Two cruise passengers were involved in a zip lining accident during a stop in Roatan, Honduras on July 5, 2018.

La Prensa newspaper in Honduras reports that a couple who arrived in Roatan on a cruise ship last Thursday collided with one another while on a zip line.

The newspaper in Honduras identified the passengers as Egael Fishman and Shif Fanken, reportedly both citizens of Israel. Mr. Fishman was killed and Ms. Fanken was seriously injured during the accident.

Radio America Honduras first tweeted about the accident on July 5, 2018 and published photographs Zip Line Accident Rotan(right) of Mr. Fishman and Ms. Fanken being taken from the scene of the accident. Ms Fanken was reportedly taken to the Wood Medical Center in Coxen Hole, and was subsequently flown via air ambulance back to the U.S.  A newspaper in Israel states that Mr. Fishman died from his injuries.

The cruise ships in Roatan on July 5, 2018 included Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas and Carnival’s Carnival Miracle and Carnival Dream. There may have been other cruise ships there.

10 years ago, a 44 year-old woman from NCL’s Norwegian Spirit died when a faulty cable snapped while she was zip-lining in Roatan, causing her to fall 65 feet.

Nearly three years ago, a woman from a Royal Caribbean cruise ship visiting Roatan was seriously injured during a zip line excursion which was advertised and marketed by the cruise line on its website.

BTNews states that the couple was recently married and took a cruise for their honeymoon.

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July 8, 2018 Update:  We have learned that the guests were from Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas. The zip lining excursion was sold by the cruise line as the “Extreme Caribe Zip Line Tour” (RCCL code RT86). Royal Caribbean represents in its shore excursion guide that “we have carefully selected the finest excursion at each port” to deliver the “highest-quality, handpicked tours” with the “top tour operators.”

At the time of the accident, it reportedly was raining very hard and the excursion employees were not equipped with walkie-talkies in order to communicate.

July 9, 2018 Update: Blame the victims? According to the Washington Post, the tourism people in Honduras take a shot a the honeymoon couple: “the Honduran Institute of Tourism told Radio America it regretted the accident, saying it was due to ‘poor operation’ on behalf of the couple. The institute’s director, Emilio Silvestri, told Radio America that the company in charge of the zip line took all appropriate security measures.”

Photograph credit: La Prensa via Radio America Honduras

A Miami-Dade County jury returned a verdict against Royal Caribbean Cruises of more than $20,000,000 on behalf of an officer who was injured on the Voyager of the Seas during an accident in 2008.

Royal Caribbean officer Lisa Spearman was seriously and permanently injured when a watertight door crushed her right hand when she came to the assistance of the cruise ship nurse. The ship nurse stumbled while attempting to walk past the door during an emergency test, according to the lawsuit which her attorneys filed.

Ms. Spearman alleged that following the accident, Royal Caribbean refused to re-hire her and then refused to pursue disability benefits on her behalf. She sued the cruise line for negligence under the Voyager of the SeasJones Act, unseaworthiness of the vessel under the General Maritime Law, failure to provide prompt, proper and adequate medical care (also under U.S. General Maritime law), failure to pay wages under 46 U.S.C. 10313, retaliatory discharge and breach of contract.

The jury returned a verdict of $20,300,000 after a three week trial. 

Ms. Spearman was represented by Miami maritime lawyer Tonya Meister-Griffin, who was assisted by attorneys Deborah Gander and Susan Carlson of the Colson, Hicks Eidson law firm.  

Congratulations to Ms. Meister and the team of lawyers who represented Ms. Spearman.

Royal Caribbean was represented by David Horr of the firm Horr, Novak & Skipp.  

Currently, crew members are prohibited from filing lawsuits before a judge and a jury because cruise lines like Royal Caribbean have inserted one-sided arbitration provisions in the ship employees’ contracts. Absent a change in the law, Ms. Spearman, whose employment contract dates back to 2008 and did not contain an arbitration requirement, undoubtedly will be one of the last crew members who are able to try their case before a jury in the Miami-Dade courthouse.  

