If you’re injured or get sick on a cruise, you’ll likely make your way to the ship’s urgent care center. These facilities are staffed with doctors and nurses to help fix what ails you, from a broken bone to the flu to life-threatening medical issues.

But what would happen if these medical professionals were negligent in their care and you ended up worse off than when you walked through the door? In the past, it was next to impossible to hold cruise ship companies liable for the mistakes of a ship’s medical staff. However, a recent opinion from a U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit made it easier for injured passengers to do just that.

The 63-page opinion comes in a claim filed by the daughter of an elderly cruise ship passenger, Pasquale Vaglio, who fell during his voyage aboard the Explorer of the Seas while the ship was docked in Bermuda. He sought medical treatment onboard the vessel.

According to the wrongful death claim filed by daughter Patricia Franza, Mr. Vaglio fell into a coma and died a week later as the result of the providers’ failure to timely diagnose cranial trauma.

The lawsuit was filed against Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida. Judge Joan A. Lenard dismissed the complaint according to the long-standing maritime law concept that effectively gives immunity to ship owners from the negligence of their medical staff.

However, the appellate court opinion, written by Judge Stanley Marcus, found that maritime law supports the right to hold Royal Caribbean vicariously liable for medical negligence.

According to Marcus, the roots of the immunity concept for ship owners “snake back into a wholly different world. Instead of 19th-century steamships … we now confront state-of-the-art cruise ships that house thousands of people and operate as floating cities, complete with well-stocked modern infirmaries and urgent care centers. In place of truly independent doctors and nurses, we must now acknowledge that medical professionals routinely work for corporate masters.”

If you were injured or became ill on a pleasure cruise, the experienced cruise ship injury lawyers at Schechter, Shaffer & Harris, L.L.P., Accident & Injury Lawyers can help you explore your legal options.