The International Cruise Victims (ICV) organization formed in 2006 in response to the problem with crime and unsolved disappearance of passengers and crew members on cruise ships around the world.  ICV CEO Ken Carver’s daughter disappeared on a Celebrity cruise ship which the cruise line covered up. ICV President Jamie Barnett’s daughter died due to medical negligence. Other members of the ICV consist of women sexually assaulted and families who lost loved ones at sea.

The ICV was desperately needed because there is no federal oversight of the foreign flagged and foreign incorporated cruise industry.  As Senator Rockefeller said to the cruise lines last year "You Are A World Unto Yourselves."      

The ICV membership has increased substantially over the years with members literally around the world.

Recently, Jay Leno mentioned the ICV during his monologue with the audience responding with applause. 

 

http://www.nbc.com/assets/video/widget/widget.html?vid=n33032

This is reason no. 4 in the series:Top 10 Reasons Not To Cruise

The primary reason our law firm is in business is because cruise lines mistreat cruise passengers after they have been seriously injured or victimized aboard a cruise ship. 

Over 99% of our clients have never filed a lawsuit before, and probably over 50% of our clients don’t like lawyers.  Most people who have been injured during a cruise are looking for a friendly face on the cruise ship to talk to and discuss a solution to their predicament.  The last thing a family from the middle-of-America who goes on a cruise wants to do is hire a lawyer in Miami to file a lawsuit for them.  Only frustration and a lack of respect by the cruise line motivates hard-working-Americans far away from Miami to pick up the telephone and call me.   

But we are contacted every day – every single day – by cruise passengers who have been seriously injured during cruises or who have been sexually assaulted.  The one thing we hear time and time again is – "I can’t believe that they treated me this way after I reported what happened!"

It is bad enough when a passenger is seriously injured and the cruise line treats them like dirt.  We have seen this time after time.  The cruise line refuses to release the passenger’s medical Cruise Ship Passengers - Crime Victims - Hogs Get Slaughtered? records, or takes away their wheelchair or crutches at the gangway and tells them to hobble down to the terminal.  Inevitably, once the injured passenger leaves the cruise ship, no one from the cruise line calls them to see how their ankle or hip surgery turned out.  And if they do, the best you can expect for even the most serious case is an offer of a discount on a future cruise.

Once you file suit, prepare for the cruise line to attack you.  The best example I can give you is a cruise line case highlighted in an article appearing in the National Law Journal entitled "Defense Team Found the Needle in the Haystack." 

The article explains that eight elderly cruise passengers from Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 visiting Tortola were seriously injured when the brakes of the excursion truck failed, causing the vehicle to crash in the side of a mountain.    

Although the article explains that "odds were overwhelmingly against" the cruise line at the beginning, the cruise line defense lawyer successfully defended the case.  The cruise line lawyer explained his strategy, 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 the cruise line won the case.    

Its even worse when a passenger is a victim of a crime.

Once a passenger reports a crime, the cruise line’s officers contacts the cruise line’s corporate offices, usually in Miami, and then the cruise line’s risk management and legal department go into overdrive.  Incriminating evidence is not collected.  The security officers on the cruise begin taking statements designed to protect the assailant crew member’s legal interests and the cruise line’s Cruise Ship Rape - Crime Victims - Deposition Roomreputation.  Everyone on the cruise ship begins to work against the victim, to look for ways to make certain that the victim’s case never sees the light of day. 

It is a dirty business.  Cruise lines thrive on it.

When a victim files suit, it gets worse.  Crime victims are treated like the injured, elderly Cunard passengers who the cruise line painted as "greedy pigs."   One cruise line defense firm deposes victims in a large conference room in the entrance of the firm (photo left), filled with cruise ship models, with floor to ceiling glass walls but no curtains or blinds – while lawyers, paralegals, and secretaries walk by the conference room all day long, gawking inside.  

Can you imagine if you were a rape victim forced to testify in the middle of such a glass bowl?

Yes, its rude, abusive, and demeaning.  I would be embarrassed if a lawyer at my firm acted like this.  But its exactly what the cruise lines want and expect.

