Cruise Ships No Longer Exempt from Medical Malpractice Liability

Before 2014, many cruise companies that faced medical malpractice lawsuits were able to get these legal actions dismissed even before trial. Obviously, courts have always decided in their favor, exempting them from any legal responsibility (even if the medical team that these have on board fails to give patients the exact treatment they need) and telling patients that they should not demand from ships’ doctors and nurses the same level of medical care as on land; besides, ship doctors and nurses are beyond the direct control of cruise lines since they are private contractors.

This aura of immunity from medical malpractice is a result of decades of court decisions that have consistently acquitted cruise liners from medical negligence/liability. One case example, which cruise companies usually rely upon, is the 1988 Barbetta v. S.S. Bermuda Star lawsuit, wherein the court ruled that the duty of a carrier is to make sure that it employs a competent and duly qualified doctor; failure to do so would be violation of its duty. If the doctor hired, however, commits an act of (medical) negligence, then he or she alone, not the carrier, will be held accountable for such act.

A 2014 incident that occurred onboard one famous cruise ship led judges to reconsider the soundness of exempting cruise ships from any medical liability, considering the following facts: doctors and nurses are presented as ship personnel or employees and that their wearing of the cruise ship uniform is direct proof of this; today’s cruise ships have advanced laboratories, intensive care units and technologies which will easily enable their medical personnel to link with medical experts on shore through live video conferencing; and, cruise ships take pride in their onboard medical center, making sure that this is included in their promotional materials.

Fortunately, the only treatment required by most travellers is remedy for bruises, indigestion, sea sickness and sun burns. But, though safe from any serious medical condition, they will definitely not be safe from expensive infirmary bills, which most health plans do not cover, by the way. As regards those whose condition really needs emergency attention (like drowning, stroke, heart attack, allergic reactions and appendicitis) the major issue is that most likely they will not receive the treatment they need on time or, even if they would be treated, in many instances, treatment will be from the hands of those who lack training or who are more panicky than in control of what they are doing.

In its website, the Louis A. Vucci points out the unnecessary risk of injury suffered by many cruise passengers at the hands of members of a ship’s medical staff who lack training, especially for emergency situations, or who are not just capable of providing the standard of care that passengers are entitled to receive.

The laws governing cruise ship issues are much more complex than the laws governing land vehicles. There will always be a legal means for passengers who get injured during cruise vacations to get the compensation that they may be owed.

Making sure that the Right People are Hired for the Right Job

According to the US Department of Labor, prior to the passing into law of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) in 1970, 10 per 100 employees were injured at work daily, while the number of work-related death averaged to 38 every day.

Making sure that every working environment is healthy and safe for all types of employees – the main thrust of OSH Act that is strictly enforced by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration or OSHA (founded in 1971 as an offshoot of OSH Act) – caused a major change in the yearly rate of workplace injuries and fatalities, especially on the side of the private sector. Thus, because of OSH Act, the number of daily fatalities has been significantly lowered to 12, while the number of injuries has gone down to three per 100 employees.

Considering the fact, however, that majority of workplace accidents are actually consequences of employer or employee negligence, lack of care, or failure to perform one’s duty in keeping the working environment safe from any risk of accident, 12 deaths and 3 injuries per 100 employees every day is not only still high, but this would also translate to millions of dollars in compensation.

Compensating workers who sustain injuries that are work related or who develop illnesses due to their work (a very common occurrence among those who are regularly exposed to hazardous chemicals) began during the early part of the 1900s. The cash benefit awarded to workers is approved and paid by the Workers’ Compensation insurance program, which is mandated and administered by the state.

The cash benefit is intended to cover cost of medical treatment, hospitalization, lost wages (due to days away from work), rehabilitation and required expenses in case of employee death. Workers’ Comp benefit is awarded to employees who get injured or ill, regardless or whose fault their injury or illness is; however, if their injury was self-inflicted, a result of working while drunk or due to a violation of the standards of safety imposed by the company or state, then they will lose the chance of qualifying for this benefit.

Workplace injury is a persistent problem in many working environments all across the nation. While employee and employer negligence are major factors in the occurrence of accidents that result to injuries, other significant reasons include lack of employee training on company and state rules on workplace safety, employers failing to strictly impose company policies on how to keep the workplace free from risks of accident, and putting employees in job positions where they do not really possess the required interest, skills and patience. This last factor is one of the most common roots of hazards in the workplace, as well as the frequent reason for fast employee turnover and higher Workers’ Comp premiums due to high compensation claims, among others.

