As a Miami personal injury attorney, our office sees many cruise ship injuries. When passengers are out at sea, their options for medical care is limited to that of the shipboard doctors and nurses, but until recently, they weren’t held accountable for medical malpractice. A decision recently made in the 11th Circuit Court, finally changed the cruise line’s immunity to malpractice liability.
The recent, landmark case holds the cruise line accountable in a court of law for the injuries sustained by victims of medical malpractice by the shipboard doctors, nurses and/or medical staff. Prior to this decision, cruise line defense attorneys cited the immunity defense known as the “Barbetta rule,” which allowed the cruise line to avoid liability for negligent medical care provided by their employees.
The case that brought forward this decision, Franza v. Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines LTD., 13-13607, 11th Cir. 2014, was filed by the the Estate of Pasquale F. Vaglio. In this case, Mr. Vaglio fell and hit his head while the ship was near dock in Bermuda. Rather than referring the patient to a medical facility where he could receive more substantial care and attention for his head wound, the ship’s medical facility released him. Approximately 90 minutes later, Mr. Vaglio returned to the medical center, but they delayed further treatment until his credit card information was obtained. An hour and a half later, he was seen by physician who ordered for Mr. Vaglio to be taken to the hospital in Bermuda. By the time he was admitted to the hospital, six hours had passed and he could no longer be saved. He passed within a week.
It’s a shame that it is sometimes necessary to see such a tragic case before steps are taken to remedy a situation in which the victim doesn’t have the law on their side. The Graham Legal team is happy see that changes are being made in maritime law, particularly since we live in a city that is so highly affected by this area of law.