Articles Posted in Cruise Ship Passenger Injuries

News broke yesterday of a horrific physical and sexual assault of a female passenger by a crewmember aboard Holland America’s cruise vessel Nieuw Amsterdam.  The altercation allegedly began because the 31-year-old passenger offended the crewmember when he delivered breakfast to her room.  The crewmember allegedly knocked three times before the passenger acknowledged him, and then from outside the room he heard a woman’s voice shout, “Wait a minute, son of a bitch!”  She later opened the door and the crewmember left the food.

The crewmember returned to the woman’s room later that day, but no one answered and he left.  That same evening, he sought after the woman on deck, “in order to punch her in the face for insulting him that morning.”  After realizing the location was too crowded, he left.

That night, the crewmember used his master key to enter the passenger’s room, and went onto the balcony to wait for her to return.  Upon her return, the crewmember is alleged to have attacked the woman, choking and punching her with whatever was available, including a laptop and a curling iron.  The passenger defended herself with a corkscrew.  The fight progressed to a balcony, where the crewmember is alleged to have tried to push the woman overboard.  The woman was finally able to break free, and escaped her room.  She got help from another passenger.

8-15-2013 cruise-ships-at-grand-turk-1106432-mThe three largest cruise lines based in the United States, Carnival Corp., Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian Cruise Line, began posting data related to shipboard crime earlier this month.  The decision to post the data was announced last month and data was posted on August 1.  Disney Cruise Line followed suit but did not reveal its decision until after the data was already posted on its website.  The data reveals many more crimes were reported on cruise vessels than had previously been made public.  Although the companies began disclosing crime statistics voluntarily, the disclosures were made amid growing pressure from Congress and crime victims for more transparency related to crime at sea. 

Although the newly disclosed data provides a new window into statistics for crime at sea, Carnival Corp. reported only the statistics for their North American-based lines (Carnival Cruise Lines, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises, and Seabourn Cruises).  Carnival Corp. did not disclose data for its other cruise lines: Aida Cruises, Costa Cruises, Cunard, Ibero Cruceros, and P&O Cruises.  The data posted by Royal Caribbean, Disney Cruise Line, and Norwegian Cruise Line is for vessels worldwide.

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By: Richard J. Davies, Kraft Davies Olsson PLLC, Seattle, Washington

When Does The 2002 Protocol Go Into Effect?

Under Article 20, the 2002 Protocol will go into effect 12 months after 10 member states have ratified it. On April 23, 2013, Belgium became the 10th member state to ratify the 2002 Protocol and it will now come into full force on April 23, 2014. The provisions of the 2002 Protocol will apply to any cruise that does not originate or stop in a United States port of call. In any case that involves a cruise outside of the United States, the 2002 Protocol will now significantly alter the landscape of the claim by imposing a form of strict liability for any “shipping incident” and substantially increasing the liability limits for the passenger’s injury.

Earlier this month, prosecutors in Italy rejected a plea bargain offer from Frencesco Schettino, the captain of the Carnival cruise vessel Costa Concordia at the time it hit a reef and capsized.  Schettino is accused of manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning ship while many of the 4,229 passengers and crew were still aboard the vessel.  The 290-meter Costa Concordia struck rocks and sank outside the Tuscan port of Giglio in January of 2012, and 32 people died in the catastrophe.  The Costa Concordia still lies on its side in the location of the sinking, and has since become a tourist attraction.

The capsized cruise liner Costa Concordia is pictured outside Giglio harbourSchettino offered to serve three years and four months in prison for his role in causing the vessel sinking as part of a plea bargain, but prosecutors rejected this offer.  If convicted, Schettino may serve as much as 20 years in prison.  Prosecutors have already made plea deals with five other Costa Concordia officers, and the deals have since been approved by the court.  However, other officers are described as having played a “marginal” role in the disaster.  Schettino is the only remaining defendant in the case and will be the only defendant in the trial beginning July 9.  The trial will be held in Grosseto, the city nearest the site of the shipwreck.

The Costa Concordia hit ground around dinner time and spawned a chaotic nighttime evacuation.  Schettino left the vessel and was reported to be watching the evacuation from shore while many of the passengers and crew remained in peril.  The ship listed so badly to one side that some of the life boats couldn’t be launched and many people had to jump into the sea and swim to shore in the dark.  In a recording of a telephone call between the Italian coast guard and Shettino, the coast guard famously ordered Schettino to “get back aboard, damn it!”

