Law Offices of Nooney Roberts Hewett & Nowicki :


A cruise provides the ideal summer vacation experience. Not only do you have access to meals, activities, and excursions, but there's also a full medical team on board to help you if you need it. Medical malpractice may occur at any moment when medical services are supplied. 

Cruise Ships and Medical Malpractice  

Passengers on cruise ships haven't been able to sue cruise companies for medical negligence that happened while they were on board for over a century because courts all around the nation have ruled that cruise lines are not responsible for the medical professionals on board. This is due to most boats and ships lacking the necessary room, equipment, or personnel to create a fully functional medical clinic. As a result, the court determined that passengers aboard a ship could not anticipate the same degree of care that they would get on land. 

Additionally, medical personnel on board a cruise were seen as independent contractors rather than employees at the time. This resulted in cruise companies not being held accountable for injuries onboard.  In a 2014 case[1], the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit overruled the previous ruling. The Court rejected this antiquated norm, ruling that most current cruise ships provide passengers with luxurious facilities and high-end medical treatment[2]

The Court also said that cruise companies should not be immune from medical malpractice lawsuits arising from substandard medical treatment provided to passengers while on board[3]

While this is now the law, to pursue a successful cruise ship medical malpractice claim, certain conditions must be satisfied. The injured party, for example, must show that the nurse or doctor was a ship employee rather than an independent contractor. 

 Medical Malpractice and its Four Elements of Negligence 

  • There were injuries
  • The physician's duty of care was breached since he or she failed to do their job correctly
  • The passenger was owed a duty of care as a patient under the care of a medical professional 
  • Evidence showing that the medical professional's breach of duty directly resulted in injuries

To decide whether a medical professional is responsible for medical negligence to a passenger on a cruise ship who suffered any form of medical injury or illness while on board, the court examines these four components. 

Holding a Cruise Ship Medical Practitioner Accountable for Medical Malpractice 

In certain cases, the cruise ship cannot be held liable for the activities of the medical personnel if the doctor is charged with medical negligence. It may not be possible, for example, if the doctor is an independent contractor and not an employee of the cruise ship. 

If it is hard to link the incident to the cruise line, the passenger/patient must file a medical malpractice claim based on their proof. Typically, this entails adhering to the four criteria of negligence and retaining the services of a Florida medical malpractice attorney to assist with the case. Call our medical malpractice expert attorneys at (904) 398-1992 today. 

Taking Legal Action 

If you were on a cruise ship with a state-of-the-art medical facility at the time of the medical emergency, you may be able to initiate a lawsuit against both the doctor and the cruise company. This is one approach to ensure that the cruise line corporation is held liable for the activities of the staff doctor. 

If the doctor fails to give adequate treatment, the cruise line may be held accountable for damages if a passenger is hurt or does not get proper medical attention. It will, however, be necessary to show that the doctor or another healthcare practitioner was employed by the corporation at the time of treatment. 

Potential Liability Parties in a Medical Malpractice Case on a Cruise Ship 

As previously stated, if a ship's medical personnel is functioning as employees of the cruise company rather than as independent contractors, the cruise line may be held accountable for any medical malpractice perpetrated by the crew.

The following are some of the methods taken to verify that the cruise ship's health care staff were functioning as employees: (1) A doctor who also happens to be a ship's officer; (2) the cruise line hires and/or fires medical personnel; (3)  advertisements for onboard medical facilities or medical services for guests placed by the cruise company; (4) medical personnel who are expected to wear the cruise line's uniform and report to the ship's captain; (5) if the medical staff is paid directly by the cruise company; (6) the cruise line is responsible for maintaining medications, equipment, and supplies at the onboard medical center; and (7) any medical treatments supplied while aboard the ship are billed to guests by the cruise operator. 

In addition, if a cruise ship passenger is the victim of medical negligence, they may be able to sue the cruise company for hiring untrained personnel. It's sometimes necessary to file a separate case against the liable medical staff member. 

Types of Medical Malpractices Onboard

When a guest aboard a cruise ship becomes sick or wounded, their only option may be to depend on the medical personnel at the ship's medical center.

After all, if you're on a cruise, you may not be able to call a land-based doctor since you're in the middle of the ocean and far away from shore. 

