means that when a cruise line’s negligence kills a retired passenger or child, the surviving family is barred from receiving compensation.   

Senator LeMieux has made a deal with Alaskan Senator Begich to support LeMieux if Begich’s study amendment passes.  A classic I’ll-scratch-your-back-if-you-scratch-mine.  Alaskan Senator Inouye’s staff has been communicating with LeMieux’s staff.

The Alcalde & Fay people have been pressuring Senator Nelson but have been unable to obtain his commitment to join forces with Senator LeMieux.  Ms. Bondi met with Senator Cantwell’s Chief of Staff yesterday. 

Tabdy Bondi - Alcalde & Fay - Cruise Line Lobbyist Alcalde & Fay’s consensus is that the Republicans will support LeMieux, so they are working on lobbying the Democrats.  Today they will be releasing a letter from the coalition of industries which are trying to keep the passengers and crew members from being included in DOHSA.

One of the coalition members is the American Waterways Operators (AWO), which is the trade association for the U.S. tugboat, towboat and barge industry. 

The AWO’s Jennifer Campbell (Senior Vice President – National Advocacy) and Chris Coakley (Vice President – Legislative Affairs) have been lobbying on behalf of the AWO.  Ms. Campbell has been calling the Senators to try and derail the expansion of DOHSA, and Mr. Coakley has been walking the halls of Congress. 

The AWO lobbyist have been placing alot of pressure on Senator Vitter, who is in a key position Cruise LIne International Association - CLIA - BPbeing from Louisiana which is at the epicenter of the BP disaster. 

It is an amazing spectacle seeing the cruise industry using Senator LeMieux as a front man for its nefarious interests.  The cruise lines have a big industry shill in their hands.  Before he was a Senator, LeMieux lobbied heavily for offshore drilling by companies like BP off of the coast of Florida – a story which the St. Petersburg Time published BP - CLIA - Cruise Line International Associationlast year.

So we have kindred spirit companies, the cruise lines and BP and their maritime and oil & gas industry friends, teaming up to fight against the families to deprive them of their DOHSA remedies which are desperately needed to protect innocent people killed on the high seas.  

Two dirty industries are paying millions to their lobbyists to put profits over people again.     

Consider reading:

Death On The High Seas Act Protects BP and Cruise Lines at the Grieving Family’s Expense 

What Does BP, Al Qaeda and a Cruise Line Have In Common? 

Cruise Industry Joins Forces With BP to Deny Death Compensation to Grieving Families

Will BP and the Cruise Industry Join Forces to Screw Americans?

 

Senator Le Mieux - BP - Cruise Lines - CLIA - Alcalde & Fay

This was a historic week in the world of cruising.  

Congress passed the Cruise Vessel and Safety Act, which will help make cruising safer for U.S. families.  Cruise lines will be required to install peepholes in cabin doors, maintain anti-retroviral medications and rape kits for victims, improve crime evidence handling procedures and – for the first time in the history of the cruise industry – report crimes to the U.S. Coast Guard and the FBI.  

Travel Writers - Cruise - EthicsCongress also passed the "SPILL Act" (H.R. 5503) which removes the limitation of liability  for shipping companies, and amends the Death On The High Seas Act (DOHSA) to permit families to recover compensation when they lose a loved one on the high seas – whether it is on a drilling rig or a cruise ship.  In so doing, Congress finally repealed an archaic and wicked law that has inflicted additional pain on cruise victims for the past ninety years.  

These pieces of legislation are the results of the dedication and hard work of families of U.S. citizens killed in international waters, including members of the International Cruise Victims (ICV).  The ICV is a grass roots, non-profit organization comprised entirely of volunteers who have been a victim of a crime on a cruise ship or lost a loved one during a cruise.

These two new laws are truly historic. But you would never know it by reading the hundreds of cruise websites and travel-writer blogs.    

There are literally thousands of travel agents and travel writers who I follow daily on Twitter.  But not one blogger mentioned either one of these new bills.

The problem is that many of the travel writers and most of the cruise bloggers are shills for the cruise industry.  They sell cruises or advertise cruise banners on their web sites.  Many cruise lines invite them on all-expense-paid cruises in exchange for favorable cruise reviews.

The exception is Arthur Frommer, of the famous Frommer’s Travel Guides, and his daughter Pauline Frommer who covers travel stories in her blog "Daily Briefings."  Ms. Frommer covered the cruise safety law in an article entitled In the Wee Hours This Morning, Cruising Just Got a Heckuva Lot Safer.  Mr. Frommer re-printed his daughter’s article, and added a few personal comments, in A Cruise Line Safety Act Has Quietly Passed the House of Representatives.      

