Cruise lines are not responsible for the
negligence of cruise ship physicians when passengers are treated,
unless the line knowingly hires an unqualified doctor, according to
a ruling by the Florida Supreme Court.
The court's decision
overturns a lower court's ruling that the carrier, in this case
Carnival Cruise Lines, was liable for the actions of an onboard
The case resulted
from a March 1997 incident in which Elizabeth Carlisle, a
14-year-old from Michigan, was with her family on the Carnival
Ecstasy when she suffered a ruptured appendix and was misdiagnosed
by the cruise ship physician, Dr. Mauro Neri, who diagnosed her
with the flu.
The family went home
early, and Carlisle was properly diagnosed with a ruptured
appendix. A resulting infection from the delay in proper treatment
rendered her sterile.
The family sued
In a 20-page opinion
handed down Feb. 15, the court said that under federal maritime
law, the cruise line "has a duty to employ a doctor who is
competent and duly qualified. If the carrier breaches its duty, it
is responsible for its own negligence. However, if the doctor is
negligent in treating a passenger, that negligence will not be
imputed to the carrier."
The court noted that
because ships travel through different states as well as
international jurisdictions, there must be uniformity in applying
contact reporter Johanna Jainchill, send e-mail to [email protected].