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Cruise lines can now be held liable for medical malpractice

Many Pittsburgh residents enjoy taking a cruise vacation. Cruises are a great way to relax and see multiple ports without having to arrange transportation, meals and hotel stays. But what happens when something goes wrong while on a cruise? Many people have suffered medical emergencies while on a cruise and a recent ruling by the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals allows cruise lines to be accountable for medical malpractice.

For years cruise lines have been immune from medical malpractice suits but a recent court may eliminate that immunity. A 1988 circuit court case effectively gave immunity to cruise ship employees when they gave medical care but the latest ruling says that ruling was outdated due to modern technology. The lawsuit involved a man who hit his head while onboard a Royal Caribbean cruise. The man was seen by a nurse but received minimal treatment. The onboard doctor did not evaluate the man until four hours later. The next day the man was airlifted to a New York hospital where he died a week later.

The cruise ship advocacy group, International Cruise Victims, praises the ruling. They believe that this will make cruises safer for passengers and will change how cruise lines respond to passengers who get sick. Cruise lines will now be responsible for medical mistakes made onboard, including a doctor mistake.

Cruise ship passengers and their families should always understand their legal rights following an accident aboard a cruise ship. Depending on the circumstances in the case, compensation may be available for victims and their families.

Source: Los Angeles Times, “Court ruling reinstates negligence suit against cruise line,” Hugo Martin, Nov. 13, 2014