Passengers nowadays want and expect cruise ships to have skilled and trained medical personnel on every voyage. Regrettably, this isn't always the case. A cruise ship's medical personnel may commit medical negligence in a variety of ways. On a cruise ship, medical negligence may occur in a variety of ways, including: 

  • Ineffective medical care 
  • Refusing or hindering a passenger's treatment
  • Failure to keep track of a patient's medical condition.
  • Failure to provide timely and appropriate medical treatment 

Injuries that Require Medical Assistance on a Cruise Ship

The majority of cruise passengers will not need medical assistance. Those who unfortunately do need medical assistance, however, may face a lengthy and tough journey due to medical malpractice. Onboard a cruise ship, a traveler may need to see a doctor for a variety of reasons, including: 

Accidents Involving Recreational Activities

On a cruise ship, there are several activities available. You may go swimming and engage in a variety of activities in the different pools. While they are designed to be amusing and exciting, if you aren't attentive and safe, they may result in severe injury. 

Food Poisoning

The incredible cuisine selections offered by most cruise ships are a major selling factor. Passengers on certain cruises have the option of having limitless beverages and meals. When this service is given, the cruise line is responsible for ensuring that the food is preserved correctly and that it is safe to consume when served. Onboard guests may contract food poisoning or other dangerous illnesses if the cruise company fails to perform this responsibility. 

The many different legal hoops you may have to jump through if you are hurt or get sick aboard a cruise ship, or if you are dealing with a negligent healthcare provider or doctor, is one of the most arduous aspects of the process. Maritime law is, in reality, a complex subject that differs from other laws. It also changes depending on where you are in the water at the time of the accident. You must also acknowledge that most major cruise companies employ a huge staff of costly attorneys to defend their cases and assist in the dismissal of claims. 

Slip and Falls

A slip and fall accident is one of the most prevalent accidents aboard any cruise ship. It's easy to understand why flooring is often wet and slippery with such vast surfaces exposed to the weather and surrounding large sources of water, such as hot tubs and pools. 

Drinks are often offered in dining areas, and dancing floors might be unkempt, resulting in a passenger falling and suffering severe injuries. 


Cruise ships have become bigger businesses, and as a result, they must safeguard passengers from damage. Sexual, as well as physical assault, are included. If a passenger is assaulted, whether, by a member of the crew or another passenger, they have the right to initiate a lawsuit. 

Taking Legal Action Against a Cruise Ship for Medical Malpractice 

A cruise ship medical malpractice claim may be filed against two parties. The medical team that gave treatment is one thing, but the cruise company is another. You must comprehend some hurdles to suing each defendant. 

The medical crew aboard a cruise ship, for example, is often made up of citizens of other countries. As a result, there is a jurisdictional barrier that must be overcome to pursue a medical malpractice claim against the cruise ship's medical personnel. The doctor on the ship must have committed the misconduct or live in the state where the court is situated before a court may consider the medical malpractice action against him. 

In other cases, the jurisdictional obstacle cannot be surmounted since the ship's medical personnel is based outside of the United States and the malpractice happened while the ship was on the ocean. However, in rare cases if the doctor resides in the United States or the malpractice occurred in the waters of a specific state, such as Florida, it's critical to have the problem reviewed. 

There are no jurisdictional barriers to launching a medical malpractice lawsuit against a cruise company located in the United States. All of the major cruise lines located in the United States include a provision in their tickets that specifies the court in which a lawsuit against them must be filed. A vicarious liability claim is a medical malpractice lawsuit filed against one of these cruise companies. 

Call Nooney, Roberts, Hewett & Nowicki Today!

Florida is known for its large number of cruises. In most situations, cruise companies demand that any lawsuit be filed in our Sunshine State.

Our maritime lawyers at Nooney, Roberts, Hewett & Nowicki have extensive expertise in addressing cruise ship medical negligence issues due to the high volume of cruise lines and the subsequent and inevitable accidents that happen onboard. This knowledge enables us to identify the essential concerns in these circumstances and begin gathering evidence to back up our clients' claims. We'll then fight to make sure that each of the clients we represent gets fairly compensated for the injuries and losses they suffered as a result of the cruise ship's medical malpractice. Maritime law is extremely complicated. Do not go through this difficult process alone. Call us at (904) 398-1992 or fill out a quick form to schedule a free initial consultation with our aggressive maritime attorneys! ¡Hablamos español!

[1] Franza v. Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd., 772 F.3d 1225 (11th Cir. 2014)

[2] Id.

[3] Id.

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