In yet another blow to Florida residents and visitors, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that on-board doctors are not considered employees of the cruise lines who hire them. This means that the cruise lines are not responsible if those doctors commit malpractice while treating a passenger on board their ship.
The effect of this ruling is simple, if you are mistreated or injured due to the negligent actions of an on-board doctor, you cannot sue the cruise line for that doctor’s negligent actions. Considering that most on-board doctors are from other countries and do not have malpractice insurance, it is likely that the injured victim will be unable to recovery anything for the damages they suffer at the hands of an on-board doctor.
Having represented dozens of cruise ship passengers, we cannot understand how an on-board doctor, who is specifically placed on a ship by the cruise line, for the benefit of their paying passengers, cannot be an employee of that cruise line. Cruise line passengers have no choice in the medical care they receive as they are essentially captive and in many instances, unable to leave the ships. If a passenger falls victim to illness, or sustains an on-board injury, such as a slip and fall, their only hope for medical care is with the on-board doctor.
Now, given the Court’s ruling, passengers on cruise ships, whose tickets require them to file lawsuits in Florida, will be unable to hold the cruise line responsible for an on-board doctor’s negligence.