Posted Oct 24, 2007 02:29 pm CDT
Plaintiffs in more than 40 medical malpractice lawsuits filed against cruise lines in the past decade are running into a legal roadblock that shields ship owners from liability.
Legal precedent holds that ship owners may be liable for negligent medical care of crew members but not passengers, the Wall Street Journal reports (sub. req.).
In a suit filed by a woman who hit her head during a cruise on Royal Caribbean, the company maintains the physician accused of failing to detect a blood clot was an independent contractor. As a result, Royal Caribbean says, it is not liable for any negligence.
The Florida Supreme Court sided with Carnival Cruise Lines in a different case that accused the ship doctor of misdiagnosing a ruptured appendix that left a 14-year-old girl sterile. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case earlier this month.
Cruise industry officials defend the quality of their health care and say the malpractice suits are extremely rare in comparison to the large number of cruise travelers.