September 23, 2015

Earlier this month, the District Court of Appeals of
Florida in the Third District delivered a ruling
certifying a class of cruise ship doctors in a lawsuit
against Celebrity Cruises. Perhaps an important
aspect of the case is that it can impact a very
important crew member in the hierarchy of
shipboard personnel. In the event of an accident or
injury aboard a cruise ship, the first place a
passenger is likely to visit is the infirmary. There,
one of the cruise line’s nurses or doctors could
administer basic emergency medical care and run
diagnostics tests until a vessel docks in port, where
the passenger can undergo more comprehensive
medical testing at a hospital, clinic, or other
shoreside facility. Cruise ship physicians and their
shipboard staffs are generally equipped to handle
many of the accident related injuries that arise at
sea, including slip and fall fractures, concussions,
sprains, tears, burns, illness, food poisoning, or
other conditions. As a matter of fact, cruise lines
were front and center page last year because of a
case that led to a ruling about the level of immunity
cruise lines enjoyed from passenger lawsuits based
upon the negligence of the medical staff. Up until
this 11th Circuit Court of Appeals decision, the
industry relied on the stare decisis value of
Barbetta v. S/S Bermuda Star, 848 F. 2d 1364, 1988 ,
which essentially insulated a cruise line from any
possible vicarious liability stemming from medical
malpractice alleged to have been committed by their
staff.

The 3rd District Federal Court case involving
Celebrity cruise line is not likely to impact the level
of care a passenger receives in the cruise ship
hospital following an accident or injury. The more
fundamental issue at the core of the case involves
cruise ship physician commissions on the sale of
medications.

Read more about the
class action lawsuit class
certification here.

In the case at hand, some of the issues involve the
non-inclusion of the sale of medications when
Celebrity Cruise Line paid commissions to its
doctors based on total medical revenues. The court
had to contend with the issue of whether the cruise
line doctors were entitled to commissions on the
sales of medications or medicine. The contracts
point to commission being based on total medical
revenue, which would include medication sales.

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