One of the most powerful protections maritime workers have is the Jones Act. This is a federal act that protects crew of boats and ships, and is designed to make work environments safe on the sea. Just like others who work in high risk careers, maritime workers are entitled to compensation for injuries resulting from an employer's negligence or failure to provide a safe working environment.
There has been an underground push by the shipping industry to revisit the age-old way to compensate injured crew aboard vessels. Traditionally, able-bodied seamen are covered by the Jones Act, which calls for medical treatment and per-dime wage to an injured seaman regardless of fault.
Currently, the company sends the crewman to a doctor of the company's choice and pays a draconian per dime wage, sometimes so low that the seaman is left destitute.
The industry now is saying that they are being hurt financially by having to pay these “arbitrary” benefits and now seek to lower or eliminate them all together. They offer no workable solution.
The Jones Act has been on the books for as long as anyone can remember and is weighed heavily in favor of industry. If it were to be changed at all, it should weigh more in favor of the injured crewman, not the company.
One of the most powerful protections maritime workers have is the Jones Act. This is a federal act that protects crew of boats and ships, and is designed to make work environments safe on the sea. Just like others who work in high risk careers, maritime workers are entitled to compensation for injuries resulting from an employer's negligence or failure to provide a safe working environment.
This is the third part of a three-part series dealing with the Fane Lozman vs. The City of Riviera Beach Supreme Court decision and the ramifications that flow from the same. In this part we will discuss the far-reaching effects of the decision upon floating restaurants and casinos.
Prior to the decision floating restaurants and floating casinos may have been characterized as vessels falling under the jurisdiction of federal maritime law. If these structures were characterized as such, the employees would have been able-bodied seamen. This is particularly important because the benefits due an able-bodied seaman are different than those afforded land side employees under the various workers compensation laws of each state. Typically workers compensation will cover a portion of lost wages and medical expenses from doctors assigned to the injured worker by the workers compensation insurance carrier. Under maritime law, an injured employee will not only receive maintenance (daily wages) and cure, also known as medical benefits, but additional benefits as well not allowed under workers compensation. Once the seaman has reached maximum medical improvement, he will be entitled to pain and suffering damages and under certain circumstances future medical expenses.
Clearly, under the scenario where the vessel is described as coming under federal maritime law, the benefits are more expensive and more expansive as it relates to an injured worker. Therefore, floating restaurants, other businesses floating on the water and floating casinos had an overriding interest in the outcome of the Lozman case. If these structures fit the criteria set forth in the Lozman case taking them outside of federal maritime law, the cost of their insurance benefits would go down remarkably. Conversely, if the vessel or floating structure meets the definition of having the structure fall under maritime law, the owner of the vessel could make certain adjustments to the vessel to take it out from underneath maritime law and place it into the less expensive description of workers compensation laws. This decision has been beneficially impacted certain industries by setting forth a definition whereby employee benefits can be redefined.
The Lozman decision has affected many aspects of commerce in its decision. Only the future will unfurl to true effects of the re-characterization of what a vessel is and isn’t. Whatever the future holds, we know it will involve litigation and court time to sort out the questions in an attempt to provide answers.
This is part two of the ramifications of the Lozman vs. City of Riviera Beach case just recently decided by the Supreme Court of the United States. In the last blog we discussed the impact that the decision would have on marinas. In this blog, we will briefly discuss the impact that the decision will have on the lending institutions.
Vessels can be secured in two different ways:
1) Smaller vessels are typically secured with a traditional collateral security agreement and note. Not too dissimilar from an automobile loan. If the boat owner fails to meet his obligations, the lender has the right to repossess the vessel and sell it. The problem with this type of lending vehicle is that vendors providing necessaries to the vessel, dockage or other lean-worthy items may have a superior position to that of the bank and will have to be paid prior to the bank realizing any monies back from the resale of the vessel. Since vessels lose a high amount of fair market value once they get wet, if the vessel accrues enough debt against it, then the secured instrument holder may be stuck in a position where they repossess the vessel, sell it and got nothing out of it.
2) The other lending vehicle is by way of a Preferred Ship's Mortgage. A mortgage is typically used for larger vessels with greater value. These vessels are documented with the United States Coast Guard. Liens are typically filed with the Coast Guard, so they are known to the lender at the time of repossession or arrest. Many of these liens are inferior to the mortgage and will be erased upon the sale of the vessel after an arrest by the United States Marshal’s office, as opposed to a titled vessel with a note and security agreement. Therefore, a preferred ship's mortgage is the better way to secure vessel than the other discussed above.
The Lozman case, since it redefines what a vessel is, will place banks in a tenuous situation as to whether or not to lend money on vessels that may not qualify as a boat under the new definition. Banks are typically conservative and will err on the side of caution. Therefore, someone interested in buying a houseboat may not be able to obtain traditional marine financing. It is unclear whether any other lender would be willing to loan money on an asset that does not have a clear definition. Manufacturers of these types of vessels may be placed in economic straits due to the fact that their potential buyers may not be able to obtain financing. I believe banks will become very leery of lending money on any vessel that could be redefined as something other than a boat per the Lozman case.
Just as the Lozman case has influenced the way marinas will do business, it will influence the way lenders do business as well.
Lozman Case Ruling: Is a Floating Houseboat Considered a Water Vessel under Maritime Law? What Does This Mean for Marinas?
