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Court reverses cruise ships' immunity from medical malpractice

Over the last several years cruise ships have been the target of negative publicity due to contagious illnesses that have run rampant onboard, causing returns to port and passenger refunds.

But one avenue of redress that generally did not exist for passengers was the ability to sue the medical staff on the ship for any part their negligence might have played in the initial treatment of the illness or injury, or their inability to contain its spread among other passengers.

In 1988, a court ruling gave cruise ship companies immunity for negligent medical care of their passengers. But a federal appeals court case has recently reversed this defense to cruise ship liability. 

The case involved a passenger who fell and hit his head while onboard, and who was not seen by a doctor until four hours after the injury occurred. Although he was airlifted to a hospital the next day, he died a week later.

The appeals court based its decision in part on the fact that, along with other technological advances onboard cruise ships, medical care should be more advanced as well.

Not only does the case shed light on medical negligence in the cruise ship industry, but may also affect hospital negligence when the passenger is treated on land.

Did the cruise ship medical staff provide adequate care on board, only to have the receiving hospital then make an error in treatment that resulted in a worsened condition?

As you are boarding cruise ships at the Port of New Orleans, keep in mind the changing legal situation in this regard. If you or a loved one becomes ill or injured as the result of a trip aboard a cruise ship, it would be wise to consult an attorney familiar with medical malpractice and hospital negligence laws.

Having the most current information on the issues can be the difference between compensation and no recovery for your pain and suffering.

Source: Los Angeles Times, "Court ruling reinstates negligence suit against cruise line," Hugo Martin, Nov. 14, 2014

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