While many employers still linger in trying to find the best means in finding the right people for the available job, others have obviously made great strides towards increased production which convert to high profits for the company. This means answers which translate to decreased rate in employee hiring and firing, safer working environment, reduced lost time and incidences of fraud and abuse; decreased incidences of absenteeism, reduced costs of group health insurance package, and smaller workers’ compensation premiums. The strategy is simple: determining the qualifications and suitability of applicants and through pre-employment screening.

This means hiring people who possess the knowledge, skills, stamina, interest and personality demanded by the job.

The website of the LaMarca Law Group, P.C. says injured workers have a basic right to receive the financial benefits provided by the Workers’ Comp program. The firm also mentions, though, the financial difficulties that workers may suffer due to lost wages, especially if their injury is too severe that it would require “several days to several weeks off of work.”

Other than just earnings potential, an employee should first think of safety and, rather than just filling job vacancies, employers should make sure that they have the right people for the job.

Seeking Compensation with the Help of an Attorney Can be an Advantage

A driver’s manual contains all the rules and regulations connected to driving, plus topics and images that clearly explain all about traffic signs and signals, safe vehicle operation, teens behind the wheel, accidents and emergency situations, and the various procedures involved in earning a driver’s license. All these are for the purpose of making sure that anyone applying for a license will know and will observe road safety rules after being granted the privilege to drive his or her own car.

A state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), called the Department of Public Safety or Registry of Motor Vehicles in other states, is the government entity responsible for the issuance of a driver’s license. Sadly, however, for despite the DMV’s required education, training, and tests (manual and written) which will show the worthiness of applicants to be granted their own license, knowledge on how to drive safely and the duty to properly observe traffic safety rules are almost immediately forgotten by many drivers. How else will one explain the more than five million car crashes recorded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) every year? Worse, more than two million of these crashes result to injuries, while at least 30,000 end in death.

Every year, more and more vehicles get driven on major roads and highways all across the nation. While some accidents are blamable on acts of nature (which many others now call “Act of God”) because these occur naturally devoid of human activity, such as a violent weather or an unexpected medical condition (Acts of God do not include known preexisting weather and medical conditions), more than 90% of all motor vehicle accidents are due to human fault – consequences of negligence or recklessness.

Speeding, drunk-driving, driver error and reckless driving are the top irresponsible acts or bad behaviors that cause road accidents. While certain actions, like driving after having a bottle or two of beer with colleagues after work, may be considered as lapse in judgment, some accidents, especially those resulting from reckless driving, are simply maddening since these are due to someone’s wanton disregard for the safety of others.

Driving on the wrong lane, beating or going through red lights, ignoring stop signs at intersections, not slowing down when making turns, tailgating, changing lanes abruptly or without using signals, driving over the speed limit and driving while intoxicated are just few of the reckless behaviors that some drivers knowingly or carelessly commit and which make roads no longer safe for other motorists, pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcycle riders.

What may be considered as reckless driving is not always specifically outlined by the law; thus, it is often left to the discretion of the officer involved if the driver at fault in an accident will be charged with reckless driving or with some other traffic violation.

Since the consequence of a car accident will definitely affect the life of the victim and his/her family, especially if it results to severe or disabling injuries or, worse, death, it can be wise to seek assistance from a seasoned personal injury lawyer.

A Brand New Financial Start through Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

According to the US Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployment rate during year-ends 2012, 2013 and 2014 were 7.9, 6.7 and 5.6, respectively (from a high of 9.9 during the Great Recession of 2008-09). While the term unemployment may suggest a negative meaning (such as when people are laid off or quit their work while looking for a new job) or a positive meaning (as may be the case when a company makes technological improvements, replacing human workers with machines for consistently fast work output, or when a job is outsourced), for workers who have been displaced from their work, the term can only signify one sense: financial problems.

For millions of wage earners in the US, who may just have enough salary to enable them to cover all their financial concerns between salary dates, losing their source of income, even for just a month or two, can result to unpaid monthly bills, loans or mortgages – the possible start of a crushing debt crisis.

Banks give debtors the chance to settle late payments for their loans; however, after being continuously delinquent for about three to six months, rules will require these banks to consider unpaid bills as bad debts and, so, refer a debtor’s account to a collection agency, which does not shy away from using hounding tactics in order to make a debtor pay.

