Contributors
Charles R. Lipcon

Charles R. Lipcon is the firm's founding attorney and has been handling personal injury, cruise line sexual assault and wrongful death claims for over 40 years.Read More »

Jason R. Marguiles

Jason R. Margulies is an experienced maritime lawyer and an active trial attorney handling personal injury, cruise line sexual assault and wrongful death claims.Read More »

Ricardo V. Alsina

Ricardo V. Alsina is an active trial attorney, handling personal injury, cruise line sexual assault and wrongful death claims.Read More »

Michael A. Winkleman

Mr. Winkleman is an active trial and appellate attorney handling all personal injury, cruise line sexual assault and wrongful death claims, as well as complex business disputes.Read More »

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Life saverThe 2014 cruise season is well underway, but that doesn’t mean it’s been smooth sailing for the cruise industry thus far– no pun intended. In the first half of the year, we’ve already seen a host of accidents and crimes, many of which have resulted in fatalities. The cruise lines’ image have again been tarnished with news of violent sexual assaults, and both passengers and crew members have faced peril while exploring foreign ports due to high crime rates, including gun-point robberies. Each maritime and offshore injury lawyer at our firm knows all too well that accidents do happen, but from our perspective it just seems as though the cruise industry as a whole far too frequently fails to maintain a safe shipboard environment. There can only be one result of this type of conduct: crime, injury, and death on the high seas.

Recently, it has come to our attention that negligence in maintaining a safe shipboard environment likely contributed to a new accident involving a passenger aboard an MSC ship. According to the media station Univision, a passenger went overboard from the MSC Divina cruise ship this week. The news report, originally written in Spanish, explains the passenger, who was on deck 15, fell roughly 164 feet into the water – an extremely dangerous, if not deadly, fall. The vessel had been on a special sailing around Brazil in honor of the World Cup. The ship was transporting around 3,500 passengers, all of whom were from Mexico, and was traveling between the three cities where Mexico’s soccer team was scheduled to play during phase one of the World Cup games.

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Cruise ship Internet satellitesSo you’re on a cruise ship sailing around the world and you need to use the Internet for work or for pleasure. No problem! This is the 21st Century and Internet can be accessed on virtually any cruise ship. But how much is it going to cost you?

In our last blog, we discussed how Internet connectivity works on ships and why it’s expensive, but exactly how expensive is it?

Well, typically, you might expect to pay around 75 cents per minute on most ships, but you’ll be able to save a bit if you purchase an Internet package. Packages can run over $200, but if you’ll still have to pay a lot of money if you need to use the Internet for more than four hours a week. In the end, you might pay more for connectivity than you would for the actual cruise vacation. Is this fair? Well, you be the judge.

Internet connections aren’t always reliable on a ship, and that’s not necessarily a factor that can be controlled by the cruise lines. Sometimes, signals can be blocked, causing slower connections. If a ship’s mast or funnel is large enough, the signal can be lost as well. So then what happens if you need constant and reliable Internet access onboard a cruise ship? Our maritime attorneys have got a few ideas on what to do.

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Cruise ship Internet connectivityMillions of people go on cruises each year, but while a vacation should be a time to relax and kick back, not everyone can afford to do so. These days, business professionals take their work wherever they go and that includes cruise ships. Most of this work can be done from a laptop and with the use of the Internet, which many ships provide. But how convenient is Web access at sea? And, more importantly, do the costs outweigh the benefits?

In this blog, our cruise ship lawyers will explore the pros and cons about Internet at sea and whether the multibillion-dollar industry that is the cruise industry is charging fair prices.

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In our last blog, our cruise ship passenger law firm noted that former Carnival CEO cashed a few stocks – and by a few we mean millions upon millions of dollars. But the real question is why. Let’s take a look at Arison’s recent actions and see if we can’t figure out what would lead one of the richest people in the world to liquidate these assets.

Just last week, Arison sold over $40,000,000 in Carnival stock in one transaction, then $17,900,000 in stock in another. The week before, Arison sold nearly $38,700,000 in stock. Then back in March, Arison got rid of another $395,000,000 in stock. That’s a pretty big chunk of change, which begs the question: Why is Arison getting rid of all his shares?

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questionThe past few years haven’t exactly been smooth sailing for Carnival Corp. – no pun intended. From the February 2013 fire that disabled the Carnival Triumph to the devastating Costa Concordia capsizing tragedy, Carnival Corp. has taken a hit, both in popularity and profits. But while Carnival may be the largest cruise company, and as such, it may take a lot more than a few bad years of negative press for Carnival to really experience a company-changing loss, it’s hard to ignore the elephant in the room. You know, that big one in the middle of the room that’s called negligence, plain and simple. The vast majority of the cruise ship accidents that have befouled Carnival Corp. – and not to mention the large number of crimes – are, in our opinion, directly attributed to the cruise company’s failure to abide by the highest standards of maritime safety.

