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Historic ruling on medical malpractice onboard cruise ships

When a Louisiana resident is ill, he or she and the family rely on doctors to provide the best possible medical care. Therefore, when a doctor or medical facility's negligence leads to injury, further illness, or even death, the patient or the patient's family members may seek legal recourse via a medical negligence lawsuit.

Due to a long-standing precedent in medical malpractice laws, until very recently, an act of medical negligence onboard a cruise ship often went scot-free. This precedent was invoked by cruise ships in all medical malpractice lawsuits. The ruling said that passengers cannot expect the same standard of medical facilities onboard a cruise ship and that doctors and other medical staff on the cruise liners were independent contractors over whom the cruise company had no direct control.

However, that scenario may change since a federal court has ruled against the precedent, calling it outdated. In fact, the medical facilities onboard a cruise ship are now displayed prominently in all of the cruise line's publicity material. The latest ruling stems from a medical malpractice lawsuit filed by the family members of a deceased policeman. The 2011 incident took place onboard a cruise liner where the veteran lost his life. Reportedly, the veteran slipped and hurt his head, but a nurse who examined him recommended that he only take rest. Neither the nurse nor the doctor realized that the veteran had sustained a serious head injury, which would claim his life after a few days.

The court ruled that the doctors and nurses involved in this case wore the cruise ship's uniform and were marked as cruise line employees. Therefore, the cruise liner could be held liable for any negligence on the doctor's or nurse's part.

However, the family of the deceased victim still has to convince the jury that it was the on-board medical staff's negligence which led to the death and that the family deserves compensation for the incident. The other option available to them is a settlement offer from the cruise line. As Louisiana residents await the result of the trial, they can still consult an experienced professional to keep them abreast of the changing law and guide them through the complicated legal process.

Source: ActionNewsJax.com, "Action News Investigates: Cruise ship malpractice," Jan. 15, 2015

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