open access

Vol 67, No 3 (2016)
MARITIME MEDICINE Review articles
Submitted: 2016-09-27
Accepted: 2016-09-27
Published online: 2016-09-27
Get Citation

Cruise ship’s doctors — company employees or independent contractors?

Eilif Dahl
DOI: 10.5603/IMH.2016.0028
·
Pubmed: 27681214
·
International Maritime Health 2016;67(3):153-158.

open access

Vol 67, No 3 (2016)
MARITIME MEDICINE Review articles
Submitted: 2016-09-27
Accepted: 2016-09-27
Published online: 2016-09-27

Abstract

Traditionally, cruise companies have stated that they are in the transport business but not in the business of providing medical services to passengers. They have claimed not to be able to supervise or control the ship’s medical personnel and cruise ship’s doctors have therefore mostly been signed on as independent contractors, not employees. A United States court decision from 1988, Barbetta versus S/S Bermuda Star, supported this view and ruled that a ship’s owner cannot be held vicariously liable for the negligence of the ship’s doctor directed at the ship’s passengers.

Some years ago a cruise passenger fell and hit his head while boarding a trolley ashore. Hours later he was seen aboard by the ship’s doctor, who sent him to a local hospital. He died 1 week later, and his daughter filed a complaint alleging the cruise company was vicariously liable for the purported negligence of the ship’s doctor and nurse, under actual or apparent agency theories. A United States district court initially dismissed the case, but in November 2014 the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit disagreed and reversed. From then on independently contracted ship’s doctors may be considered de facto employees of the cruise line.

The author discusses the employment status of physicians working on cruise ships and reviews arguments for and against the Appellate Court’s decision.

Abstract

Traditionally, cruise companies have stated that they are in the transport business but not in the business of providing medical services to passengers. They have claimed not to be able to supervise or control the ship’s medical personnel and cruise ship’s doctors have therefore mostly been signed on as independent contractors, not employees. A United States court decision from 1988, Barbetta versus S/S Bermuda Star, supported this view and ruled that a ship’s owner cannot be held vicariously liable for the negligence of the ship’s doctor directed at the ship’s passengers.

Some years ago a cruise passenger fell and hit his head while boarding a trolley ashore. Hours later he was seen aboard by the ship’s doctor, who sent him to a local hospital. He died 1 week later, and his daughter filed a complaint alleging the cruise company was vicariously liable for the purported negligence of the ship’s doctor and nurse, under actual or apparent agency theories. A United States district court initially dismissed the case, but in November 2014 the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit disagreed and reversed. From then on independently contracted ship’s doctors may be considered de facto employees of the cruise line.

The author discusses the employment status of physicians working on cruise ships and reviews arguments for and against the Appellate Court’s decision.

Get Citation

Keywords

ship’s doctor, ship owner, head injury, medical malpractice, Florida jurisdiction, Barbetta, Franza, maritime medicine

About this article
Title

Cruise ship’s doctors — company employees or independent contractors?

Journal

International Maritime Health

Issue

Vol 67, No 3 (2016)

Pages

153-158

Published online

2016-09-27

DOI

10.5603/IMH.2016.0028

Pubmed

27681214

Bibliographic record

International Maritime Health 2016;67(3):153-158.

Keywords

ship’s doctor
ship owner
head injury
medical malpractice
Florida jurisdiction
Barbetta
Franza
maritime medicine

Authors

Eilif Dahl

Regulations

Important: This website uses cookies. More >>

The cookies allow us to identify your computer and find out details about your last visit. They remembering whether you've visited the site before, so that you remain logged in - or to help us work out how many new website visitors we get each month. Most internet browsers accept cookies automatically, but you can change the settings of your browser to erase cookies or prevent automatic acceptance if you prefer.

By "Via Medica sp. z o.o." sp.k., ul. Świętokrzyska 73, 80–180 Gdańsk

tel.:+48 58 320 94 94, faks:+48 58 320 94 60, e-mail:  viamedica@viamedica.pl