The stress and difficulty that debtors experience in coping with their debts. Besides the sleepless nights due to inability to pay their mortgage, car loan, student loan, medical bills and/or credit card bills, the thought of the possibility of losing their home or car plus all the text messages, letters, emails, phone calls and other forms of harassing tactics from collection agents, can be just too much. But rather than allowing debtors to legally suffer the consequences of their delinquency or inability to pay, this Greenway Bankruptcy Law firm informs debtors that there are various types of solutions, legal ones, which will save them from all forms of debts, regardless of how enormous these may be. One of these solutions is bankruptcy, designed as a legal means for individuals and businesses to get out of debt for a chance at a brand new financial start.

The Bankruptcy Code, which was enacted by the US Congress in 1978 and which completely replaces the Bankruptcy Act of 1898, also called the Nelson Act, is composed of various Bankruptcy Chapters (7, 9, 11, 12, 13 and 15, which was added to the Bankruptcy Code in 2005) each designed to address the specific financial situation of those seeking protection under the Bankruptcy law.

Records from the United States Courts ( show that from 2010 to 2013, the average number of bankruptcy applications filed in various U.S. federal bankruptcy courts was 1,358,104. The average number of applications filed during the same years under the different Chapters is as follows: Chapter 7 = 952,948; Chapter 11 = 11, 583; Chapter 12 = 582; and, Chapter 13 = 392, 879.

Chapter 7, specifically, which is the bankruptcy chapter most commonly applied for, involves liquidation. This chapter requires a debtor to surrender all of his/her “non-exempt” properties for liquidation and cease operation of his/her business if he/she has one. Non-exempt properties usually include a vacation home, a second house, expensive musical instruments (but only if the debtor is not a musician by trade), cash, bonds, stocks and other forms of investment. Exempt properties, on the other hand, include items which are considered necessary for working and living; a number of examples are a house, a vehicle (or vehicles but only up to a certain value), clothing, necessary household appliances, personal injury compensation, tools necessary to the debtor’s trade or profession, and jewelry (up to a certain value).

A trustee appointed by the court will take charge of the liquidation of the debtor’s non-exempt properties and use the amount earned to pay all of the debtor’s non-dischargeable debts, such as child support and alimony or spousal support, court fees, government-imposed penalties, debts resulting from wrongful death or personal injury, student loans (unless debtor would suffer “undue hardship” if he/she were to keep paying these), and taxes (federal, state, and local) that are no more than 3 years old since these first became due. If the amount of liquidated properties is more than enough to pay all non-dischargeable debts, the remaining amount will have to be returned to the debtor. Otherwise, creditors will have to accept the (legally determined) amount they are paid, even if this falls short of the actual amount owed to them. Besides this, they should also follow a decision made by the court which is to forgive any balance from the debt and to stop any further collection of payment, or suffer severe penalties under federal law.

With regard to other debts, which include medical bills, past utility bills, personal loan from employer, family or friends, and, most especially, credit card bills, all of these are considered dischargeable debts, thus the court automatically frees the debtor from any further obligation of paying these, at the same time ordering creditors to cease any form of collection from the debtor.

Furthermore, once bankruptcy is filed in court, the debtor immediately is benefitted as all interest charges on loans as well as all legal and harassing tactics from creditors will cease; this is called the “automatic stay.” Even a single attempt by a creditor to try to make a debtor pay can result to legal consequences against him or her.

Each bankruptcy chapter has requirements which will determine qualification. For chapter 7, an applicant will be required to take a means test – this is to determine if his/her salary is within the limit set under this specific chapter.

The law firm Erin B. Shank, PC, explains on its website how filing for bankruptcy can help an individual or business “restructure, significantly reduce, or altogether eliminate” debts and work towards financial independence. It is necessary, however, that one first understands what bankruptcy really is, what it does and which chapter will address and solve all financial problems, considering such individual’s or business’ specific financial situation.

Treatments Sometimes Cause Serious Health Conditions

One drug that is included in the World Health Organization’s list of medicines necessary in the basic health system and which, in 2006, became one of the top selling drugs in the US, is Zofran. Generically known as Ondansetron, Zofran was formulated to prevent and treat nausea and vomiting in patients who have just had surgery, radiation therapy or cancer chemotherapy – the same purpose for which this drug was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration in 1991.

Due to Zofran’s efficacy in blocking serotonin, a natural substance inside the body that causes vomiting, its manufacturer, London-based GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), confidently endorsed it for off-label use, specifically for relief from morning sickness, which pregnant women feel during the first trimester of their pregnancy. Aside from this, GSK, as affirmed by the US Department of Justice, also rewarded doctors who prescribed Zofran for morning sickness.