Fane Lozman's floating home was a house built of a plywood structure with an empty bilge space underneath the main floor to keep it afloat. He had it towed to several marinas before deciding on a marina owned by the City of Riviera Beach. After several disputes with the marina, the City attempted to evict Lozman and was unsuccessful in that endeavor.
Thereafter, the City sought Federal Admiralty jurisdiction to have the vessel arrested. Over Lozman’s objections, the city was successful in arresting Lozman’s house, having it hauled off and destroyed. Mr. Lozman appealed to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals where the lower court's decision was upheld. Not intimidated, Lozman appealed to the United States Supreme Court that just ruled that Lozman’s structure was not a vessel and therefore not subjected to Federal Admiralty laws.
The City of Riviera Beach now must compensate Fane Lozman for the loss of his home. However, the case means much more than that. The laws of Admiralty have always supposed that if an object floats it is a boat. And for centuries the law has operated under that premise. Now, a more in-depth analysis must be employed in deciding whether a structure on the water is a boat subjected to maritime and admiralty law or simply a floating structure not subjected to these laws. The distinction will have long reaching ramifications for many parts of the maritime industry.
What could this ruling mean for storage facilities and marinas?
Across the state of Florida there are thousands of houseboats currently moored at marinas and docks. Some of these houseboats have motors, electricity and can engage in transportation. Others are like Lozman’s, a structure that simply floats at the dock with no means of generating electricity, transportation or any other navigation associated with a vessel. There are other vessels that may fall in between these two characterizations, and it is this category that will result in the most problems for marinas. The reason for the quick process under Admiralty Law was that vessels could get away under the dark of night leaving the marina owner without redress. Now, with the new definition of what a vessel is or isn't as set forth by the Supreme Court, depending on the nature of the structure, marinas may be left to the common law to evict late payers and thereby lose an edge to secure payment by taking possession of the vessel.
An eviction process can take months and maybe years. It is not too dissimilar from attempting to evict a non-paying tenant from an apartment, condominium or house. Now, marinas are going to have to take special care in drafting their lease agreements to protect themselves. The maritime industry will be looking for remedies to this problem created by the Lozman case. This will spawn litigation in the area of contract enforcement between boat/or structure owners and marinas.
The Supreme Court, in its 7-2 decision, discussed the common interpretation of a boat as viewed by a reasonable observer, looking into its physical characteristics and activities in deciding if it was designed to a practical degree for carrying people or things over water. Of the things to be considered are whether it has a motor or some type of propulsion, whether it can generate and store electricity, whether it can be navigated and to what degree it can transport people and things.
Lozman’s boat, according to the majority in the Supreme Court decision, had none of these characteristics. The City argued that the analysis used by the Supreme Court is too complex and abstract which will lead to confusion and litigation down the road.
For now, that is the law. Mr. Lozman took on the Government and won, changing the landscape of this aspect of Admiralty law for the foreseeable future. No small feat for sure. However, we have not seen the end of this issue.
Stay tuned for the next in this series of blogs....
Read the full Supreme Court Ruling:http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/12pdf/11-626_p8k0.pdf
Is it a boat or a house? That is the question that will be answered by the United States Supreme Court in the case of Fane Lozeman versus the City of Riviera Beach. Earlier this year Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the matter and maritime experts anxiously await the court's ruling.
The case began when the city of Riviera Beach arrested and sold Lozeman’s vessel for failure to pay dock fees and make improvements according to city officials. Lozeman in defending his position by asserting that the vessel was not a vessel of all and instead a home. He noted that it had no motor, no steering device, no GPS, was rectangular in shape and had no bow. It did, however, float on the water and if it were to be moved, it would have to be towed. The trial court in the Southern District of Florida disagreed with Lozeman and the vessel was sold to the City and then destroyed. Lozeman appealed to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. The case was again affirmed and the United States Supreme Court accepted jurisdiction over the case to determine the status of Lozeman’s property.
While this may seem to be a rather mundane issue, it has far-reaching effects across a broad spectrum of maritime interests. First, the lending industry is looking very closely at this case. Banks and other lenders that loan money for the purchase of boats and secure the loan with a preferred ship's mortgage are particularly interested in the outcome of Lozeman’s case. A preferred ship's mortgage is a superior and primary instrument that will operate to eradicate any secondary liens on the vessel once it has been arrested. If Lozeman’s craft is deemed to be a home, rather than a vessel, the banks will lose their priority position in so far as a preferred ship's mortgage is concerned. That means that banks will be less likely to loan money on boats since they will not be in a primary and superior position to other lien holders. This could have a chilling effect on the financing of vessels and thereby cause the manufacturing industry great pain.
Second, the gaming industry is looking also at this case with great interest. Across the nation, there are gambling barges that are currently being classified as non-vessels. If they are deemed to be vessels, the status of the crew will change from waiters, waitresses, dealers, etc. to those with Jones act status. The benefits enjoyed by any injured worker will change dramatically to the expense of the casino. Currently, the workers are protected by workers comp and not general maritime laws. The gaming industry wants to keep it that way in hopes the United States Supreme Court deems Lozeman’s craft a house not a vessel.
As you can see, there are competing interests in the outcome of this case. The Supreme Court grabbed this hot potato when it could've easily punted the issue. Whatever decision they make, some party will not be happy and will be hurt by the result. Stay tuned this could get interesting.
