It has happened again: the cruise industry takes yet another hit. Royal Caribbean just ended a ship’s 10-day trip due to hundreds of passengers and crew members becoming sick. On Sunday, the Explorer of the Seas was boarded by officials from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to investigate reports of gastrointestinal illnesses and to evaluate a response to the outbreak. The CDC has stated that roughly 564 passengers and 47 crew members have reported becoming sick. The 15-deck ship carries 3,050 passengers in total.
The cruise industry has taken some hits over the last year or so. Examples include 32 people being killed in the Costa Concordia disaster in Italy and the fire aboard the Carnival Triumph in the Gulf of Mexico that stranded passengers in the middle of the ocean for four days. While litigation over the injuries and deaths aboard the Costa Concordia is still being handled in Italy, lawsuits filed in connection with the Carnival Triumph have been relatively stagnant. The issue with Carnival Triumph claims is that there were no real “damages” to speak of for the passengers. Sure, the passengers were inconvenienced and the conditions on board were atrocious, but their “damages” were mostly emotional with no physical manifestations.
However, the Explorer of the Seas matter is different. Royal Caribbean has a non-delegable duty to all its passengers and crew to provide a safe and clean ship so as not to cause illness. Closed and cramped quarters, such as cruise ships, are the perfect breeding ground for norovirus to spread like wildfire if proper cleaning procedures are not followed.
Maritime injury lawsuits are extremely delicate and must be handled by an attorney with knowledge of admiralty law. The ticket that passengers purchase often provides that all claims be brought within one year of the date of loss. Also, these tickets often have a venue selection clause that provides all suits to be brought to Federal Court in Miami. As for crew members, their claims are covered under the Jones Act, a Federal Statute designed to protect seamen/sea women when they are injured.
If you have been injured on a cruise, call an experienced attorney well-versed in admiralty/maritime law. The laws of the sea are different than those on land. The right lawyer should be able to navigate your claim through the rough waters of the Federal Court.