The cruise lines treat their guests, once they are victimized, like criminals.  

And cruise lines wonder why they have such bad reputations.

 

* Actually, the saying is "pigs get fed, but hogs get slaughtered . . ."  

 

Tomorrow, we will discuss Reason No. 5 Not To Cruise: If You Are Retired Or A Child, The Cruise Line Considers Your Life Worthless

 

Credits:

Photograph            Maltzman Foreman P.A.

A criminal trial begins this week in Australia in the case of cruise passenger Dianne Brimble, a passenger sailing with her children on P & O Cruises’ Pacific Sky in 2002. It has been seven years since Ms. Brimble’s ill fated cruise which ended with her death. A coroner determined the cause of her demise to be a date rape drug given to her by another passenger, Mark Wilhelm, who is now finally standing trial for her death.

There is a danger on cruise ships of being given a date rape drug by either a crew member or another passenger.

There are a couple of different date rape drugs. One is called “GHB.” The scientific name is Gamma Hydroxybutyric acid. It is also be called “grievous bodily harm.” Another is Funitrazepam, called Rohypnol or commonly known as “roofies.” These drugs are clear, tasteless, and odorless – similar to water. When combined with alcohol the drug will incapacitate unsuspecting victims and cause slurred speech, sedation, unconsciousness and death. Even without alcohol, Rohypnol is ten times stronger than Valium. Rapists use these drugs to knock their victims out.

These drugs are readily available in foreign ports, particularly in Mexico. Crew members or passengers going ashore can easily obtain “roofies” or “GHB” and bring the drugs back to the cruise ship.  One of our clients was given a spiked drink by a bartender on a cruise ship returning from Mexico. Interviewed by Time magazine in an article entitled "Crime Rocks the Boats," she reported "her legs go rubbery and her mind turn to mush as the bartender led her to an employees-only restroom and raped her before she passed out cold."

If proper blood and urine testing is not performed in a timely manner after the rape, the drugs will not be detected. Cruise ships are notorious for having ill equipped medical facilities and incompetent or indifferent staff. It is important for passengers to use the same safeguards you would use in a bar ashore:

  • Ask bartenders or bar servers to open your beverages in front of you.
  • Watch your drinks.
  • Don’t leave your drinks unattended when you go on the dance floor or to the ladies room.
  • Stay with your group of friends.
  • Realize that crimes occur routinely on cruise ships.
  • Have fun – but don’t let your guard down.
  • If you are a victim of rape, insist that the ship doctor take blood and urine samples immediately.

Ms. Brimble’s family joined International Cruise Victims (“ICV”) organization to bring awareness to the problem of cruise ship crime. Mr. Brimble is the President of the ICV chapter in Australia. Information regarding Ms. Brimble is available on the ICV website.

 

Photo Credits:

International Cruise Victims – photo of Dianne Brimble

For the past many years, I have watched cruise lines respond to each disappearance at sea by blaming the passenger.

Selling Dreams of Carefree Vacations

Cruise lines like Carnival and Royal Caribbean spend hundreds of millions of dollars a year to create the illusion of carefree vacation getaways where hard working Americans can relax, let their guard down, and forget the worries of city life. Passenger “disappearances” are inconsistent with the cruise industry’s marketing image which sells tickets.

When a passenger “disappears,” there are a number of possible explanations.  Was foul play involved?  Did the passenger act carelessly due to alcohol?  Was the intoxication due to the cruise line’s negligence in over-serving the passenger to make the targeted profits for the cruise?  Or was the disappearance due to a plan by the passenger to end his or her life?

The possibilities are many but the cruise lines’ conclusions are few. Cruise ships are quick to attack the passengers’ character and to steer blame away from themselves when a passenger goes overboard.