Cruising as a way of travel and for vacations has emerged in popularity in recent years. The cruise ship lines have become increasingly competitive with their fares and amenities. These large, floating cities have Las Vegas-style entertainment and top flight restaurants. Many ships are becoming more kid-friendly, too, so the whole family can take a vacation and visit foreign ports of call without having to do anything more than debark and return to the ship when the excursions are over.
However, most consumers do not take the time to read the contract for passage, which is commonly referred to as the cruise line ticket. This ticket contains valuable information that the customer/passenger must accept before going on a vacation aboard a cruise ship. There are waivers of liability, limitation of damages and other factors that a cruise passenger should consider before taking a cruise. For instance, most cruise lines have the limitation of liability on lost or damaged personal property in the amount of $5,000.
I once had a potential client contact me about the loss of personal property from his stateroom. He and his wife were very wealthy people from the mid-west and had more than $200,000 in jewelry go missing from their stateroom safe. Yes, you read that right, more than $200,000 in property went missing from their stateroom safe. They attempted to make a claim against the ship and were shocked to find out that the ship’s liability was limited to $5,000.
"How could this happen?" He asked me. The answer is that when you purchase a cruise line ticket, you are entering into a contract with the cruise line. The terms and conditions of the contract are enforceable and cannot be challenged. But there is no limitation to the sum of compensation under an injury or a death claim.
The place where a lawsuit must be brought with time limitations is established in the contract for passage. More often than not, the place the lawsuit must be brought is in Dade County, Florida, in the Federal Court System and must be brought within one year from the date of loss. This statute of limitations is much shorter than the statute of limitations for land-based injuries and deaths. I’ve had more than one unpleasant conversation with a potential client only to inform them that they waited too long to bring their claim, and there was nothing I, or any Florida maritime attorney could do to help them.
A cruise can be a very rewarding, fun and memorable experience. But it can also be very heartbreaking and damaging in the end if personal property or personal injury occurs aboard a ship, and the unwitting passenger hasn’t read the limitations of liability and damages prior to getting on board.
Moral of the story: read the contract for passage and all of its provisions. Pack accordingly, and be safe.
Effective December 1,2011, the United States Coast Guard increased the average weight per person that commercial boat operators must assume when calculating the number of passengers they can carry. At 185 lbs., the new assumed average weight per person updates the old average of 160lbs, which was established in 1960. The Coast Guard is following the trend that Americans, as a society, are becoming heavier. This is confirmed by the current administrations’ increased concern with our society’s overall obesity.
Not withstanding the subtle comment on the fitness on Americans today, the Coast Guard’s new regulations will clearly affect all commercial boat operators. For instance, dive boats are restricted by weight and can only carry a certain amount of passengers by virtue of the size of the boat. The increased weight limit will mean that the dive company will be able to carry less passengers per trip. The only conclusion that can be drawn from this is that the dive company will either make less money or charge more per passenger for the pleasure of diving aboard their vessels. In other words, our fatness as society is going to translate into higher fares paid by passengers boarding commercial vessels. The long reaching effects may carry into ferries, small cruise ships, and other forms of sea going transportation governed by the United States Coast Guard weight limits.
If we enjoy diving, traveling by commercial vessel or other sea-going activities, the fatter we get, the thinner our wallets get.
There have been reports that many of the passengers aboard the ill-fatedCosta Concordia have hired a class action attorney in New York to bring suit in Miami against Costa’s parent company Carnival. Litigation against any cruise line is typically governed by the contract for passage – the cruise ticket. While it is quite common for lawsuits to be brought in Miami against a majority of the cruise lines, it is because the contract for passage elects the venue and the trips originate in the US or touch a US territory. These venue selection clauses have been upheld as enforceable by both State and Federal Courts. The policy behind the rationale is to concentrate the litigation in the cruise lines place of base operations. This encourages the commercial viability of the industry. On the other hand, cruises that originate overseas and do not touch a US port may be governed by other venue restrictions as set forth in the ticket. In the case of the Concordia it is likely that the ticket places venue in Genoa, Italy and will be subject to the restrictions of the Athens Convention, which limits damages. A suit brought in Miami when the ticket requires it to be brought elsewhere may subject the litigants to sanctions from US Courts. Further, to maintain a class action, the litigants must have suffered like damages. This may be very difficult to establish in the case of the Concordia. Treacherous seas are ahead for those who file in the wrong jurisdiction.
It is prudent to read the entire contract for passage before you purchase a cruise ticket, they are available on the cruise lines’ websites. It is at least necessary to read the contract before travel if not before purchase. The traveler must be familiar with the rights and responsibilities of the parties. Different laws govern different losses. The place of loss is critical as to what law applies in many instances. The limits of liability for personal injury and property losses will be spelled out in the contract. This will give the traveler a guideline as to what to bring on the trip. If the limit for property loss is limited to $10,000, it does not make sense to bring $50,000 of jewelry and the like on board. The passenger would not know these limits without reading them first. Maritime lawyers are well versed in these areas can help navigate through the myriad of obstacles to obtain relief for victims of accidents on cruise ships.
It has been said that “Cruising is the safest form of travel.” Myth or fact? This is hard to tell and even harder to investigate. With that said, several incidents have been brought to the forefront of the traveling populace. Acts of violence by crew upon passengers and homicides have taken up significant press space in the past year along with injuries and illnesses.
