Passengers from the Anthem of the Seas cruise from hell on February 6, 2015 have contacted Hickey Law Firm about their rights. We represent cruise passengers who are injured on cruises and on cruise ships. We are the A-Team of 4 lawyers led by John H. (Jack) Hickey. Jack represented cruise lines for 17 years. Now he is on the other side of the cruise lines, representing you, the seriously injured passenger. Jack is a nationally recognized trial lawyer. He is a Sustaining Member of the American Association for Justice and lectures frequently across the United States on trial and on maritime issues. Jack is perhaps the only lawyer in Florida who is Board Certified as a Trial Lawyer by The Florida Bar and by the National Board of Trial Advocacy and Board Certified in Admiralty and Maritime Law by The Florida Bar. Jack is a Past President of the Dade County Bar Association and is on The Florida Bar Board of Governors. 2 of our 4 attorneys, Brett Sager and Elizabeth Bryan, are former criminal prosecutors. 1 of our attorneys, Bjorg Eikeland, worked for a number of years as a Senior Adjuster with an insurance company in Europe which provided insurance and managed claims for the cruise lines. Bjorg also has worked for Norwegian Cruise Line in their claims department and has worked for a law firm which defended the cruise lines before joining Hickey Law Firm.
The law which applies to injuries of passengers on cruise ships is the maritime law. The place where you have to sue or bring a claim against the cruise lines is where the Passenger Ticket Contract requires that you have to bring a case. Our website lists all of the known cruise lines and the place or venue where a passenger is required to file suit. For a detailed description of where to file suit, see the terms and conditions of the Passenger Ticket Contract on the website of each particular cruise line. Generally, the place or venue to file suit against the major cruise lines like Carnival, Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, and Celebrity, is Miami, Florida. The passenger also is required to provide notice in writing with “full particulars” to the cruise line of a claim within 6 months of the claim and to file suit in the correct location within one year of the incident if the cruise touched a U.S. port.
Generally, we represent passengers who have suffered significant and what turns out to be permanent injuries. That typically includes injuries which require surgery or surgeries such as orthopedic or neurological injuries. That also can include traumatic brain injury. This also includes cases of assault, sexual assault, or rape. This does not mean that you can file a suit or bring a claim against a cruise line only if you have these types of injuries. This means only that these are the types of cases we take. We would like to represent everyone, but we cannot. Of course, where there is any doubt about what this means or what cases we take, call us at 1.800.215.7117. We would be glad to talk to you and clarify.
The Passenger Contract Ticket for each cruise line explains some of the rights of the passengers. Those explanations are written by corporate and maritime lawyers and are written in legalese. These terms are difficult or impossible to understand even for most lawyers. Most cruise lines have adopted the International Cruise Passengers Bill of Rights. This Bill of Rights was written by the Cruise Line International Association, the trade group which represents the cruise lines. The Bill of Rights was crafted by the cruise industry to ward off any regulation by Congress after the Carnival Triumph “poop cruise” where the ship was adrift in the Gulf of Mexico without power and with backed up toilets for more than 4 days. The Cruise Passenger Bill of Rights provides:
- The right to disembark a docked ship if essential provisions such as food, water, restroom facilities and access to medical care cannot adequately be provided onboard, subject only to the Master’s concern for passenger safety and security and customs and immigration requirements of the port.
- The right to a full refund for a trip that is canceled due to mechanical failures, or a partial refund for voyages that are terminated early due to those failures.
- The right to have available on board ships operating beyond rivers or coastal waters full-time, professional emergency medical attention, as needed until shore side medical care becomes available.
- The right to timely information updates as to any adjustments in the itinerary of the ship in the event of a mechanical failure or emergency, as well as timely updates of the status of efforts to address mechanical failures.
- The right to a ship crew that is properly trained in emergency and evacuation procedures.
- The right to an emergency power source in the case of a main generator failure.
- The right to transportation to the ship’s scheduled port of disembarkation or the passenger’s home city in the event a cruise is terminated early due to mechanical failures.
- The right to lodging if disembarkation and an overnight stay in an unscheduled port are required when a cruise is terminated early due to mechanical failures.
- The right to have included on each cruise line’s website a toll-free phone line that can be used for questions or information concerning any aspect of shipboard operations.