Sure, there is always a chance that an accident can occur that’s completely the result of chance alone. Perhaps it’s just an unlucky day where everything seems to go wrong aboard a cruise ship or a series of unfortunate events. Strange occurrences can – and do – happen. However, in our years of experience as maritime lawyers and all the unusual (and not so unusual) accidents we’ve seen at our firm, the fact remains that most incidents at sea are the direct result of the cruise line or a crew member’s negligent actions.

The Carnival Triumph accident, for example, was recently found a by Federal Judge in Miami to have been negligent in the operation of the cruise vessel under a legal doctrine called Res Ipsa Loquiotr. What this legal doctrine means is that the type of incident like the Triumph would not have happened without some type of negligence on the part of Carnival. As a result, nearly 4,000 people were left stranded in the Gulf of Mexico for five days amidst some of the most ghastly and unsanitary conditions ever reported on a ship.

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HandcuffsEarlier this week, we reported on an alleged sexual assault aboard a cruise ship in St. Kitts on June 6. There wasn’t much information on the supposed incident at first, aside from suggestions that the alleged assailant was a crew member, but a recent article published by a local news source has confirmed that the assault did in fact take place and the attacker was in fact a Carnival crew member.

According to the news source, the assault occurred onboard the Carnival Valor, while the vessel was berthed at Port Zante. Details are still scarce, but the source reports that cruise operators alerted local authorities of the incident and the assailant was taken into custody the same day and charged with rape. The victim was a female passenger aboard the ship, but due to privacy concerns, their identity was not revealed. Unlike a victim’s privacy rights, however, the identity of the assailant can be disclosed. Strangely, neither local authorities nor Carnival operators have yet to provide details on the crew member’s name or the circumstances surrounding the assault.

We here find it extremely odd that the details regarding this cruise ship rape – which occurred nearly a week ago – still remain so ambiguous. Though cruise lines have long failed to accurately report crimes aboard their ships, especially sexual crimes, the identity of the assailant is usually revealed a few days after the incident is initially reported. This particular incident seems to be under wraps, which leads us to believe there may be something neither local authorities nor Carnival want to reveal.

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parasailingIn Part 1 of our two-part blog, we discussed the story of two teen girls who overcame all odds to graduate high school following a very serious parasailing accident in Panama City Beach , FL last July. The girls, Alexis Fairchild and Sidney Good, donned their caps and gowns and obtained their diplomas last Friday after miraculously surviving the accident that left both with critical injuries – injuries they are still suffering from to this day.

The tow connecting their parasail to the boat broke, causing the girls to crash into a condominium, power line and a parked SUV. And after traumatic brain and back injuries, the girls are happy to put the accident behind them. But unfortunately, the physical and mental damages they suffered as a result of the accident will follow them for years to come – if not the rest of their lives.

Fairchild and Good are just two of many parasailing accident victims who have been injured (or killed) due to the negligence of both parasailing operators to maintain gear in safe and working condition, as well as state legislators in failing to impose safety laws to govern parasailing operations. To this day, there has yet to be any state in the U.S. that actually has an effective law regulating parasailing practices, despite the number of victims who have been critically injured or who have lost their lives in parasailing accidents.

The Parasail Safety Council reports that in the past 30 years, over 1,200 parasailing accidents have occurred across the United States, leading to 400 victims suffering serious injuries and over 70 deaths. More than half of these accidents have occurred in Florida, where water sports like parasailing are extremely common. The vast majority of parasailing accidents can be avoided if operators actually maintain their equipment in working condition, but they don’t. Largely because there are no laws to regulate the safety of parasailing equipment. What’s worse, there aren’t any basic requirements for parasailing equipment maintenance to begin with! This means that operators are not obligated to abide by strict safety laws, which makes it that much harder to hold them accountable if there are no standards by which to judge them by..

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teens injured in Florida parasailing accident graduateWe’ve handled a number of parasailing accident cases and so we know full well of the hidden dangers of the popular water sport. I remember going parasailing as a boy and thinking what great fun it was. Little did I know that I was taking part in a water sport that was essentially unregulated.

No one knows the dangers of parasailing better than two young girls who are lucky to be alive.

High school graduation is a memorable moment for all. It’s a time of goodbyes, but it’s also a time of new beginnings. And a new beginning is exactly what graduation holds for two teenage girls in Indiana, who at this point last year, were not even sure if they’d be able to don their cap and gown for the ceremony.