So how does one avoid these events and go on to have a safe and happy trip, ensuring cruise ship safety for all? For women, avoid the public restrooms if possible by using the lavatory in the stateroom. If that is not possible, go with a companion to use the public restrooms. Attacks are less likely to occur with others present or standing by the door. Do not flash wads of cash or wear expensive jewelry. Along those lines, be careful with big winnings in the casino. See if the cage clerk will place the winnings onto the folio. Avoid belligerent people and walk away from confrontations and report them to the safety officers. Do not let children wander the ship unattended. Do not traverse out of the way stairs alone, better to use the central open staircases or elevators. Do not engage in activities beyond one’s physical limitations, and finally, wash hands regularly using the provided anti-bacterial before dining.
While the number of reported cases of violence have declined over the last several years, the numbers can be skewed by the industry itself. Follow these simple safeguards, and the likelihood of a safe and memorable cruise will increase significantly.
For the last several days, Palm Beach County has experienced high northeastern winds. The effect has been very rough seas and extremely dangerous rip currents. Nearly every beach is flying the red flag (meaning if you are smart, you will not go in the water). Nevertheless, there are people willing to risk life and limb to surf, kite surf and boat. Without thinking, they enter the ocean and besides putting themselves at risk, they risk the safety of those who will have to rescue them. Just yesterday, a kite surfer had to be pulled from the water.
Several boaters called mayday to get assistance from tow companies. One has to wonder what goes through their minds. Is it the thrill? Are they just stupid? What? It doesn’t really matter but their folly puts innocent peoples’ lives at stake because they don’t have the common sense to know when the conditions are too rough to go into the ocean and they just don’t regard the warnings.
We have so many days of beautiful weather in South Florida, use our resources on those days and stay on shore when the weather is what it has been for the past few. You will live to thank yourself later.
Recently a Palm Beach County jury returned a verdict in an amount of just under $40 million for the families of one girl killed and another severely injured in a wave runner accident. The Plaintiffs alleged that Yamaha Motor Corporation was negligent for a design defect and failing to warn of the dangers of one of their personal watercrafts commonly referred to as a wave runner or jet ski. The accident happened in March of 2005 and two young girls under the age of sixteen took off on a borrowed 2001 Yamaha wave runner. They were driving the wave runner in the Intracoastal Waterway near West Palm Beach, Florida. One of the girls was killed and the other severely injured when the wave runner collided with a boat. It was the plaintiffs’ contention that the wave runner possessed a design defect that when the throttle is released the operator losses all navigation function of the watercraft. Evidently, Yamaha knew of this, failed to correct the problem and failed to warn of the defect. This had been an ongoing problem for Yamaha since 2001 and they had been sued multiple times for similar allegations. The problem has since been corrected, but at what price?
The case was a hard fought, contentious battle in Palm Beach County Circuit Court. At the end and after much deliberation, the jury found in favor of the plaintiffs but attributed some negligence to the parents of the girls but not enough to taint the victory.
The brave lawyers who took on this case against Yamaha must be commended. They expended considerable money and countless hours in the preparation and prosecution of their claim. They spent in excess of a million dollars to bring justice for the families. The two Plaintiffs lawyers went up against a very large corporation and their army of lawyers and justice prevailed. Plaintiff attorneys over the years have gotten a bad name and have been called everything from ambulance chasers to parasites but if not for the plaintiff’s lawyers, who is going to keep these profiteers and corporations, lacking social conscious, in check.
There are multiple instances where corporations have taken advantage of the public at large and have only been found out by the litigation process from the brave lawyers who had the guts to take these companies into the courthouse to obtain justice on behalf of their clients. All lawyers, like those in the above wave runner case, need to be commended for their bravery, tenacity and commitment to justice. If not for the few, the many could continue to harm innocent victims in the name of profit.
Maritime Attorney Mark R. Hanson gives Seminar on: Safety and the High Seas: What every cruise passenger needs to know
Cruising is one of America’s favorite pastimes and is a billion dollar industry. If you are planning that cruise vacation on a Caribbean, Asia, Mediterranean, European, Trans Atlantic, South America, Hawaii or Alaska Cruise, be prepared for you board the cruise and make lasting fun filled memories.
Cruising vessels provide an affordable and entertaining means of traveling the world, but there are safety considerations that can make your voyage more enjoyable overall. Cruising safety is, ultimately, the responsibility of the passenger. Preparing for your cruise can benefit both you and your family.
There was a recent of a Disney cruise ship crew member missing at sea off the western coast of Mexico. On Tuesday, the female crew member failed to report for shift on the Disney Wonder, according to Disney spokesperson.
Cruises can be fun and exciting, to work and for vacation. As our Florida Maritime Attorney, Mark R. Hanson, can attest, it is serious business when things go wrong at sea. Maritime cases are different and have specific rules and statute of limitations.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of the missing female crew member and hope that she is found safe and sound.
Click on the following link to read more on the Disney Cruise member missing at sea
Disney cruise reports crewmember missing at sea - Palm Beach Post
The increasing number of pirate attacks on private recreation and merchant vessels has driven a number of entities to step up the security on their ships. A Danish family recently saw their yacht overtaken by Somali pirates on their 43-foot sailing yacht while passing through the Indian Ocean. Upon their attack, the family on-board barricaded themselves in a room on the ship, widely considered a safe practice in the event of a pirate attack.
Once pirates have boarded a vessel, passengers are left with little recourse to fight back. If the attack is not deflected through an exchange of fire or evasive maneuvering, hostage situations are likely to ensue. In the case of the Danish family taken on the Capricorn, negotiations between a private security firm and the pirates were undertaken shortly after the thieves realized the passengers were effectively barricaded on-board.
