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Ruling in Cruise Ship Injury Case Could Determine Whether Medical Malpractice Damages Could Finally Come Into Play

A ruling issued by a federal appeals court in a wrongful death case on a cruise ship could pave the way for medical practice lawsuits for claims alleging negligent healthcare on these types of vessels. This could be significant for cruise ship passengers, who for the last century have been unable to pursue such allegations because of exemptions that have been created through a number of other court decisions. Some 21 million people go on cruises every year.

Now, a three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has decided that the last ruling, known as Barbetta, in 1988 is outdated. The decision in Barbetta determined that cruise ship passengers shouldn’t expect the type of medical care that they would get on land, and medical staff on cruise line vessels are private contractors and not ship employees.

This latest case involves a traumatic brain injury sustained by Pasquale Vaglio on a Royal Caribbean cruise in 2011. After the 82-year-old was involved in a fall accident during a sightseeing trip, a nurse performed a minor exam on him and ordered the older man to rest. Vaglio died from a brain injury days later.

Now, the circuit judges are saying that they see “no sound reason in law” for making special exemptions for incidents of “onboard medical negligence.” The decision gives Vaglio’s family an opportunity to prove to a jury that the ship’s medical team was negligent.

A spokesperson for Royal Caribbean spoke out against the ruling, saying that the cruise line’s business is not healthcare, but rather, to provide patrons with vacation experiences. There is a possibility that this e case could end up at the U.S. Supreme Court.

If you were injured while on a cruise ship and you think that the incident was a result of negligence, you should contact our Boston injury law firm right away. Our Massachusetts cruise ship accident lawyers represent passengers or their loved ones that were injured in a slip and fall accident, ship fire, or ship collision, or because of negligent medical care, food poisoning or contamination, physical assault, sexual assault, drowning, or other reasons.

Ruling opens door for medical malpractice lawsuits over health care aboard cruise ships, StarTribune, December 24, 2014

Court ruling reinstates negligence suit against cruise line, Los Angeles Times, November 13, 2014

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