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The search for a 30 year-old man and a 27 year-old woman who fell overboard off the Carnival Cruise ship ms SPIRIT has been halted.  The cruise line did not become aware that the couple was missing until they failed to pick up their luggage at the end of the cruise.  Reviewing surveillance video after the cruise ended, the cruise line determined that Paul Rossington and Kristen Schroder went overboard approximately 93 miles off Foster, New South Wales in Australia.

These type of incidents have occurred in the past.  According to a list published a cruise website, over 70 people have fallen overboard from cruise ships since 2000.  Carnival Cruise Lines had 28 passengers fall overboard off its ships during this period according to the list.  Of the people that fell overboard, 10 were rescued and the rest died as a result of the fall or drowning.

Under maritime law, a cruise line has a duty to exercise reasonable care to prevent injuries to passengers while on a cruise. If a family member falls overboard on a cruise, it is important that an experienced maritime lawyer is retained to determine whether a cause of action may exist against the cruise line.  Holding the cruise line accountable for deaths or injuries is important to improving the safety of the industry.  The cruise line will likely appoint an experienced lawyer to conduct its investigation and take action to protect the company from possible legal action.  It is important that your family have an experienced lawyer working to determine the cause of the incident and make certain that the truth comes out in the investigation.

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The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reported that 60 passengers became ill during the voyage of the Holland America Line cruise ship ms VEENDAM from April 13 to May 4, 2013.  This represented 4.85% of the 1,237 passengers on board the vessel.  The predominant symptoms were vomiting and diarrhea.  In response to the outbreak, the crew increased cleaning and disinfection procedures, notified passengers of the outbreak, and consulted with the CDC.  Two CDV Vessel Sanitation Program environmental health officers boarded the ship on arrival in Fort Lauderdale on May 1, 2013 and conducted a targeted investigation into the outbreak and evaluated the adequacy of Holland America’s response.  The outcome of that inspection is still pending.

Like other cruise lines, Holland America Line had other similar outbreaks of illness in the past, including outbreaks on board the ms AMSTERDAM in 2012, the ms MAASDAM and ms RYNDAM in 2011, and the ms ZUIERDAM, ms NIEUW AMSTERDAM, and ms MAASDAM in 2010.  

The CDC Vessel Sanitation Program requires cruise lines like Holland America Line to report the total number of gastrointestinal (GI) illness cases evaluated by medical staff before a cruise ship arrives in a US port from a foreign port.  If the total number of cases on board the vessel exceeds two-percent (2%) of the total passengers, a separate report is required to the CDC.  The CDC investigates these incidents and reports these cases to the public on its website.

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When you book your plans for a cruise on a Holland America Ship, the last thing on your mind is what to do if you are injured on the ship.  You’re not thinking about how to pay for your hospital bills or how long it will take to recover from your injuries.  You may not know that there are important provisions in the  Holland America Line cruise contract  that will limit your ability to hold the cruise line accountable for your injury.  You may not know that any lawsuits against Holland America Line must be filed in Seattle, Washington by a lawyer admitted to practice in federal court in Seattle.  You may not know that a lawsuit must be filed within one year and that you must file notice of a claim within 6 months. 

What to do While You Are Still On The Ship . . .

If you are injured on a Holland America Line cruise ship, it is important that you seek immediate medical attention for your injuries.  Don’t assume that your condition will improve without medical attention or that you can wait until you get home for medical evaluation.  All Holland America Line ships have an infirmary where you will have access to medical treatment.  Although the medical provider on the ship is there to treat your medical condition, they also work for Holland America Line and these records will be available to the company to defend any potential claim.  When you are speaking to the medical provider on the ship, keep in mind that Holland America Line will have access to these records. 

You should obtain the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of any witnesses at the scene, including any Holland America employees.  Try to obtain photographs of the area where you were injured, if possible, and anything that contributed to your injury.  Make note of the weather and sea conditions if they were a factor in your injury.  Obtain copies of any documents that you file with Holland America Line, including any incident report, any medical records, or any other witness statements.

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