Merrian Carver – Royal Caribbean Cover Up, Stonewalling, and the Big Lie

When 40 year old Boston resident Merrian Carver “disappeared” from the cruise ship Mercury operated by Royal Caribbean’s subsidiary brand Celebrity Cruises, the cruise line tried its best to cover the incident up. It didn’t report Merrian missing to either the FBI or the Alaskan State Troopers, even though the cabin attendant reported her missing early in the cruise. Merrian’s Dad, insurance executive Ken Carver, began a serious investigation. Royal Caribbean responded by lying to Mr. Carver and disposing of evidence.  Mr. Carver didn’t go away and the story went public.  The The Arizona Republic published an excellently researched and written story.  In response, the cruise line reached into its bag of tricks and pulled out a good excuse: ” . . . there is very little a cruise line, a resort or a hotel can do to prevent someone from committing suicide.”

Aside of the speculation fueled by the cruise line’s lawyers and PR team, there was no competent evidence whatsoever for Royal Caribbean’s self serving announcement to the media. If it was a suicide, why did Royal Caribbean work so hard to cover the incident up and lie to Mr. Carver?  Indeed, there is now an issue whether a crew member was involved in Merrian’s death.

George Smith IV – Attack the Victim

I witnessed the same type of corporate thuggery while representing Jennifer Hagel whose husband George Smith of Greenwich Connecticut disappeared under suspicious circumstances during the couple’s honeymoon cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the Seas. For months the Hagel and Smith families patiently waited for information explaining the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of the healthy and handsome 26 year old man.

But when their frustration forced them to the press for answers, the cruise industry’s response was quick and brutal. Michael Crye, representing the International Council of Cruise Lines ( the predecessor to today’s Cruise Line International Association – “CLIA”) told an AP reporter investigating the story ” . . . its difficult if someone chooses to do harm to themselves . . .”

Carefully Planned Hit and Run Attacks By Cruise Line PR Departments

These type of statements are not random or insensitive rants from low level employees. The cruise lines’ PR departments carefully craft the announcements and issue them only after being run through their legal departments. The Merrian Carver “suicide” theory was issued by the Royal Caribbean corporate communications director only after being reviewed by the cruise line’s outside legal counsel. When the cruise industry faced embarrassment over Royal Caribbean’s mis-handling of George Smith’s death, out trotted Mr. Crye – the vice president of the cruise trade organization and himself a lawyer. Mr. Crye issued the he-did-it-to-himself statement on behalf of the entire cruise industry (CLIA’s motto is “one industry – one voice“), without a shred of evidence justifying such a conclusion.

Amber Malkuch – Holland America Lines’ Attack Is Business as Usual  

The recent disappearance of Washington resident Amber Malkuch shows that little has changed. Amber was 45 when she sailed on the Holland America Line (“HAL”) cruise ship Zaandam. On August 3, 2009, Amber disappeared. The usual protocol when a passenger disappears should be for the FBI or the state law enforcement authorities to board the vessel at the next port and to conduct an investigation. The period of time leading up to the cruise ship’s arrival at the next port is critical because the cruise line controls the scene of the disappearance, the witnesses and all of the evidence. Before the authorities can conclude whether the “disappearance” resulted from an accident (due to the ship’s negligence, or the passenger’s carelessness or intoxication, or a combination of factors), foul play or suicide, they must first review the evidence and interview passengers and crew members.

But on August 4, 2009, before the Alaskan State Troopers concluded their investigation, a member of HAL’s PR department and CLIA’s PR team, Sally Andrews, announced to the media that Amber probably took her own life. The “suicide” conclusion was picked up by all of the major news outlets and reported prominently on FOX News and other news stations.

This surprised not only Amber’s friends and family, but it dumbfounded the Alaskan State Troopers who had yet to review photographs and video, conduct interviews or analyze toxicology reports. The Anchorage Daily News reported “Troopers Miffed at Cruise Line’s Rush to Judgment.” The Seattle Post Intelligencer quoted a representative of the Alaskan State Troopers saying:

We’re the people actually looking into the exact cause of death . . . We’re the ones doing the interviews and looking at the evidence . . . And if we haven’t been able to make a determination, how can the cruise line who isn’t trained?”

