Cruise Ship Law Blog
Holland America Crewmember Denied Right To A Jury Trial Following Career-Ending InjuryJanuary 2, 2013
Crewmember injuries are a common occurrence onboard cruise ships, that is why it is of the utmost important for victims to seek legal help as soon as they are injured as possible. Cruise ship workers are considered “seamen” or “seafarers,” and, are eligible to file seafarer claims against the cruise line when they are hurt due to the line’s negligence or wrongdoing. Hiring a knowledgeable cruise ship injury lawyer is often their best method for obtaining fair compensation for their injuries but unfortunately more and more these days, crewmembers do not obtain the justice they deserve.
Recently, a crewmember from Canada who was working onboard a Holland America Line cruise ship suffered a career ending injury, but was denied the right to a jury trial.
According to Courthouse News Service, Anthony Yuzwa ( the crewmember in question) was working on the vessel Oosterdam as a dancer, when he suffered a career-ending injury. For the victim, Mr. Yuzwa, dancing was his life and chosen career. After graduating from the Canadian College of Performing Arts he went on to work for the Burlington School of Dance. He even appeared on television in Canada prior to starting working on the Oosterdam earlier this year. Mr. Yuzwa was injured after a stage lift collapsed and crushed his right foot. His injuries were so severe that they resulted in the amputation of two of his toes and areas of others. Thereby ending his dancing career as he had envisioned it.
Devastated, Mr. Yuzwa filed suit against Holland America, as well as a company that hired him to work onboard the vessel. Although Mr. Yuzwa is Canadian national, under the General Maritime Law of the U.S. and the Jones Act, injured crewmembers can bring legal disputes before U.S. juries in spite of their place of citizenship so long as the line they are suing subject to the jurisdiction of the U.S. Courts. However, the cruise lines traditionally have done everything they can to try and deny injured crewmembers the compensation they deserve for their pain and suffering, and recently since around 2005, they have been modifying the terms of their workers’ employment contracts, and through the use of bogus unions and highly questionable collective bargaining agreements are requiring workers to submit their claims to “arbitration,” a process that eliminates the crewmember’s right to a trial by jury, rather than permit them to file their claims in Courts.
Cruise lines are pushing for arbitration instead of a jury trial for two reasons. First, the chances of victims obtaining a large compensation award are significantly lower with arbitration. Second, arbitration limits the crewmember’s ability to investigate the wrongdoing of the cruise line.
The defendants in Mr. Yuzwa’s lawsuit have tried to get it dismissed and are urging Mr. Yuzwa to arbitrate his case in Canada or in Los Angeles instead, but neither of these options allows for a jury trial.
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