An Appellate Court in the United States just made it a lot easier to sue a cruise line for medical malpractice. Before this case, stringent and longstanding maritime laws made it difficult for passengers to sue on-board doctors and nurses for medical negligence.
According to the Huffington Post, the decision stems from a case involving an elderly man, who fell while he was on a cruise. The injury was not on the ship itself, but on shore in Bermuda where the ship was docked. Pasquale Vaglio sought treatment when he returned to the Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines ship. He died one week later.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, falls are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries among older adults. Vaglio’s daughter alleges that the medical staff on board the ship was so negligent that they did not diagnose Vaglio’s cranial trauma, which led him to fall into a coma and die. She filed a wrongful death case against the cruise line.
When Mr. Vaglio’s daughter filed the lawsuit against the cruise line, the maritime laws that were in place basically provided immunity to cruise lines which made it impossible to find crew members negligent when giving medical care to the passengers.
Of all personal injury cases, medical malpractice cases have the highest median damage awards, at $600,000. Though only between 4% and 5% of personal injury cases ever make it to trial, plaintiffs win half of the time.
The Appellate Court found that the maritime law actually does find the cruise line vicariously liable for the medical negligence shown by the on board doctors and nurses, after Judge Marcus compared maritime law with theories of personal injury, medical malpractice, and agency law.