The Frommers explain the key provisions of the new law and recognize the remarkable efforts of the ICV over the past five years. 

Mr. Frommer acknowledges that "even the travel trade press has failed to take more than the barest notice of proposed legislation in Congress that would require the cruise lines to tighten up safety . . . "

The new maritime laws were passed only after years of resistance and millions of dollars of lobbying by the cruise industry’s trade organization – the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) – which is comprised of 16,000 travel agents.  CLIA has a cozy relationship with many travel writers who choose not to offend the CLIA cruise lines by writing anything negative about the foreign flagged cruise industry.  We have touched upon this subject in Travel Writers and the Ethics of Reporting Cruise News.

CLIA unsuccessfully worked behind the scenes lobbying against the SPILL Act in an effort to deny the widows and children of the oil workers killed in the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster from receiving compensation – a disgusting spectacle we reported on in Cruise Industry Joins Forces With BP to Deny Death Compensation to Grieving Families

So it should come as no surprise that most travel writers and the CLIA cruise bloggers chose not to touch these stories.

But it is refreshing to see travel writers with integrity and ethics like Mr. Frommer and Ms. Frommer write about the cruise safety law which will protect the cruising public.   

July 7, 200 Update:

TNOOZ (Talking Trave Tech) has an interesting blog about my blog: "Are Travel Writers Shills For The Cruise Lines?"  A number of travel writers are commenting.

John Conyers - DOHSA - Death On High Seas Act - BP - Cruise ShipToday, the House of Representatives passed a bill – H.R. 5503 (also known as the SPILL Act)  – which will amend the Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA).  H.R. 5503 will permit the widows and children of the oil rig workers killed in the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster to be compensated for their grief, mental anguish and suffering due to the deaths of their husbands and fathers.       

The bill was passed in the House today due to the efforts of the families of the 11 workers who died when the drilling rig exploded two months ago.  The families targeted their efforts on the obscure DOHSA law which does not recognize the suffering of children and spouses who lose loved ones on the high seas. 

The bill was introduced by Representative John Conyers, a Michigan Democrat, who chairs the BP - DOHSA - Death On High Seas Act - BP - Cruise ShipsU.S. House Judiciary Committee. 

We have reported on the sad death of oil worker Gordon Jones, who left behind a pregnant and loving wife and a young son, and the extraordinary efforts of his father who lobbied to change this unfavorable law. 

BP fought against the families.  So did the notorious Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), who lobbied behind the scenes to try and keep the oil rig wives and children from receiving compensation.

The amendment to DOHSA is also needed for families who have lost loved ones on cruises ships.  Hundreds of passengers have died on cruise ships due to the negligence of the cruise lines.   

Yesterday, we reported on the unconscionable efforts of CLIA.  We posted a letter which CLIA sent to legislators to oppose the efforts of the grieving families suffering from the BP explosion.   

CLIA - Cruise Line International Association - DOHSA - Death On High Seas ActToday, the bad guys – BP, Transocean and the cruise lines – lost.  The good guys won.

But the law still needs to be passed in the Senate.  BP, Transocean, and CLIA will be back – like vultures – to walk the halls of our Senate.  Bad companies like this will try and keep this much needed reform of DOHSA from being enacted into law.  

 

 

For additional information about 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

Will BP and the Cruise Industry Join Forces to Screw Americans?

The Death on the High Seas Act – Screwing American Passengers for 89 Years

As we suspected, the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) is working behind the scenes to derail efforts to amend the Death On The High Seas Act (DOHSA).

Yesterday we obtained a copy of a letter (below) sent by CLIA to Congressional representatives in Florida.  CLIA is trying to rally opposition against H.R. 5503 which will permit widows and children recover compensation for their grief and emotional suffering when they lose their spouse / parent.     

CLIA - Cruise Line International Association - DOHSA - Death On High Seas Act  This is nothing new for CLIA, which has spent millions of dollars lobbying against reforms to this archaic law enacted back in 1920.

As we have stated in many articles about DOHSA, a cruise ship is the only location where a child or retired, elderly passenger can be killed and considered worthless in the eyes of the law.   

CLIA says it has no objection to "addressing" (whatever that means) the issue of compensation for the widows and children of the oil workers killed in the BP Deepwater Horizon explosion, yet it will not even commit to repealing DOHSA for these families.

CLIA claims that it opposes amending DOHSA because it will provide a remedy to "foreign workers."  The irony of such an outlandish and xenophobic comment is immediately obvious – all cruise lines are "foreign" entities, incorporated in "foreign" countries like Liberia (Royal Caribbean) or Panama (Carnival) for the singular purpose of avoiding U.S. taxes.  These "foreign"’ corporations then flag their cruise ships in "foreign" countries to escape U.S. labor laws and safety regulations.

