Cruise ships are like cities on the sea-cities that are not beholden to traditional U.S. laws. Cruise ships operate under maritime law, and this fact has enabled major cruise lines to avoid medical malpractice lawsuits when vacationers receive poor medical treatment aboard one of their ships.
However, a recent court decision has changed medical malpractice options for cruise-goers. A United States Appellate Court has found that cruise lines can be held liable for poor medical treatment in their medical facilities.
The case began with an elderly passenger who fell aboard a cruise ship while docked in Bermuda. The nurse who attended to him failed to assess or diagnosis his head trauma and later released the man with no treatment at all. He did not get to see a doctor for four hours following his injury. He fell into a coma and died of his injuries a week later. The man's daughter filed a wrongful death suit shortly after, saying the medical staff's negligence resulted in a delayed diagnosis for her father's head trauma and resulted in his death.
Originally, the suit was dismissed under provisions in maritime law that shielded cruise lines from medical malpractice lawsuits. But the appellate court, using principles from maritime law, personal injury law, medical malpractice law and agency law, found the cruise line liable for the injury, and in doing so, opened the door for future patients to bring similar claims.
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