Friday, December 12, 2014

Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit holds that a cruise line can be held liable for the medical malpractice of a ship's doctor

About a month ago, the Court of Appeals for the 11th circuit issued an opinion that breaks away from a longstanding approach to medical malpractice cases against cruise lines.  The case is called Franza v Royal Caribbean and you can read it here

Before this decision, courts typically ruled that plaintiffs could not recover from a cruise line for injuries caused by the medical personnel on board a cruise ship because either the doctors were not employees (but independent contractors) or because they were exercising independent medical judgment over which the cruise line had no control and for which it should not be held liable.  In Franza, however, the court held that things have changed and that cruise lines should be subject to liability for the medical personnel they employ.  Accordingly, the court stated
we now confront state-of-the-art cruise ships that house thousands of people and operate as floating cities, complete with well-stocked modern infirmaries and urgent care centers. In place of truly independent doctors and nurses, we must now acknowledge that medical professionals routinely work for corporate masters. And whereas ships historically went 'off the grid' when they set sail, modern technology enables distant ships to communicate instantaneously with the mainland in meaningful ways
The case may also have implications outside of the medical liability areas since cruise lines also employ many other people to provide services to passengers.

Bloomberg law has a short podcast discussing the case and its implications here.  The Daily Report has an article here.

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