According to a statement from Carnival Cruise Lines, a six-year-old boy drowned on the last day of a four-day Caribbean cruise at one of the ship’s pools, while with his family. These pool injury cases are typical of the cases we take at Ehline Law Firm, so I felt obligated to shed some light on the potential claims possible by the surviving family.
Have You Seen The Video Footage?
After arriving at a port in Miami, the Miami-Dade Police Department identified the boy as Qwentyn Hunter of Winter Garden, Florida. According to Miami-Dade investigators, Hunter was swimming with his ten-year-old brother when the incident occurred. Passengers around the pool immediately pulled him out and began CPR.
Police have said that foul play is not suspected but the six-year-old was pronounced dead at the scene. Victory ship passenger Shaina Shaw stated that she along with several other passengers helped in pulling the boy out of the pool. Shaw said the boy had been playing with his mother, father and older brother in the shallow end of the pool.
No Guards at the Pool? What?
Another passenger identified as Deshaun Christian said people were listening to music and dancing when the incident occurred. Christian said that it was frightening and people were trying to help the child. The Carnival Cruise ship Victory left from the Port of Miami on Thursday and returned to port on Monday.
Carnival Cruise Lines spokesman Joyce Oliva stated the cruise line company does not have lifeguards on duty at the pools aboard their vessels. She said that adults must accompany children under 13 when swimming in the ships pools.
What is The Law?
Here, the case will be handled under international admiralty-maritime law, treaty, and contract. Typically one would retain a cruise ship attorney in Florida when suing Carnival to learn all the nuances and time restrictions. Suffice it to say; a cruise ship lawsuit is an animal all its own.
If you want to sue a cruise line, you have to look at the passage contract, understand that typically a passenger or the survivor would have no more than six months to send a written claim to the Cruise Line Corporation listed in the passage contract. Once that is done, you may be able to bring a lawsuit in either Federal or State court. If the case were brought in California, it would be pursued under ordinary negligence principles.
Assuming that was the case here, the Christian family would argue that a reasonable cruise line would have additional security to enforce swimming pool safety. In fact, this should be the case regardless of whether they ply passengers, including parents, with alcohol till they can’t walk.
Also, there were distractions like loud music and dancing near the pool. Since children were present, the cruise lines should have had lifeguard type protection in any event. Additionally, cruise ships are common carriers under customary California negligence law.
Heightened Duty of Care.
This means that cruise ships and their controllers are subject to a heightened duty of care beyond just the standard, regular duty of care an average person would be submitted to. For example, a school teacher is in a superior position to a child and would have a “special duty” of care not to molest a child. A lawyer has a special duty of attention not to reveal client secrets and so on.
That being the case, the cruise ship had a special duty of care akin to strict liability, meaning that the cruise ship would have no defenses available and the case would be about damages.
Damages for Death.
The surviving family members will base their damages claims upon the financial resources the child would have contributed to them, and the loss of love, affection and everything else that comes with losing someone in such a tragic way. But DOSHA offers cruise lines even further protection from responsibility for their misfeasance, nonfeasance, and malfeasance.
In fact, if a child is killed since they are not a wage earner, the parents are severely limited in their recovery since they may not even make a claim. So the problem is that most parents are clueless as to these laws. Would you let your child on a cruise if you knew about this scandalous nonsense? The bottom line is that a cruise line can attract children to a nuisance like an unsecured pool, and escape paying.
But Ehline has successfully argued that a cruise line cannot submit to state law, and then hide behind treaties and maritime law. So the risks for both sides can come into play, instead of all the cards. Ehline would argue that the cruise lines submitted to California law, that DOSHA was a law passed in the 20’s to apply to fisherman, and that should not apply here. How the judge rules are usually based upon who makes the best argument.
As for adults, the problem is that if the court rules for the cruise lines, the unwary victim does not recover pain, suffering, grief, or bereavement if the decedent passed away outside of the territorial waters of the U.S. DOSHA provides only limited financial damages, such as lost wages.
When the cruise lines choose the jurisdiction and venue, they must submit to the rules of the case. That is why a lawyer who gets this stuff is so critical to moving the case forward favorably.
The stories I hear from victims of cruise ship injuries are utterly wretched, and I look forward to lobbying in DC for more cruise ship legislation. Cruise lines create a party-like environment of intoxication on a moving ship that rocks back and forth. People who are wasted get thrown about all the time!
This family could certainly argue that the children should have been given life jackets and that lifeguards should have been provided. The cruise line may counter that the parents are responsible for failing to supervise, but again, the last duty of care was with the cruise ship. I would fight hard for this family.
- Sexual Attacks
For years, women and even children have been sexually assaulted onboard cruise ships but often the cruise industry has failed to report the crime and in fact actively assisted in covering up assaults by cruise ship employees.
Often the FBI is not informed, or when informed, may not consider these to be substantive cases. So that leaves it to attorneys like me to see that justice gets served. If you want to learn more about cruise ship passenger’s rights, contact Ehline Law Firm and Support the Strengthened Cruise Ship Bill of Rights.
Formal Safety and Cruise Ship Drowning:
Facts About Life Jackets and Personal Floatation Devices: http://www.pfdma.org/local/downloads/documents/pfdmabrochure.pdf