Earlier this week, on August 13, 2018 at roughly 12:50PM PST, a 76-year old female passenger traveling aboard Grand Princess — a luxury ocean liner operated by Princess Cruises — was medevaced by Coast Guard aircrew to the Bay Area Hospital in Coos Bay, Oregon for treatment. According to reports, the passenger was suffering from symptoms of kidney failure earlier that morning, and at 10:30AM, Grand Princess crew members notified Coast Guard watchstanders in North Bend of the need for a medevac.
Though the present condition of the passenger is currently unknown, we are encouraged by the medevac response orchestrated by Coast Guard emergency personnel. At the time of the hoisting, Grand Princess was located 50 miles southwest of Coos Bay — a significant distance away from the Coast Guard watchstanders in North Bend. Based on the timeline for the medevac, it appears that Coast Guard aircrew were immediately dispatched following the request.
It is not clear, however, whether Coast Guard watchstanders notified by crew members as soon as the medical emergency surfaced. When there is an organ failure or other severe medical emergency, any delay — even up to an hour — can spell the difference between a healthy recovery, injury, or even death. If the crew delayed in notifying Coast Guard watchstanders of the need for a medevac, then the passenger and their loved ones would very likely have an actionable claim against the cruise line for damages.
Crew Members and Rescuers Must Coordinate to Ensure a Swift and Safe Medevac Rescue
Cruise lines are not expected to maintain high-level, comprehensive health facilities aboard the vessel. As such, when medical emergencies occur that are beyond the treatment capabilities of cruise ship medical staff, a swift and safe medevac must be coordinated with Coast Guard authorities.
Still, a lack of healthcare tools aboard the vessel — such as basic diagnostic equipment — may exacerbate the problem. Cruise ship medical staff should be given the tools and tests necessary to quickly evaluate the condition of the passenger and make an informed medevac request. Without such equipment, there may be significant delays as Coast Guard medical personnel and cruise ship medical personnel attempt to remotely evaluate the passenger’s condition and the nature of the emergency.
Once it is clear that a medevac is necessary — as in the present case — Coast Guard authorities must be notified as soon as possible to ensure that the rescue is executed in a timely manner.
We Can Help
If you have experienced a medical emergency aboard a cruise ship and the cruise line failed to execute a timely medevac — thus exposing you to further injury — you may have a right of action against the cruise line for damages. As a general rule, cruise lines see the emergency response as a frustrating necessity, and as such, they tend to aggressively defend against lawsuits that purport to attach liability for their failures in that regard. You’ll benefit greatly from working with maritime lawyers who have an extensive and consistent history of success in navigating such disputes.
Here at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A., our team of attorneys has over a century of combined experience advocating on behalf of injured cruise ship passengers in claims brought against cruise lines and ferry operators. Though we handle a range of disputes, our primary focus is on maritime and admiralty disputes brought against vessel operators — we are therefore well-positioned to handle the complexities typical of maritime disputes, including those that involve medical emergencies and coordinated medevac rescues.
If you’d like to speak to an attorney for an evaluation of your claims and further guidance on how to proceed, we encourage you to contact us today to schedule a consultation. We look forward to assisting you.