So why should the foreign flagged cruise industry be permitted to collect $35,000,000,000 ($ billion!) a year from U.S. taxpayers and avoid all U.S. taxes because of its "foreign" status, and then argue that families of dead "foreign" crew members should not be reasonably compensated when their loves ones die due to the negligence of the cruise lines?

The cruise industry is built on the backs of hundred of thousands of "foreign" crew members, many of who work 360 hours a month for only $545.  Their families are entitled to be compensated when their family members die due to the legal fault of the multi-billion dollar CLIA cruise lines?  Take a look at this letter which CLIA hoped would never be published:      

          CLIA - Cruise Line International Association - DOHSA - Death On High Seas act

 

CLIA fails to mention that the vast majority of people who die on cruise are Americans!  As matters now stand, the lives of stay-at-home-parents, children, elderly and retired people, and gay men and women who die at sea with no dependents have no value under DOHSA.  

The International Cruise Victims (ICV) has been battling CLIA for years to amend DOHSA.  But CLIA pays millions of dollars to lobby Congress each year, whereas the ICV is penniless and is comprised of only volunteers.  Mother Jones addresses the disparity between CLIA and the ICV in an article "Love Boat Lobby Fights BP Victims." 

Below is a partial list of the loved ones of ICV members who were denied compensation because of DOHSA.  This is just a small number of the hundreds of loved ones who die on cruise ships each year.  

Why should victims of the BP explosion and hundreds of U.S. citizens be denied compensation because of CLIA’s heartless and mean-spirited decision to deny compensation to "foreign" crew members?

Does CLIA tell the crew members their lives are of no value?

Do the 16,000 travel agents who comprise CLIA know that its trade organization doesn’t care about foreign crew members, U.S. children and retirees who die at sea on cruise?

Travel agents –  when you sell your client cruises, do you tell that if they die due to the negligence of the cruise lines, their lives are of no value?   And do you tell them CLIA is lobbying Congress to make certain that the law stays that way?   

Disgusted by the cruise industry’s heartless attitude?  Do something about it.  Support H.R. 5503.  Call your Congressman or Congresswoman.

Leave a comment below and tell us what you think. 

ICV - International Cruise Victims - DOSHA - Death On High Seas Act

The death of eleven oil rig workers on the Deepwater Horizon has sparked a debate in Congress about repealing the antiquated and inequitable statute, the Death On The High Seas Act (DOHSA).  This old law dating back to 1920 does not permit surviving wives and children compensation for their grief and bereavement when they lose a loved one on the high seas whether on a oil rig or cruise ship.

BP Deepwater Horizon - DOHSA - Death On High Seas ActBP and Cruise Lines Connected At The Hip Pocket?

Recently, there have been a number of articles that discuss DOHSA and reveal that the cruise industry will be joining forces with BP to repel any efforts of the grieving family members to repeal DOHSA.  Mother Jones pointed out in "Will the Cruise Industry Do BP’s Dirty Work? 

CNN ran an article entitled "My Son’s Family Deserves More from BP" explaining that the cruise lines have consistently fought against families trying to change DOSHA.

And AOL’s Daily Finance even covered the issue with an interesting article "The Death On The High Seas act Needs Fixing – Just Ask  BP’s Widows."  This article points out that prior efforts to reform DOHSA were "sunk" by the vociferous cruise industry’s "lobbying muscle" – probably to avoid paying any compensation to the 34 passengers who were lost overboard during cruises from 2003 – 2007 according to an article "Death On The High Seas" in the Guardian newspaper.  

Should Al Qaeda And Terrorist States Be Protected By DOHSA Too? 

But the harsh effects of DOHSA are not limited to the grieving families of cruise victims and dead oil workers. 

Al Qaeda - U.S.S. Cole - Terrorism - DOHSA The families of U.S. servicemen and servicewomen learned about DOHSA when Al Qaeda terrorists killed their loved ones on the U.S.S. Cole.  17 men and women were brutally murdered when suicide bombers rammed their speed boat loaded with explosives into the U.S. navy ship.  56 family members filed suit against the government of Sudan for sponsoring the terrorist organization.  

A Federal District Judge applied DOHSA because the deaths occurred outside of U.S. territorial waters.  He dismissed the claims of 22 of the family members and limited the recovery of the rest to strictly lost wages.  Not one child or surviving spouse received a penny for the mental anguish and misery caused by the horrific criminal act of the terrorists and the complicit renegade country.

