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Brett Rivkind
Brett Rivkind
Attorney • (305) 374-0565

David Versus Goliath: Do Passengers Have The Weapons To Hold Cruise Ship Companies Responsible?

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I have often times blogged about how cruise ship companies enjoy favorable maritime laws that enable them to escape liability for the harms they cause. The cruise ship companies, like Norwegian cruise lines, Carnival cruise lines, and Royal Caribbean cruise lines, are multibillion dollar corporations operating huge mega cruise ships carrying thousands of passengers and crewmembers. The Costa Concordia disaster called attention to the fact that cruise ships might not be as safe as they are held out to be by the industry. Following the Costa Concordia disaster, some good has started to surface. Congress again has shown interest in examining the safety of the industry. There are more congressional hearings set this month to address cruise ship safety. I previously testified at congressional hearings addressing cruise ship safety. The hearings eventually led to the passage of The Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act signed into law by President Obama on July 27, 2010.

I am planning to be at the congressional hearings that will be held on February 29 and March 1. Hopefully, one or more of my clients who have been victims of cruise ship incidents will be able to attend and share their horror stories, if allowed. In the past congressional hearings I attended, my clients, the family of George Allen Smith IV who disappeared during his honeymoon cruise, testified, as did a friend of mine, Kendall Carver, president of the organization International Cruise Victims.

At the past congressional hearing where I appeared as an invited maritime expert to answer questions about cruise ship security and safety, representatives of the FBI and coast guard, as well as the cruise ship industry appeared. The cruise ship companies are defended by these groups. The cruise ship companies are smart; they make it a point to remain “friends” of the FBI and coast guard. The cruise ship companies and their lawyers sponsor and attend many coast guard attended functions. The cruise ship companies also hire former FBI employees. The cruise ship companies have many proponents out there touting their safety, and how regulated the industry is, which in my opinion is a distortion of the truth. Passengers need to know the truth, and the recent Costa Concordia disaster is helping bring attention to an industry that needs stronger laws and regulations. The industry has grown to such a large animal that it has reached a point where it feels invincible.

As I said earlier, some good comes out of disasters. In a recent article by Reuters, the spotlight again shines on how cruise ships enjoy favorable maritime laws which hamper a passenger’s ability to battle the giant when there is a disaster like the Costa Concordia. The article provides specific examples. I have previously blogged about these favorable maritime laws the cruise ship industry enjoys, which in my opinion not only leads to unjust results in claims filed against the Goliath cruise ship companies, but also is a direct result of the safety issues we now have seen surface. This increased awareness, leading to articles like the Reuters one, helps lead to positive change.

I have been a maritime lawyer for 30 years, and continue to do battle in this lopsided battlefield. Hopefully these harsh and archaic maritime laws, including the Death on the High Seas Act, will be changed to give the Davids a better chance of a fair, just and speedy recovery against the cruise ship companies in cases of injury or death on cruise ships.

Our firm is a maritime personal injury and wrongful death firm based in Miami, Florida.