Alexis Fairchild and Sidney Good graduated Huntington North High School last Friday, fully clad in their ceremonial garb. The girls were all smiles for the pivotal moment, but aside from getting their diplomas, the girls had something much bigger to celebrate – their lives. Fairchild and Good were involved in a devastating parasailing accident last summer in Florida, which left both girls in critical condition. The accident, which was caught on tape, occurred in Panama City Beach last July. Following strong winds, the parasail tow detached from the boat, leading the girls to crash into a condominium, then into a power line before plummeting roughly 13 stories into an SUV in a nearby parking lot.

Against all odds, the girls have recovered, but their injuries still haunt them to this day. Fairchild, who doctors were skeptical would even regain the ability to walk after the accident, is still receiving physical therapy treatments for her back injuries, while Good continues to suffer from vision problems.

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Cruise ship inspectionOur firm has reported on numerous sexual assault incidents aboard cruise lines over the years. In some cases, the incidents have involved other cruise passengers as the assailants, while in other cases, crew members themselves have been the suspects. Just last February, we reported on a horrific incident involving a female passenger who was brutally assaulted and raped by a Holland America crew member in her own stateroom. But while the idea of a crew member breaking into a passenger cabin seems to many a farfetched concept, sadly, the rate of sexual crimes on the high seas is more common than anyone might imagine. In fact, comprising 55 percent of all crimes reported to the FBI, sexual assault is the most frequently occurring offense on the high seas, and one of the most covered up.

We’ve previously discussed how cruise lines have underreported crimes over the years, mostly due to the fact that most ships are registered in foreign countries. By doing so, cruise lines are able to avoid stricter U.S. laws and are not as bound to disclose crime data as they would were ships to be registered in the United States. Also, with full disclosure of all criminal incidents onboard ships, cruise lines risk the negative press associated with these crimes and a drop in bookings. After all, who would feel safe traveling with a cruise line that held a high rate of sexual assault crimes?

Last year, Senator John “Jay” Rockefeller introduced a bill that would require cruise lines to increase transparency in their crime data reporting. The legislation was proposed after it became increasingly clear that the cruise industry was withholding information about their crime stats, especially when it came to sexual crimes. According to FBI data, cruise lines only reported 29 sexual assault or rape incidents to the organization in 2012 and only 11 of these incidents to the public. Who knows how many more incidents occurred that were withheld from both the FBI and civilians?

Which leads us to our next point. A news source in St. Kitts recently published a story on an alleged sexual assault incident onboard a cruise ship. The attack supposedly occurred on June 6 while the vessel was docked at Porte Zante. Oddly enough, no details regarding which cruise ship the supposed incident occurred on or information about the actual incident were provided. Is someone trying to conceal information?

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Cruise ship accidents on the riseIn our last blog, our cruise ship lawyers discussed a recent report that was published by the U.S. government regarding escalating crime rates in the Bahamas. As we’ve previously noted, crime in the Bahamas, and several other foreign ports frequented by cruise lines, is reaching an all-time high. Though there have been a number of ships that have either temporarily ceased calling on foreign destinations, or have at least issued warnings to passengers venturing to these dangerous locations, the fact still remains that cruise travelers are constantly at risk of getting injured or even killed due to the increasing criminal activity in some of the more popular Caribbean cruise destinations, the Bahamas being one of the most perilous.

Cruise lines can only do so much to help keep passengers and crew members out of harm’s way. Sure, stopping port visits would be the ideal situation, but let’s face it, if all of these dangerous locations are taken out of a Caribbean itinerary, the Caribbean itinerary would basically consist of an extended sail around the ocean without any actual stops. Cruise lines have no authority to implement crime-reduction tactics in the foreign ports they visit, but even when a cruise line tries to do the right thing, such as educate passengers of the potential dangers associated with a particular port, that nation’s government will fire back and complain.

After Carnival Cruise Line issued a warning to its passengers regarding crime in the Bahamas, and which places should be avoided the most, Nassau’s most popular resort, Atlantis, retaliated and demanded Carnival stop issuing the guest warnings because it would diminish their revenue. As usual, the providers of travel often favor money over a traveler’s safety. Atlantis officials said they were concerned about Carnival’s informative warnings, especially the warning of increased gun violence. Carnival also warned guests not to carry cash while in Nassau, over which Atlantis officials expressed their concern. Since Atlantis boasts one of the largest casinos in the world, of course a lack of cash would be an issue for them. Cash is much easier to spend than a traveler’s check or a credit card.

But then given the escalating number of attacks against travelers in the Bahamas, what exactly is the Bahamian government doing to minimize the risk for cruise passengers and crew members?

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