The inequity of DOHSA was not lost on the Judge who commented in Rux v. Republic of Sudan, 495 F.Supp.2d 541(E.D. Va. 2007) :

The court sympathizes greatly with plaintiffs, who continue to suffer terribly years after their loved ones died. But the court is bound to follow the legal precedent before it. Congress makes the laws; courts merely interpret them. Whether to amend DOHSA to allow more liberal recovery in cases of death caused by terrorism on the high seas . . is a question for Congress alone.         

Its Time to Act – Repeal the Death On The High Seas Act  

There is a Facebook page created for the families of  the oil workers killed in the BP explosion.  Please click on the link, leave a word of support, and contact your representative in Congress.

As your senator "why should BP, foreign flagged cruise lines and Al Qaeda be protected by DOHSA?"

 

For additional information, please consider reading:

Scranton Time Tribune: "Amend Law On Deaths At Sea"

Cruise Law News: 

Death On The High Seas Act Protects BP and Cruise Lines at the Grieving Family’s Expense

The Death on the High Seas Act – Screwing American Passengers for 89 Years

Cruise Industry Tries to Kill Amendment to Death on the High Seas Act

 

Credits:

Deepwater Horizon         U.S. Coast Guard

 

Gordon Jones has been in the news lately.  Have you heard of him?

Probably not. 

But you all have heard of the companies that killed him:  Oil giant BP, and Transocean – the operator of the foreign flagged drilling rig, Deepwater Horizon.

Gordon Jones - Death On The High Seas Act - DOHSA - BPGordon was just 28 years old when he died on April 20th.  He left a pregnant wife and child behind. His Facebook page lists his favorite movies as Caddyshack, Blazing Saddles, and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.  So you know he had a great sense of humor.

But his family will never hear his laughter again.

Gordon Jones’ death focuses the public on an injustice which has plagued Americans for ninety years.  Under an archaic law passed in 1920 called the Death On The High Seas Act (DOHSA), his wife cannot be compensated for her sadness, suffering and grief.  His children will grow up without a father due to BP’s malfeasance.  But they cannot be compensated for the loss of their dad’s love, nurture and guidance. 

The law will not permit it. 

DOHSA prohibits the grieving Jones family from recovering any compensation except the wages earned or to be earned by their father and husband. We have written about this inequitable archaic law before – "The Death on the High Seas Act – Screwing American Passengers for 89 Years."

Gordon Jones’s story was recently covered in an article in Mother Jones – "Will the Cruise Industry Do BP’s Dirty Work? 

Today, CNN ran an article entitled "My Son’s Family Deserves More from BP."  The article was written by Gordon’s father, Louisiana lawyer Keith Jones, who is interviewed by Larry King in the video below.

Gordon Jones and son Mr. Jones’ emotional grief over losing his son is overwhelming.  But he is objective while explaining that DOHSA’s prohibition against compensating his daughter-in-law and grandchildren is as illogical as it is unfair.  He is taking steps to repeal DOHSA.  Due to Mr. Jones’ efforts, the Senate is considering a bill (Senate Bill 3463  introduced by Senator Leahey, and House Resolution 5503 by John Conyers) to repeal DOHSA. Both bills will permit damages for the surviving family members’ loss of care, company and companionship – rather than just the dead man’s earnings.    

As the CNN article points out, foreign flagged cruise ships – and foreign flagged drilling rigs – love DOHSA.  These industries and their lobbyists will dig in and fight the efforts to change the law, as Gordon’s father point out in the CNN article:

"Support for these bills is growing, but we expect opposition from all the companies who don’t want to pay fair compensation when, by their fault, someone on board their vessel is killed.  Cruise lines have consistently opposed changes to DOHSA.  Many of their passengers are, because of their youth or advanced age, not providing financial support to anyone.  If a cruise ship crew member negligently kills one of these passengers, the cruise line is liable for funeral expenses and nothing more. All companies involved in offshore drilling and shipping have been vigorously opposed to changes in DOHSA."  

Travel agents, cruise specialists, and cruise fans reading this – is this what you wish to support?   Your trade organization, the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), pays lobbyists millions to walk the halls of Congress and lobby against changing DOHSA.  They want to make certain that the families of good, hard working people like Gordon Jones receive nothing for their grief, pain and suffering when they lose a loved on the high seas.

Don’t let reckless corporations ruin our environment and people’s lives and get away with it.

Do you want to help?  Call us.  Contact your Congressman or Congresswoman.  Leave a comment below and let us know what you think.  Do something, now. 

Credits:

Photograph of Gordon Jones family      CNN

Photograph of Gordon Jones and son    Gordon Jones Facebook