Who Do You Trust?  The Alaskan State Troopers or the Cruise Line?

Does Holland America Line care about what the evidence reveals?  In the world of cruise line PR (perception vs. reality), what matters most to the cruise lines seems to be the public’s perception that cruise ships are safe rather than the reality that perhaps they are not.

Determining the cause of passenger overboards is the role of experts – the U.S. Coast Guard, the F.B.I., and other law enforcement authorities – not the cruise lines’ PR departments.

We suggest read: Is a Cruise Ship the Perfect Place to Commit a Crime?  

 

Photo credits:

Kendall Carver – photo of Merrian Carver

Kevin Wolf (AP) – photo of Maureen Smith, Michaeil Crye, Jennifer Hagel

Seattle Post Intelligencer – photo of Amber Malkuch

If you are retired or a child and die on a cruise ship due to the cruise ship’s negligence, the cruise line will consider your life to be worthless under current maritime law.

Your family will face a law called the Death on the High Seas Act, commonly known as “DOHSA.” In 1920, Congress passed DOHSA to provide for limited recovery when a seaman died at sea. Congress did not want widows to become destitute when their husbands died in international waters. So they passed DOHSA which provides that a widow can recover her husband’s wages and, perhaps, some money to bury him if his body was found.

DOHSA Provides No Recovery for Pain, Suffering, Grief, or Bereavement if You or Your Loved One Dies at Sea

Applied to cruise lines, DOHSA provides no recovery at all in many circumstances. Surviving family members may potentially recover only limited financial damages after proving the cruise line’s negligence caused the death. However, there is no recovery for the deceased passenger’s pain, agony and suffering before he dies. The surviving family members’ grief and bereavement are irrelevant. The children’s loss of their parent’s love, guidance and nurturing are of no consequence.

All of these damages may be recoverable if you die in a car accident or airplane accident en route to the port. But on the high seas, only financial losses such as lost wages or burial/funeral expenses are permitted.

For this reason, there is no basis for any recovery if the missing passenger is a retiree or a child. If the body of a retired passenger is not recovered, and there are no burial expenses, the family receives nothing. This is a hard pill for a grieving family to swallow. Most people who contact our office are dumbfounded when they learn this.

Cruise Lines Love DOHSA

Unlike companies ashore, cruise lines face virtually no financial exposure when their guests are killed or disappear. Even if the cruise line is clearly negligent or acts maliciously, DOHSA provides no recovery when the victim is a retiree or a child.  Cruise lines and their insurance companies profit greatly due to this ancient law.

Historically, DOHSA was applied to aviation disasters when airplanes crashed in international waters. The families of dead children or elderly (retired) parents were excluded from any recovery by virtue of DOHSA. But following the crash of a jet in the Atlantic full of US citizens (TWA flight 800), the American public became outraged by this injustice. In response, Congress excluded air travel from DOHSA. The same thing needs to happen with cruise travel.

Victims Fight for A Change

The International Cruise Victims organization (“ICV”) has been trying to amend DOHSA to permit the recovery of fair compensation when passengers die during cruises. A cruise safety bill pending before Congress originally contained a provision to amend DOHSA so that there is no difference if an American citizen dies ashore or at sea. The cruise industry spent millions of dollars lobbying Congress to eliminate the amendment. Ultimately, the cruise lines’ big bucks and PR machine won out.

As far as deaths on ships go, DOHSA is just the way it existed in 1920 – 89 years ago. In 1920, relatively few passengers cruised a year. Now the number is around 13,000,000. Congress never envisioned that DOHSA would bar all recovery for any of the million of retired passengers and children who cruise annually. The Cruise Line International Association (“CLIA”) doesn’t tell its 13,000,000 customers or 16,000 travel agents that it lobbies each year to make certain that DOHSA remains in place.

A cruise line is the only place in the world where a child or retired passenger’s life is of absolutely no consequence in the eyes of the law. Die on a cruise ship due to bad medical care or disappear under mysterious circumstances? The cruise lines have spent millions of dollars to make certain that your loved ones don’t get a dime.