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Update: The Miami Herald covered the story in an article this afternoon (with photographs).  Newsweek also published CRUISE WORKER WINS $20M PAYOUT AFTER HAND CRUSHED BY DOOR ON ROYAL CARIBBEAN SHIP.  Stuff (New Zealand) New Zealand woman Lisa Spearman wins US$20.3m payout from cruise ship giant Royal Caribbean.

Photo credit: Spaceaero2 – CC BY-SA 4.0, commons / wikimedia. 

Bloomberg Legal reports today that according to data which it collected over the last several years, 83 federal personal injury cases were filed against cruise lines in the first three months of 2018. Bloomberg concludes that this figure continues an upward trend over the last two years in which 188 negligence suits were filed against cruise lines in in 2017 and 164 in 2016. 

Bloomberg also states that "personal injury cases against the three biggest cruise lines – Carnival, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings – accounted for 78 to 87 percent of all federal litigation they faced over the last five years, according to the data which it collected. 

Bloomberg explains that the lawsuits "often involve slip-and-fall claims, but recent complaints also Miami Cruise Linesallege serious illnesses and injuries worsened by shipboard medical decisions."

The article does not explain that according to the terms and conditions in the passenger contracts, most cruise lines require that all legal claims be filed in the cruise line’s home city, such as Miami for Carnival, Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean. These terms have been held to be binding by the United States Supreme Court in Carnival Cruise Lines, Inc. v. Shute, 499 U.S. 585 (1991).

Cruise lines based outside of Miami typically require that lawsuit be filed in the location of the city or state where their headquarters are based. For example, Holland America Line requires Seattle, Washington and Princess Cruises requires California.  

Cruise lines now require that lawsuits be filed in federal court, which is typically more conservative than state court. 

Although the article suggests that litigation against cruise lines is on the rise compared to the last two years, the fact of the matter is that lawsuits filed against the cruise industry have dropped off substantially compared to 15 years ago.

For the five year period from 2001 to 2006, there was an average of 423 lawsuits filed a year against cruise lines, according to the Miami Herald article "Law on the High Seas," by Amy Martinez (article at bottom). In contrast, for the last two years (2016-2017), there was an average of only 176 according to the data collected by Bloomberg, which is just 40% of the 2001-2006 average (even though over 50% fewer people were cruising fifteen years ago).

The reason for this decline is that most cruise lines no longer permit crew members to file lawsuits in the  U.S., but instead require the filing of international arbitration where judges and juries are not permitted. 

The only lawsuits which are now permitted to be filed against the cruise industry involve passengers who are injured during cruises.

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Photo credit: Marc Averette – Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 wikipedia

Lawsuits Against Cruise Lines

I received the following information from a regular reader of this blog, who wishes to remain anonymous. 

"Today’s Bild (translates to "Picture", Germany’s largest circulation daily) reports cruise ship Aida Prima was hit by 23 ft waves in the North Sea as it was returning to home port Hamburg on Friday evening from a week-long European itinerary.

All passengers were ordered back to their cabins. Ship is now safely back in port in Hamburg. Per the AIDAprima stormarticle, Aida cruise line confirmed the incident, including injuries to ‘three passengers, ‘two bruises and a bone fracture.’

Per the article, The Elbe (river connecting Hamburg to the North Sea) had been closed in the hurricane for ships – but the authorities made an exception for the Aida Prima. ‘She was allowed to enter and reached the berth at the cruise terminal Steinwerder at 7.45 am. The resulting material damage could not be quantified today.’

The Bild story with stills and video is here, entitled ‘Our chaos night on the Aida.’

In the video, it appears that the ship rocked so violently that the chest-high glass barrier around the bar pool broke, sending water cascading onto deck 15. Furniture is being tossed as passengers and crew make their way across the deck."

Many thanks to the anonymous reader for the information.  You can watch the video on our Facebook page.  

