April 24, 2015 Articles

Uncharted Waters: Vicarious Liability of Cruise Liners in Light of Franza v. Royal Caribbean Cruises

Should a cruise line be held liable for its onboard medical personnel’s negligence while at sea?

By Angelique Pui-Ka So

Should a cruise line be held liable for its onboard medical personnel’s negligence while at sea? For a long time, the answer has been a resounding no, based on the long-standing precedent of Barbetta v. S/S BERMUDA STAR. As a result of the Barbetta rule, cruise companies have long been immune from legal liability arising from the acts of their medical personnel. Coupled with the contractual clauses embedded in cruise line tickets and a potential plaintiff’s difficulty in obtaining personal jurisdiction over oftentimes foreign-born medical personnel, the outcomes in cruise ship litigation have veered heavily toward the cruise lines. However, with the recent Eleventh Circuit ruling of Franza v. Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd., cruise line companies are no longer free from liability. This article examines Barbetta, Franza, and Franza’s short- and long-term implications on the cruise ship industry overall.

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