In Franza v. Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd., 772 F. 3d 1225 (11th Circuit 2014), the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals overturned 140 years of precedent by holding that cruise lines may be sued for the professional negligence of ships’ physicians and nurses. In this landmark case, I successfully represented the Personal Representative of Pasquale Vaglio, who died as a result of the medical negligence of RCCL’s medical staff in attending to a closed head injury sustained while on the cruise. Prior to the Franza decision, cruise passengers had no right to sue cruise lines for even the most egregious negligence on the part of the cruise lines’ physicians, even though the cruise lines employed the physician, and directly profited from the physician’s practice aboard its vessels. In Franza, the Eleventh Circuit, which has jurisdiction over federal maritime cases in Georgia, Alabama and, more importantly, cruise lines, Florida, refused to recognize the immunity defense which cruise lines raised, the roots of which, according to the court, “snaked back into a wholly different world . . . of 19th Century steamships . . . .” Instead, relying upon well-established maritime agency principles, the Eleventh Circuit acknowledged the 21st Century reality of medical care on modern cruise lines. Before addressing the opinion in detail, we will briefly revisit the history of maritime medical malpractice actions.
Continue Reading Maritime Medical Malpractice Claims

In a historic and tragic case, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals today acknowledged for the first time that cruise lines have a duty to warn their passengers of dangers ashore in places where their passengers are known or expected to visit during ports-of-call. You can read the opinion here. The case involves the shooting death of 15-year-old Liz Marie Perez Chaparro who was celebrating her quinceanera with her parents and brother on a cruise aboard the M/V Victory. One of the ports-of-call was St. Thomas, in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Unbeknownst to the Chaparros, but well known to Carnival, was the fact that the capital city of St. Thomas, and particularly an area known as Coki Beach, at Coki Point, had become the scene of rampant gang related violence and numerous shootings. In fact, just a few months before the incident in which Liz Marie was shot and killed, no less an authority than the Attorney General of the Virgin Islands had predicted that innocent bystanders would be caught up in these shootings. His predictions were quoted in U.S. Virgin Islands newspapers.
Continue Reading Eleventh Circuit United States Court of Appeals Acknowledges Cruise Lines’ Duty to Warn Their Passengers of Dangers Ashore.

Johnson v. Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd., 2011 WL 6354064 (11th Cir. 2011).

You have no doubt seen the cruise line commercials which depict happy passengers engaging in physical activities normally found ashore – rock climbing walls; zip-lines; and FlowRider simulated surfing attractions. These commercials, utilized to entice passengers and their families to choose cruising as their vacation destination do not mention the release of liability form which passengers are quickly shown in a 3 inch x 5 inch electronic keypad, such as one signs at the grocery store checkout counter when paying by credit card, with fine print that purports to release the cruise line from even its own negligence.Continue Reading The Eleventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Rules that Cruise Lines Cannot Limit Their Liability for Increasingly Dangerous Onboard Activities Such as Rock Climbing Walls, Zip-lining, and Simulated Surfing