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We all know about how painful toothaches can be. One passenger, Jim Ramage, was aboard a one week Mediterranean cruise aboard the Norwegian cruise line passenger ship, the Epic, when he developed an abscess and visited the ship’s medical staff for treatment. What he faced was a medical staff that was not competent to address his condition. Over time, while onboard the ship, his infection developed to a point where his throat had swelled up and he was unable to breathe. He was given steroid medication by the ship’s doctor and told that the infection would kill him if he didn’t receive the steroid medication. However, when he returned to Scotland and saw his dentist, the dentist criticized the treatment he had received onboard the ship. In fact, the dentist wrote the cruise ship company to advise them that the treatment that was provided onboard the ship was inappropriate.

Mr. Ramage, of Edinburgh, was quoted as saying: “I can’t believe they had no one onboard qualified to cope with what started out as a simple dental problem.”

Mr. Ramage’s recount of his experience with the ship’s medical staff is not an uncommon scenario for passengers who are unfortunate enough to have to receive medical treatment onboard a ship. Often times, the doctors are not qualified to treat the medical problem appropriately. Passengers are then faced with law that finds that the ship’s medical staff are considered independent contractors and the cruise ship companies deny liability for any of their negligence.

Although the laws that a ship’s medical doctor is considered an independent contractor, for which there is no vicarious liability on the part of the cruise ship company for the doctor’s negligence, there are various causes of action that can be asserted on behalf of a passenger against the cruise ship company for the lack of appropriate medical care and treatment. There is some conflicting law on the subject, but there are alternative theories of recovery other than vicarious liability which can be asserted. An experienced maritime attorney can consider the possible alternative causes of action when a passenger has been a victim of improper medical care and treatment onboard a cruise.

An article regarding Mr. Ramage’s experience can be found online at Dentistry iQ website.

Our firm continues to be safety advocates to both passengers and crewmembers harmed at sea.

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