- The right to have this Cruise Line Passenger Bill of Rights published on each line’s website.
There is no right in these to file suit if the cruise line violates or does not fulfill these “rights”. Therefore, this so called “Bill of Rights” has no teeth.
And there is one other limitation in the law. A Federal statute, 46 U.S.C. Sec. 30509 (b), which the cruise industry pushed Congress to pass, provides that the cruise passenger can recover damages for “emotional distress, mental suffering, and psychological injury” only where those injuries were “the result of physical injury to the claimant caused by the negligence or fault of a crewmember” or the cruise line, or where the passenger “was at actual risk of physical injury, and the risk was caused by the negligence or fault of a crewmember” or the cruise line, or where such damages were “intentionally inflicted by a crewmember” or the cruise line. This section does not apply to sexual harassment, sexual assault, or rape.
The question in the case of passengers on the Anthem of the Seas cruise from hell who were not physically injured but who did suffer emotional distress, mental suffering, or psychological injury (which I would venture to say is everyone to one degree or another) is whether (a) they were at actual risk of physical injury or (b) the captain’s and the cruise line’s decision to sail that ship with all 6,000 passengers and crew (see,https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MS_Anthem_of_the_Seas) into that storm without diverting to a safe port meant that the damages were intentionally inflicted. The captain’s version of the story is that the weather was more severe than predicted in this case. (See, interview with the captain made onboard by the cruise line at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jo0SLwupq10). Here, all of the passengers were at actual risk of physical injury in the sense that there was furniture and furnishings sliding all over the ship (see, e.g., https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9gvBcwbfeyA) unless the passenger was in the cabin and nothing fell from the cabin walls. The ship was in this violent storm for approximately 12 hours. The ship was at risk during that time and the passengers were at risk of injury from the furnishings flying around.
And the Captain knew or should have known what was facing him, the ship, and the 6,000 others onboard. According to CNN.com, “As early asThursday, the National Weather Service's ocean prediction center in Washington forecast winds of 46 to 57 mph and 23- to 31-foot seas on Sundaynight in the area where the ship encountered the storm, CNN meteorologist Jennifer Gray said.” There is a call for an NTSB investigation into why the captain would have sailed into this magnitude of a storm.
Assuming that these damages for emotional distress, mental suffering, or psychological injury can be recovered, the question is what is that measure of damages. In other words, how much is that worth for each passenger and for that period of time and for that particular experience? There is no chart or schedule for this. I was not there and do cannot attest to what did happen and how bad it was. We have received calls and the storm was bad and scary. The ship may have weathered the storm well but to most it did not seem like it was going to weather it well. This is a question which can be answered by comparing other incidents and the compensation for them. Most of these injuries, without any physical injury, do not fall within the definition of the types of cases which Hickey Law Firm takes. But we will represent passengers from this cruise or others where there has been actual and significant physical injury caused by the negligence of others or by an assault, sexual assault, or rape.
In any event, the policy of Hickey Law Firm is to represent those passengers and crew who have suffered significant and permanent physical injury, traumatic brain injury, assault, sexual assault, or rape. This includes orthopedic and neurological injuries such as broken bones and torn tendons and ligaments, fractures to the spine and the skull and head, severe burns, and internal injuries to organs, most of which will result in one or more surgeries. All of these types of injuries cause pain, suffering, mental anguish, loss of enjoyment of life, physical disability, and impairment, in the past and in the future. The maritime law does allow for recovery of all of those damages regardless of the restrictions of the statute, 46 U.S.C. Sec. 30509 (b) described above. Why? Because these damages are caused by actual physical injury.
And most if not all of these types of injuries cause medical treatment and expenses and loss of income. These types of damages also are recoverable from the date of the accident/incident to the end of ones life or – in the case of loss of income—through the end of one’s work life expectancy if the loss extends that far. The maritime law does allow for recovery of these types of damages caused by actual physical injury. Of course, where there is any doubt about what this means or what cases we take, call us at 1.800.215.7117. We would be glad to talk to you and clarify.
John H. (Jack) Hickey
Board Certified Civil Trial Lawyer
Board Certified Admiralty & Maritime Lawyer
1401 Brickell Ave., Suite 510
Miami, FL 33131