One major issue that involved GSK, Zofran and pregnant women (even prior to Zofran being recommended to treat morning sickness) was the fact that GSK had never tested Zofran on pregnant women, thus the absence of records which will show if the drug is actually safe or harmful to the mother or her unborn child or to both. It seems, however, that the truth behind this issue of being safe or harmful has been known by GSK as early as 1992 due to lawsuit based on birth defect that was filed against it. Despite this knowledge, said manufacturer continued to promote Zofran to treat morning sickness.

There are many different side effects linked to Zofran, including swelling of the body, fainting, difficulty in breathing and/or swallowing, drowsiness, tiredness, dizziness or lightheadedness, constipation, headache, and irregularity in heartbeat. However, none of these side-effects can outweigh the severity of harm which is birth defect (such as cleft palate, cleft lip, or congenital heart defects) which also happens to be the basis of so many lawsuits against GSK.

There are many other things that Zofran users need to understand about this drug, including details about the birth defects linked to it, its history with the FDA, what this product really is, and the legal rights of individuals harmed by it. Information about other defective pharmaceutical products can be found at

While it is the duty of drug and medical supply manufacturers to ensure the effectivity and safety of all their products, they are not given the right to market these products for off-label use. Even if a product is intended as treatment for only one type of health condition, manufacturers still have the legal and moral obligation to test it to clearly determine who can use it safely and who can be harmed by it.

It is alarming, therefore, to know that tens of thousands of patients remain to be harmed either by prescription drugs or medical devices every year. Zofran is just one of the hundreds of drugs found and proven to cause adverse effects; with regard to medical devices, one recently identified harmful product is the power morcellator, a medical device designed to cut large tissues into tiny pieces.

Morcellators were introduced in the 1990s and were intended to aid physicians perform a laparoscopic surgery (such as hysterectomy and myomectomy) that is as painless and bloodless as possible, besides being a fast procedure. Furthermore, unlike in open surgery, the traditional way of performing surgeries, an abdominal incision that was about six to nine inches long is required, while in a laparoscopic surgery, which is a minimally invasive procedure and which makes use of a morcellator, four very tiny incisions, each measuring about 0.5 – 1cm. are all that is required.

Myomectomy is the surgical removal of fibroids from the uterus, while hysterectomy is a procedure wherein the entire uterus, or womb, is removed due to any of the following conditions:

  • Cancer of the uterus, cervix, or ovaries
  • Severe pains due to endometriosis, a condition wherein the tissues lining the uterus grow outside of it instead or in an abdominal or pelvic organ, like the ovary, or fallopian tube
  • Uterine prolapse, a condition wherein the uterus drops into the vagina as the tissues that hold it in place have become weak
  • Growth of large uterine fibroids (or benign/non-cancerous tumors) which cause bleeding, chronic pelvic pain, and bladder pressure
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease
  • Adenomyosis, a condition wherein the wall between the lining of the uterus (called endometrium), and the uterus’ muscle is broken, causing the endometrial glands to grow into the uterus’ muscle; this further results to the enlargement of the uterus

Despite the benefits and advantages provided by morcellators, the US Food and Drug Administration issued a safety communication notice to doctors on April 17, 2014, to discourage them from the further use of the device in surgical procedures, especially in fibroids removal through myomectomy. Morcellators, as studies show, caused the development of leiomyosarcoma, a deadly type of cancer, during the morcellation/cutting of these fibroids. The actual reason behind the development of leiomyosarcoma is the spread of the almost undetectable cancerous tissues called uterine sarcoma, which usually grows with fibroids and which also gets cut into very small pieces (along with the fibroids).

The first company to respond to the FDA’s safety communication notice was Ethicon, a unit of Johnson & Johnson and which happens to be the largest manufacturer of power morcellators around the globe. While Ethicon’s move to cease the manufacture, promotion and sales of its morcellators may be considered as a really positive move, it may have come late as thousands of women have already been treated with the device.

Definitely, not all of those who have been treated with a morcellator will develop leiomyosarcoma since not all those with fibroids also have uterine sarcoma. For those who have been diagnosed with the deadly cancer, however, consulting with a morcellator lawsuit attorney may be in their best interest. A website with address, offers substantial information which someone diagnosed with leiomyosarcoma may just want to know.

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