No one heads out on a cruise with the intention of getting hurt, becoming ill or dying. Fortunately, such problems are exceedingly rare; the vast majority of people who embark on cruises return home with nothing more than fond memories and great tans. If you or a loved one is injured while on a cruise, though, it is critical to note that there is a strict statute of limitations in place with most cruise lines. Typically, adults only have one year from the time of their injury to file lawsuits. That's just one reason why it's important to consult with a maritime lawyer.
A Special Note about Minors
Cruise lines are able to impose a one-year statute of limitations because of the Federal Limitation of Liability Statute. However, there are exceptions involved. As every maritime lawyer knows, special exceptions exist regarding minors. The statue of limitations for minors who are involved in accidents or who are injured while on cruises is three years - and the clock doesn't start ticking until they have hired a maritime law firm. However, that maritime law firm must be hired within one year of the incident; furthermore, if they turn 18 in the year after the incident, the three year limit goes into effect at that point.
In a report just released by the National Transportation Safety Board, phone records show that the first mate on lookout was on a cellphone during the tugboat and barge collision in Philadelphia in July 2010. He made or received over 20 calls from noon until the accident occurred at 2:37pm per the 4,400 page NTSB report.
The accident in the Delaware River last summer, claimed the lives of two tourists and injured 26 other passengers.
It is important to point out that the safety board report is only a factual finding in an ongoing investigation and does not offer a conclusion as to what caused the accident. The investigation is ongoing. However, it is not a stretch to conclude that negligence on the part of this first mate by talking on his cellphone instead of doing his job, which was to be on lookout, will be looked at very closely.
Distracted Boating is as Dangerous as Distracted Driving in a motor vehicle. If you are operating a vessel or a vehicle, pay attention to the seas and what is around you. Most accidents that involve distracted driving while on a cellphone can be avoided, if the parties involved, used common sense.
Pay attention to the seas while you are operating a vessel, it could save a life.
Click on the following link to read more on Tugboat lookout on phone during fatal collision - CNN.com
NTSB: Tug pilot in crash was on cell - Associated Press - Washington Post,com
Boating season has officially started and we know that because of the first tragic accident that occurred this past Saturday near the Juno pier. As many accidents, this could have been avoided if the captain understood boating safety. Apparently, a fourteen year old girl attempted to board a 22 foot boat in shallow water near the beach.
The seas were choppy and the wind up. This idea was doomed to fail from the beginning and any captain with half a brain would have never agreed to engage in this dangerous activity. As the boat pitched, the captain engaged the engine and revved the motor, the prop spun and chopped up the girl's legs. Then the nitwit captain left the girl bleeding in the water.
The boat was eventually found and the cowardly captain identified. Hopefully criminal charges will follow and the captain should feel blessed the girl did not die. Sadly, this could have all been avoided by using a little common sense and some boating safety knowledge.
Click on the following link to read more on the Teen Injured in the Juno Boating Accident:
This past week Disney Cruise Lines opted to skip Mazatlán Mexico citing the escalating crime in the Mexican city. Princess and Holland America quickly followed suit. Now the cruise industry’s giants are slated to meet this coming week to discuss Mexico’s ongoing violent crime problem and cruise line tourists being caught in the cross-fire of the Mexican drug wars.
Recently NCL and RCL have removed certain Mexican ports from their itineraries claiming lack of interest or health concerns. It seems now that the real problem has been crime. We applaud the cruise industry’s concern for passenger safety off the ship. It seems as though Mexico cannot bridle its crime problems and until they do, the cruise industry has decided to take its business elsewhere. Kudos!
It may not seem like much but the economic impact to these Mexican tourist ports and their surrounding areas will send a loud message to Mexican officials. Hopefully the message will be heard. Mexico has many beautiful sites and it’s a shame that the criminal element has to ruin the opportunity for the rest of the world to enjoy.
Going on a cruise is advertised as the perfect way to relax and unwind. What could be better than being able to sit back and put away a few cocktails while your kids are off playing at the activity center? It sounds like there could be nothing more enjoyable or safe. However, statistics show that this is simply not true. In fact, one study found that the risk of being sexually assaulted on a cruise ship is higher than in most American cities -- and this goes for children too.
It's easy to get caught up in the excitement of a cruise and forget that there are real people on board with you. While most parents shudder to even think about letting their child walk a few blocks to the park by themselves, they let them run free over literally acres of space on cruise ships without a second thought. This gives predators a perfect opportunity to confront and abuse children without any supervision, and with very little risk of being caught. Perhaps this sounds alarmist, but if you consider that there were almost 300 incidents of sexual misconduct in a three year period on one cruise line alone, it takes on a little more reality.
And it's not just the other passengers that put you and your children at risk. Cruise ship crew members are rarely screened for past sexual misconduct, and many that have even multiple prior arrests are employed anyway. Consider the case aboard a Norwegian Cruise Line ship involving forner NCL Youth Activities Coordinator, Daniel J. Hanoian and a 12 year old girl. The 30-year-old Hanoian, had a long history of prior arrests, but was hired and put into a sensitive position with children, in which he proceeded to molest a 12-year-old girl. This is just one of many examples of cruise ship crew member misconduct that occurs, and is often covered up.
