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Miami Cruise Injury Lawyers Analyze Liability of Cruise Line for Ship “Doctor” Who Is Not a Physician

While most people would not elect a cruise as their vacation of choice without the confidence that the vessel has adequate medical facilities, a qualified doctor, and other medical personnel, a recent media report reveals the presence of medical professionals might create a false of security.  ABC News recently reported that a nurse pretending to be a doctor worked for ten months on the Carnival-owned cruise ship Aidavita.  During his time as a bogus doctor on the ship, the nurse administered an astounding 1,300 treatments to passengers.  The fake physician also administered infusions or injections on 21 occasions during his time onboard the ship.  In this blog, our cruise ship injury lawyers examine the potential liability of the cruise ship for medical malpractice if the phony doctor harmed patients.

According to media reports, the doctor had a fake medical license that he used to obtain his positions as a doctor.  The cruise company apparently took the nurse’s word that he was a physician rather than conducting a background check to confirm the doctor’s credentials and standing in the medical community.  The failure to verify the phony doctor’s professional licensing is particularly troublesome because this can be done in a couple of minutes through an online database in most states.  In other words, the most basic form of due diligence by the cruise company would have protected passengers from being treated by the fake doctor.

Because medical doctors and staff on a cruise ship are responsible for the care and safety of thousands of travelers, cruise lines have a legal obligation to verify the credentials of medical personnel as part of the hiring process.  When a ship “doctor” causes harm to a patient by committing medical malpractice or performing medical procedures without a valid license, the cruise line can be subject to vicarious liability.  This legal principle means that the negligence of the doctor is imputed to the cruise line.

While travelers might think it sounds reasonable to hold the cruise line vicariously liable for the medical malpractice of medical personnel on the ship, this is a relatively recent development.  An 11th Circuit Court decision changed the law imposing vicarious liability on cruise companies for medical malpractice of medical personnel on cruises.  Because vicarious liability now extends to cruise lines for the conduct of their doctors, passengers who are misdiagnosed or subjected to substandard medical care can pursue a lawsuit for damages if the poor medical care causes harm to the patient.

Although it is not clear whether any of the passengers that were treated by the bogus doctor were victims of medical malpractice, a multitude of scenarios could have resulted in harm to patients.  A patient could have suffered from a condition that the nurse lacked the knowledge or expertise to treat properly.  Alternatively, the nurse could have prescribed improper medicine and caused harm to a passenger.   While it is too early to determine whether the cruise line will be sued by a passenger treated by the phony doctor, the cruise line could be liable for failing to properly conduct a background check to confirm the credentials of the supposed doctor.

Greenberg, Stone, & Urbano:  Seeking Maximum Recovery for Damages Sustained Due to Negligence 

If you are the victim of medical malpractice while on a cruise, our Miami cruise injury lawyers at Greenberg, Stone & Urbano will tenaciously pursue the fullest financial compensation.  For over 130 collective years, our firm has assisted accident victims in personal injury and wrongful death actions across South Florida.  We seek to obtain compensation for your tangible and intangible damages, including medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more.  Our skill and dedication have earned us an AV rating from Martindale-Hubbell and recognition as one of South Florida’s top firms by the Miami Herald.   Call us at (888) 499-9700 or (305) 595-2400 or visit our website to schedule your initial consultation.




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