As a coastal state next to the Gulf of Mexico, Texas sees its fair share
of tourists. Cruise ships are not an uncommon sight along the coast south
of Houston, and many city residents are likely to spend their vacation
time on the water. Of course, as with any vacation destination, a cruise
ship is not immune from accidents, illnesses, or other travel-related
problems. Recently, though, a federal court indicated cruise ships may
no longer enjoy immunity from certain legal actions stemming from those

Though many vacationers likely don’t realize it, cruise ships are often
not completely bound by U.S. laws nor held accountable by U.S. regulations.
For instance, if a crime occurs aboard a cruise ship, it is often the
FBI which investigates the act if it took place on international waters.
If a medical mishap takes place, thanks to a 1988 ruling, cruise ships
are generally not liable for the negligence of their employees, such as nurses.

That may soon change, however. In 2011, a man was on a cruise ship that
was at port in Bermuda when he hit his head during an accident. The ship’s
nurse saw the accident victim, but he received minimal treatment and,
tragically, he lost his life. The man’s daughter initiated a lawsuit,
but the cruise ship company – Royal Caribbean – cited the 1988 ruling
as a reason to have the suit dismissed. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals,
however, has ruled that the daughter’s lawsuit can indeed move forward.

The Court’s decision may send shockwaves through the cruise ship industry,
as ships may no longer be immune from lawsuits regarding nursing negligence
and other forms of medical negligence. Fortunately, those who work for
cruise ships in a medical capacity and deviate from standards of patient
care might soon be held to the same standards of accountability as their
land-based counterparts.