Unfortunately, victims are often left with few options after an attack. Cruise ship lines have a history of attempting to cover up attacks, and the possibility of compensation is slim. In one case, even after a 14-year-old boy was molested by a crew member, the most the cruise line would do was give the family 50 percent off their tickets. Though some attempts are being made on an individual basis to prevent assaults on cruises -- for instance, a judge in Illinois, rejected a known sexual predator's request to take his wife on a cruise -- the situation remains bleak for victims, since cruise lines are not required to run background checks on cruise passengers. It is also not illegal for sexual predators, convicted or accused, to take cuises.
So the next time you start longing for a week in a deck chair with a fruity cocktail in your hand while the kids are off at play, unattended by a parent or trusted attendant, you might want to think again.
Imagine spending almost $3,000 and all of your vacation time to go on a cruise to the Mexican Riviera. Sounds like fun. Now imagine that same vacation and the cruise ship’s engine catching fire and disabling the ship. The cruise ship has to be towed from sea, the air conditioning doesn’t work, the toilet facilities are on lock down and the ship is running out of food. Now you know what the passengers aboard the Carnival Splendor are going through.
The Navy comes to the rescue with distilled water, canned crab meat and SPAM. Yes – SPAM. Aside from being extremely uncomfortable, this mishap could be more problematic for passengers with special needs. Consider the vegetarian, people with restrictive diets and those with strict religious beliefs. The food products airlifted aboard contain, shell fish, pork and are high in fat and sodium. The vegetarian has the least difficult choice but what about those who have to compromise their health or religious beliefs?
The Carnival Splendor Cruise passengers could undergo unnecessary emotional strain and experience significant physical discomfort. The duty of the Carrier to its cruise passengers is to conduct itself in a reasonable manner under the circumstances.
These are rare but foreseeable circumstances. While the ordinary passenger may have his trip ruined, others may suffer a greater loss. For the former, a refund and a voucher for a future cruise may adequate compensation but for others who suffer health consequences, their measure of damages and compensation may be much greater.
The situation is manageable and we all hope for the best for all aboard the ship, while Carnival is crossing its proverbial fingers and hoping no one becomes gravely ill or worse.
Recently it was reported in newspapers across South Florida that a Royal Caribbean Cruise Line employee was using her job position to ascertain the names and addresses of people for whom she had booked vacations. She would pass the names of the customers, their addresses and vacation dates along to her husband and his conspirators so that the RCL customers’ homes could be broken into and burglarized. Bethsaida Sandoval and her husband were recently arrested on multiple counts of conspiracy, grand theft and burglary.
Royal Caribbean has denied any knowledge of Bethsaida Sandoval’s prior criminal history. However, I was able to simply run her name through the Miami-Dade County Clerk’s office to learn that she had been previously arrested for grand theft and forgery. Royal Caribbean has claimed that they performed an appropriate background check and even if that were so, RCL decided to hire Ms. Sandoval and place her in a position of trust and give her the fiduciary duty of protecting Royal Caribbean’s customer’s identity. What a big mistake.
I now have the pleasure of representing someone victimized by Royal Caribbean’s failure to properly investigate their employee and thereafter, supervise her. RCL has continued to deny responsibility and have offered a ridiculously low offer of compensation to these passengers who have been victimized by their own employee. We have recently filed suit and we will let a jury decide whether or not Royal Caribbean’s conduct was acceptable. What do you think?
Click on the following link to read more on the former Royal Caribbean employee charged with burglarizing passengers.
A water taxi slammed into a pier Sunday in Seattle, Washington, injuring at least seven people. According to the U.S. Coast Guard rescue workers responded to the boating accident that happened shortly before noon on Sunday. The vessel slammed into historic Pier 50, also known as the Washington Street Public Boat Landing Facility. Reportedly, seven people were taken to the hospital with minor injuries.
There were about 78 passengers and crew were aboard the water taxi – most of which were Seahawks fans heading for the big game with the San Diego Chargers - at the time of the crash.
In the 2009 report on Boating Accident Statistics from the U.S. Coast Guard, approximately 4,730 accidents caused 736 deaths and over 3,300 injuries occurred in 2009.The fatality rate, which compares the number of annual deaths against the number of registered boats, increased to 5.8 deaths per 100,000 registered boats in 2009.
The top five contributing factors to the accidents included boat operator inattention and inexperience, excessive speed, improper lookout and alcohol consumption. The U.S. Coast Guard report states that alcohol consumption "continues to be of major concern" in fatal accidents, and was the leading factor in 16 percent of deaths. Approximately 86 percent of boat operators involved in fatal accidents had not received boat safety instruction.
The state of Florida led the nation in boating accidents with 610 total boating accidents in 2009. This was a decrease from 2008, which had 616 boating accidents in Florida. The number of fatal accidents in Florida increased in 2009 to 53 fatal boating accidents from 50 fatal boating accidents in 2008. The number of deaths in boating accidents increased in 2009 to 67 boating deaths up from 55 boating deaths in 2008.
The State of California came in second place with 478 boating accidents in 2009. This was a decrease from 2008 which had 520 boating accidents in California. The number of fatal accidents in California increased in 2009 to 42 fatal boating accidents from 39 fatal boating accidents in 2008. The number of deaths increased in 2009 to 47 boating deaths up from 45 boating deaths in 2008
Click on the following link to read more on the Seattle Water Taxi Accident that injured Seven
Click on the following link to read more on Boating Injury Statistics from the U.S. Coast Guard
Florida Maritime Attorney, Mark. R. Hanson, discusses admiralty & maritime law, passenger's rights, cruise injuries, and boating safety with South Florida Business Report producer David Weir.
