Negligent Security Seminar | March 2015

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Drownings on Cruise Ships Give Way to Lifeguards…Finally starstarstarstarstar

Despite repeated drownings of children and brain damage from near drownings, several major cruise lines have finally posted lifeguards at their on-ship pools.

As reported by The Miami Herald and Miami New Times, Royal Caribbean, Disney and Norwegian Cruise Lines have installed lifeguards on most of its ships.  This is in response to at least a dozen drownings or catastrophic pool accidents in cruise ship pools in the past few years.

The addition of lifeguards occurred because of the civil justice system: the payment of expensive lawsuits and the attendant bad publicity of brain damaged children leaving their ships caused the cruise lines to reconsider their profit-motivated decision to avoid paying for lifeguards.

Because the cruise industry benefits from an archaic law known as the Death of the High Seas Act (DOHSA) – dating back to 1920 – there was little incentive for cruise lines to incur the expense of lifeguards.  The law has been roundly criticized for protecting wealthy interests, decreasing safety, and depriving victims of a remedy. The Act only allows for economic damages for a death that occurs in navigable waters. That means children and others who do not work, like the elderly or those retired, have virtually no economic damages from their death.  There is no pain and suffering recoverable for survivors.  Thus the parents whose child drowned in a ship pool would have no recovery at all.  Nor would the husband or wife of someone who was retired and lost their spouse.

Carnival Cruise Line remains the only major cruise line refusing to employ lifeguards.

The only financial impetus for the cruise lines installation of lifeguards were substantial payouts for children who were catastrophically injured. For the deaths there is virtually no economic detriment to the cruise lines.   It took the devastating injuries to numerous children for the cruise lines to suddenly recognize the value of the small expense of having lifeguards at its pools.

Most cruise line tickets require that any lawsuits for their negligence be brought within one year in Miami, Florida.

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