Photo credit: Bild

Disney WonderMilitary Technologies reports that the U.S. Coast Guard medevaced a 66 year old passenger last night. The woman was reportedly seriously injured after she fell down stairs on a Disney cruise ship at approximately 8 P.M. Monday evening. The passenger reportedly suffered a serious injury described as a skull fracture and bleeding.

The ship, the Disney Wonder, was about 50 miles from Galveston at the time of the medevac.

The Disney Wonder contacted the Coast Guard station in Houston to report the injury. The station dispatched a MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew to pickup the injured woman and flew her to the University of Texas Medical Branch in stable condition at approximately 11:15 P.M.

Photo credit: Shorelander CC 2.5 commons / wikimedia.

Yesterday, a jury in Seattle awarded $21,000,000 to a cruise passenger hit in the head by an automatic glass door on Holland America’s MS Amsterdam in 2011.

KIRO Channel 7 reports that the passenger suffered a traumatic brain injury which included debilitating headaches, problems with his balance and fatigue.

His lawyers at the Friedman Rubin Law Firm showed the jury that sliding doors injured 30 others across Holland America’s fleet of cruise ships in the three year period before the accident. 

Holland America Line said in a statement that it is "committed to the safety and security" of passengers, and that it will appeal the verdict. 

 

 

Boomerango Royal Caribbean CruiseThe Royal Caribbean Blog announced yesterday that the renovation of the Liberty of the Seas this January will include the reconfiguration of the sports deck and the installation of water slides including a water slide called a "Boomerango."

The blog says that the "Boomerango will let guests ride in rafts, where they will "plummet down a steep drop, then shoot up a nearly vertical wall, high into the air, for a moment of weightlessness.’"

Sounds like fun you may say?  Perhaps, but expect serious personal injuries to occur. 

The Royal Caribbean blog indicates that the "Boomerango" appears to be a water slide built by the WhiteWater company.  Familiar with that name? It’s the same company which acquired the FlowRider from WaveLoch which is in use on nine Royal Caribbean cruise ships. The FlowRider simulated surfing device is the most dangerous activity at sea, in my assessment, with hundreds of accidents occurring occrring thoughout the fleet each year. 

Royal Caribbean has a reputation for being the first cruise line to offer many new yet dangerous recreational attractions at sea over the years, including the notorious FlowRider and the iFly simulated sky diving device. 

If the cruise line handles the "Boomerango" like the other attractions on its ships, there will not be proper warnings or signage accurately disclosing the risk of serious personal injury to the guests and the operational instructions to the passengers will be poor. The company will likely force the guests to sign sports activity waivers, which the courts have already held to be illegal

Expect the "Boomerango" lawsuits to start early next year.

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Photo Credits:  Royal Caribbean via the Royal Caribbean blog.

FlowRider The Independence of the Seas returned early to Fort Lauderdale this morning because a passenger sustained a serious injury yesterday.

Several passengers emailed me stating that the Royal Caribbean passenger sustained major head trauma after he fell on the FlowRider. It is unclear exactly when or how the accident occurred, but the Independence of the Seas returned to port in Fort Lauderdale this morning around 3:00 A.M.

Flowriders are exceedingly dangerous. There have been numerous broken ankles, wrists, elbows, shoulders and necks and even one death on Royal Caribbean cruise ships when a passenger broke his neck and was killed. We believe the FlowRiders are unreasonably unsafe, defectively designed with negligent instructors. 

Most passengers do not realize that the Royal Caribbean waiver which the cruise line forces passengers to sign is illegal and unenforceable under Maritime Law.  

Don’t forget to read: FlowRider Accidents: Royal Caribbean Liability Waivers Are Unenforceable!

Danger on the High Seas – Royal Caribbean’s Deadly FlowRider. Don’t watch video if you are squeamish. 

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https://youtube.com/watch?v=4Z3rtq1-vX8%3Frel%3D0

Video Credit: Jim Walker

Cruise lines owe their crew members the absolute legal duty of providing medical treatment when the crew become sick or injured on the company’s cruise ships.