As a Maritime Attorney with many years of experience handling cruise industry issues, Mr. Hanson shares how a maritime case involving a crew member differs from a case involving a passenger aboard a cruise ship.
Mr. Hanson also outlines how a boat owner should exercise reasonable care for the safety of passengers and others at sea. According to Attorney Hanson “Every owner/operator of a boat should take the U.S. Coast Guard Safety Course.”
Due to our climate, Florida has more recreational boats and yachts registered than the most other 50 states. The seaports of Florida account for the largest amount of cargo and cruise ship passengers than other states.
Click on the following link to view the video of Florida Maritime Attorney Mark R. Hanson discussing
Maritime & Admiralty Law, Cruise Injuries, Boating Safety and Passenger's Rights on South Florida Business Report
In the past several year cruises have become a popular, affordable and a fun way to travel. It seems that you cannot watch television for a half hour without seeing at least one commercial for a cruise line. In fact there are approximately two hundred (200) over night, ocean going cruise vessels world- wide averaging two-thousand (2,000) passengers and a crew of almost a thousand (1,000) crew members. In 2007 alone approximately twelve-million (12,000,000) passengers took cruises. Even with these numbers, vacationers fail to fully appreciate their potential vulnerability to crime even on the ship itself. Additionally, many passengers are victims of crime on foreign soil. The victims often do not know their legal rights or whom to contact for help in the immediate aftermath of a crime either at sea or on foreign soil.
Recently passed, and waiting for the President’s signature, is H.R.1485.IH which is commonly referred to as the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2009. This law is designed to fully inform all of the passengers of their rights if they become victims of crime while on a cruise. Additionally, it requires the vessel to have certain equipment and modifications which further ensure the safety of its passengers. The equipment and modifications include railings that are located on each deck that are not less than four and a half feet (4 ½) above the deck, the staterooms shall be equipped with entry doors that include peep holes, security latches and time sensitive key technology. Also, the cruise shall have restrictive access to passenger state rooms. Fire codes shall be implemented. The vessel shall integrate technology that can be used for detecting passengers who have fallen over board. Also, the ship is to keep a log of all reported deaths, missing individuals and significant crimes alleged to be committed on the vessel including, but not limited to, complaints of theft, sexual harassment and assault. These log books will be made available upon request to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Coast Guard and any law enforcement officer in any jurisdiction.
The ships shall also be equipped with rape kits and crime investigation tools. The cruise shall undergo crime investigation training and at least one (1) crew member aboard the vessel shall be certified as successfully completing a crime scene evidence and investigation course subscribed to by the F.B.I. They shall also be required to carry surveillance and keep all the recordings. These policies and procedures are subject to periodic review.
Until now all of the aforementioned requirements were strictly voluntary and implemented by the cruise line at their own election. This made it very difficult for passengers to report crimes and obtain appropriate follow up by law enforcement. This legislation makes it mandatory for the ships to carry certain safety equipment, employ personnel educated in crime scene investigation and over all improve the safety of the ship. Each passenger will be informed of their rights. It is the desired goal of this legislation to ensure the enhanced safety of the passengers and the ships. These changes will obviously instill a certain a certain peace of mind in each and every passenger. As cruising grows, so do the modifications and improvements to safety and the overall comfort and pleasure of each and every passenger.
Intoxication while operating a boat is never acceptable under any circumstances. On Friday two boaters on separate water crafts went out for an early Fourth of July celebration. Unfortunately for 30-year old Puthuvamkunnath, he will never get this opportunity again. He was killed after a 30-foot boat rammed into his 17-foot boat that was anchored off Liberty Island in New York
Drinking and taking drugs while operating a boat can be a deadly combination in the water, especially if one is intoxicated. On Friday evening, Aquilone’s judgment was impaired due to drinking while operating his 30-foot boat and as a result, caused a fatal boat crash with a 17-foot boat carrying 30-year old Puthuvamkunnath and his friends.
The police arrested 39 year old Aquilone and charged with him with manslaughter. According to reports Aquiline was operating the vessel under the influence of alcohol and drugs while his wife and two small children were on board.
According to the police, Puthuvamkunnath was taken to Jersey City Medical Center with his two friends and was pronounced dead due to head injuries. The two friends were treated for minor injuries and was released from the hospital.
Click on the following link to read more on the fatal boating crash near the statue of liberty. - CBS News
The Appellate court ruled that a shore town's law requiring personal watercraft operators to complete an approved boat safety course does not hold a city liable in the death of Jet ski User.
In the wrongful death action on behalf of a 16-year-old girl who perished when her Jet Ski hit an Ocean City, N.J., dock, the appeals court upheld the dismissal of the suit.
One would have thought that the wrongful death suit was a slam dunk for negligent supervision. The attendant for the city's boat ramp did not check whether the 16 year old Jet Ski User had the necessary skills before the ski launch. The court ruled that the Torts Claims Act, at N.J.S.A. 59:2-4, provides immunity for the city. Sadly, the appellate court sided with the trial judge that the facts in the case before the court did not support a negligent-supervision claim under another section of the act, 59:3-11.Continue Reading...
Yesterday Mark Hanson and I met with a group of clam farmers in the Florida Panhandle. Their entire life is clamming. They live right on the Sopchoppy river, about an hour south of Tallahassee. It is a beautiful part of the world. A cousin of the Ochlockonee river, the Sopchoppy river flows through their back yard. They are a few minutes from the Gulf of Mexico where they have a 10 year lease from the State of Florida on a small amount of riparian land to “farm” clams.
