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Cruise Ship Responsibility

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Cruise ship discussion at a dinner table usually divides groups in three categories: 1) those who have cruised and enjoyed it, 2) those who have cruised and have a sea sickness story, and 3) everyone else who has never cruised. Usually, the discussion of a cruise ship always begins and end with how much food is available on the ship. Rarely do we think about whether or not a cruise is safe. However, with recent news events regarding viruses, fires, and even terrorist worries, cruising must be viewed in a light of safety concerns.

On many ships, there is medical personnel and even a ship board physician on some of the larger ships. Because the passengers range from young to old, the cruise ship companies must be ready for medical emergencies. Sometimes, certain medical procedures are even performed on ship and can be done by the assistance of cameras at some port hospitals.

Recently, an Illinois appellate Court ruled that a cruise ship owner may be sued as a result of the negligence of treatment by a ship board physician. The Court acknowledged that there was some federal precedent that doctors on ships do not cause ship owners to be liable for the medical negligence. However, the Illinois Court chose to follow a recent case law allowing for the liability of a ship owner because, in many instances, the ship maintain a certain control over the ship’s doctor. In addition, the Court noted that other highly specialized cruise ship professionals are already considered employees for which the ship owner is liable. In addition, the Court reasoned that ship owners do reap benefits from providing such medical personnel and should therefore, be held accountable for any negligence by that personnel.

Such a ruling by this Court should help in giving some level of comfort to passengers in knowing that a cruise ship can not merely attempt to reap the financial benefits of a full ship, while being able to avoid any responsibility for it’s actions of the personnel on board. When we cruise and enjoy the benefits, we should also feel the security that we are also safe.