Pursuant to the “maintenance and cure” doctrine, the cruise line is required to provide “maintenance” (room and board) and “care” (medical care and treatment) to the point that the crew member reaches his or her “maximum medical improvement.”

This ancient legal doctrine of protecting seafarers can be traced back to the Medieval Sea Codes. It was introduced into United States Maritime Law by the Supreme Court in 1823. Under the doctrine, Hotel Food Greasy Salty Disgustingthe cruise lines has an affirmative obligation of taking care of their injured employees in a manner which is no different than the natural responsibility of a mother or father to a child, the courts have analogized.

But putting pleasant-sounding legal theories aside, in reality the practice of the cruise lines today is quite different. When a crew member hires a lawyer, the cruise lines put the sick crew member in dirty, low-rent hotels where they feed them disgusting food. Unfortunately, the Miami-based cruise lines act like resentful uncaring parents who neglect their responsibilities.

Royal Caribbean: When I first began representing crew members in the 1990’s, Royal Caribbean used to house their injured crew members in a hotel close to South Miami Hospital. It was a nice, safe hotel with good food where crew members could go to and from the hospital with little inconvenience. But as soon as the crew member hired a lawyer, the cruise line would retaliate against their sick employee. Royal Caribbean would immediately kick the crew member out of the hotel and send them to a dump-of-a-hotel near I-95 and 163rd Street.  The area was known as a hang-out for drug dealers and prostitutes. The hookers would use the dirty hotel rooms on an hourly basis. It was a dangerous and demoralizing location for ill crew members to try and recuperate.

More recently, Royal Caribbean uses a hotel in Miami hear 8th Street. Here are some of the descriptions on Trip Advisor:

“This hotel is absolutely horrible! Do not stay here. Management is awful. Toilet overflows constantly and cleaning crew does not help. . . Stay away from this hotel. Don’t even spend a $1 on this hotel.”

“Nothing good about this place . . . the room has no air conditioner or working fan. The bathroom was disgusting and had a terrible odor coming from the sink. Next thing, it was 11 pm and there were people just screaming for ages in the hallways . . .  Don’t stay here!!!

Crew members at this hotel complain regularly about roaches, no hot water, inedible greasy salty food (photo above by crew member), extra charges for bottled water, malfunctioning televisions, and unsanitary bathrooms.

Carnival:  We receive the same type of complaints from crew members on sick leave in the hotels which Carnival selects especially for its injured crew members who are represented by lawyers. It’s a disgraceful practice. One crew member undergoing back surgery sent us a video below of a rat that lives under the buffet in the crew member dining room.

We complained to Carnival, but it could care less.

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I’ve written thousands of articles here on Cruise Law News about all type of issues – cruise ship air pollution, cruise waste discharge, mistreatment of crew employees and the cruise industry’s exploitation of the Caribbean ports of call all the while cruise executives pocket obscene amounts of money.

But one of the issues that I rarely write about are the actual cases which we handle against the cruise lines. 

Starting today, I’m going to start posting a brief description of the cases which we file, whether it’s a Cruise Ship Lawsuitlawsuit on behalf of a passenger injured on a cruise ship, or an arbitration claim filed when a cruise line refuses to provide basic medical care and treatment to a sick crew member. 

Many people like to think that cases filed against cruise lines are frivolous, or silly, or filed just for the purpose of trying to get a free cruise and will result in higher cruise fares. Hardly.

Some of the cases which we file reveal the cruise industry at its absolute worst. The cases include issues like the cruise line’s mistreatment of female crew members who were sexually assaulted on so-called luxury cruise lines. Other cases involve the cruise lines’ refusal to provide and/or delay in providing life-saving medical treatment to crew members diagnosed with cancer. 

We will explain the applicable law so you can understand how legal issues are different under maritime law on the high seas. We’ll provide you with information that the cruise lines would prefer that you do not know.