When you’re on the shore looking out you at the Gulf can see the marking sticks setting out the parameters of their clam garden. Those PVC sticks look like they are white floating reed setting out the area where millions of clams are being raised in protected grow bags. Right now the water is beautiful. It looks clean and fresh. The State of Florida environmental testers check the water daily to make sure there is no toxic oil in the area. Yesterday we had an opportunity to pull more clams from the ocean. Tomorrow we may not be so lucky.
Everyone we met in Sopchoppy, Florida has a job related to fishing, clamming or oyster farming. The Gulf of Mexico is their life. There are shrimpers and line fisherman and divers and all sorts of other people. We met people in the tourist industry and people who own recreational water sports businesses. For each, the sea is their entire way of life.
Every one of them is scared to death. There is a black cloud of oil approaching. It is hundreds of miles wide and thousands of miles long. There is nothing anyone can do to stop it. When it makes its way to land it will destroy everything it touches. It will destroy their oyster farms. It will destroy their clams. It will destroy the fishing. It is already devastating the coast just a few miles west of where we were.
Mark and I went out on the pontoon boat with our clam farming clients. Their goal is to pull out as many ripe clams as possible before the oil shuts down their entire way of life. Watching these hard working people talk about effect the oil will have on their way of life makes me shutter in fear for them. I imagine camps of countless unemployed fisherman, clam and oyster farmers, fisheries, shippers and wholesalers. Where are they going to go? What are they going to do?
Is BP going to pay for all of these people to be retrained? Is BP going to make these people whole? We are going to fight for these clam farmers. We are going to fight for the fisheries. We are going to fight for everyone who is hurt by this oil disaster. I know in my heart we will win. But after seeing the fear in my client’s eyes, I know this disaster will have a deep long lasting personal effect on them. No matter what BP ever does they will never make up to them the harm and hurt and fear and devastation they caused to our property and more importantly, our people.
A blog series from a maritime lawyer and boating enthusiast.
The Navigator explores various topics in the boating world; including safety issues and an in-depth look into the cruise industry. In this inaugural issue, I share my experience aboard Costa Atlantica by Costa cruise lines and provide essential tips on cruise safety and cruise etiquette.
My family and I took a seven-day cruise aboard the Costa Atlantica sailing out of Fort Lauderdale this past Spring. Our Itinerary included stops in St. Thomas, San Juan and Nassau. We are experienced cruisers and have been on many different cruise lines. This was our first time on Costa cruise lines. We were looking forward to this trip since we heard many good things about the accommodations, food, excursions and staff. We boarded the vessel in Fort Lauderdale at Port Everglades. This is a rather simple port and very sparse in its construction. However, it was a smooth transition and we boarded quickly without any wait.
Once aboard the vessel, we noted that the décor was clearly of Italian influence with ornate trim and sculptures. While the Atlantica is over ten years old, it was well kept, clean and neat. Traversing the ship was relatively easy even though there were few deck plans available in places that you would most expect them. They were noticeably absent near the stairwells and elevators. In spite of that, we found our way around the ship rather easily after our initial orientation.
We booked a balcony room and found it to be exactly what we expected, a double bed and two bunks with ample storage space for our clothes and luggage. The bathroom was of typical design with a shower, head (maritime term for toilet) and sink located in a singular room. The room was also outfitted with a television and small refrigerator stocked with a mini bar.
A word of caution: Costa cruises, does not warn passengers on their website or in any other informational materials that smoking is allowed in the cabins. We are non-smokers and our son is hyper sensitive to cigarette smoke. Unfortunately, we were sandwiched between two rooms of heavy smokers. Our room smelled like a saloon most of the trip. We complained to the front desk several times, but guest services were not accommodating and unresponsive.Continue Reading...
The Louis Majesty of Louis Cruise Lines, carrying 1,350 passengers and 580 crew on board experienced a horrifying ordeal on Wednesday. A 26-foot wave crashed into the ship, smashing five windows in a public area. Unfortunately, two male passengers (one German and one Italian) were killed and at least 14 others were injured on the ship traveling on a 12-night Western Mediterranean cruise from Barcelona that included Spain, Spain, Genoa and Italy. The cruise ship turned around and headed back to port in Barcelona after being struck by the wave.
The Louis Majesty was off the off the French port of Marseilles when it was hit by "abnormal" waves, some more than 26 feet (9 meters) high, cruise line according to spokesman Michael Maratheftis. The public areas on the ship affected by the large waves that broke five windows were the - the forward part, or bow, of the 14-deck ship, owned and operated by the Greece based, Louis Cruise Lines.
Weather is reportedly to blame for the cause of the high waves, since winds were 45 mph, according to Buoy data off the French coast.
Louis Cruise Lines flew all passengers home on Thursday from Barcelona courtesy of the Cruise Line. The luxury cruise line has canceled the next cruise. The Louis Majesty will remain in Barcelona for repairs. March 14th is the scheduled date for cruises to resume on this vessel.
Click on the following links to read more on the tragic cruise ship incident off the French port of Marseilles:
Giant waves hit cruise ship; 2 passengers killed
Passenger describes 'terrifying' ordeal as giant waves hit cruise ship
Two killed, 14 injured as massive waves hit cruise ship off France
Passenger on cruise ship: Wave ordeal terrifying