Seaman's Lawsuit for Maritime Injuries Dismissed Upon Cruise Line's 12(b)(6) Motion
A man working on a cruise ship filed suit against the cruise line company and the companies that allegedly employed him, asserting various injuries that he claimed arose from medical treatment aboard the ship. The defendants in Petrovic v. Princess Cruise Lines, Ltd., et al filed motions to dismiss, alleging under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) that the plaintiff failed to state a claim for which the court could grant relief. The court agreed with the defendants and granted their motions to dismiss the suit, giving the plaintiff time to revise his pleadings.
Zeljko Petrovic worked aboard the M/S Diamond Princess, a cruise ship owned and operated by Princess Cruise Lines, Ltd. He claims that he was injured on or about August 6, 2010 as a result of negligent medical treatment provided by the defendants. His complaint specifically states that “the Defendants” failed to provide adequate medical care, but does not identify one or more specific defendants as the negligent party or parties. The ship was docked at a United States port when he fell ill and went to the ship’s hospital for treatment. He claims that the negligent medical treatment exacerbated his illness and caused permanent damage to his heart.
Petrovich filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida against Princess and three other companies: Steiner Transocean Limited, Steiner Leisure Limited, and Steiner Transocean U.S., Inc. The complaint identifies Petrovich as a seaman working in service of a vessel. It asserted several causes of action, including general negligence under the Jones Act, unseaworthiness of the ship, and failure to provide maintenance and proper medical treatment.
One cause of action that might entitle Petrovich to relief is his first one, negligence under the Jones Act, also known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920. That statute includes a provision allowing a seaman injured at work to bring a claim against an employer. The statute does not define “seaman,” but the U.S. Supreme Court clarified who may bring suit for injuries under the statute in Chandris, Inc. v. Latsis, 515 U.S. 347 (1995). The claimant must perform job duties that directly contribute to the ship’s function or its mission, and must have a direct and ongoing connection to a vessel or group of vessels. This typically means someone who spends a significant percentage of their work time aboard the vessel. The definition tends to exclude primarily land-based workers.
The court never reached the question of Petrovich’s status as a seaman under the Jones Act, however, as it ruled on the defendants’ motions to dismiss based on vague or ambiguous allegations in Petrovich’s pleadings. As noted earlier, the complaint alleged multiple causes of actions against “the Defendants” without distinguishing among the individual parties. The court ruled that the pleadings do not provide enough detail about the allegations to allow the defendants to respond individually. It dismissed the suit without prejudice, giving the plaintiff ten days to amend his complaint.
The personal injury attorneys at Cohn & Smith help recover compensation for people in South Florida who have suffered injuries caused by the negligent or unlawful conduct of others. To schedule a free and confidential consultation with one of our lawyers, contact us today either online, or by calling (954) 431-8100, or (305) 624-9186.
More Blog Posts:
Cruise Ship dangers, South Florida Injury Attorney Blog, June 22, 2012
Cruise Ship Injury, South Florida Injury Attorney Blog, January 11, 2012
Cruise ship Tips, South Florida Injury Attorney Blog, September 5, 2011