On Monday, November 26 at roughly 3:50PM EST, an officer aboard Norwegian Escape — a luxury cruise ship owned and operated by Norwegian Cruise Line — contacted US Coast Guard authorities and requested an immediate medevac of two injured crewmen. The two young crew members had suffered severe, second-degree burns due to an engine room fire. At the time, Norwegian Escape was located around 24 miles off the North Carolina coast, southeast of Atlantic Beach.
Coast Guard authorities reacted quickly, sending a Jayhawk MH-60 helicopter from their Elizabeth City station. The two injured crew members were hoisted (with a shipboard doctor in tow) and brought to Rocky Mount-Wilson Regional Airport, where they were subsequently transported to an unnamed local hospital. According to media and Coast Guard reports, both men suffered burns to over 50 percent of their bodies. Such extensive burns are almost certain to cause functional and interpersonal impairments.
It’s difficult to imagine the pain and suffering that these two young crew members were exposed to – and what’s to come. Perhaps the only saving grace of this incident is that the engine room fire was contained to some extent, and did not spread throughout the ship, where it might have caused additional harm.
Given the circumstances, the two injured crew members have actionable maritime injury claims against Norwegian Cruise Lines for damages pursuant to the Jones Act and Unseaworthiness.
Equipment Must Be Maintained in a Reasonably Safe Condition
Vessel operators — including cruise lines — must maintain equipment in safe condition so as not to expose crew members (and others) to an unreasonable risk of harm.
In the present case, it is not yet clear what caused the engine room fire. Norwegian Cruise Line could be held liable under a variety of theories, however.
For example, if one of the other crew members was inadequately trained or otherwise incompetent, and negligently caused the fire in the engine room, then the injured plaintiffs could sue the cruise line for failing to hire, train, or supervise competent personnel.
Alternatively, if equipment in the engine room was defective (thus causing the fire), then the injured plaintiffs could sue the cruise line for failing to adequately inspect such equipment, correct defects, or warn of dangerous conditions.
The Jones Act is a United States federal law that gives seamen a right of action against their employer for negligence — which would be rather simple to establish here. Seamen may bring an action against their employer for a range of personal injury damages, such as pain and suffering, lost wages, medical expenses, mental anguish, disability, disfigurement, loss of enjoyment of life, loss of companionship, and more.
The two injured crew members qualify as Jones Act seaman, despite the fact that they are Filipino nationals. The engine room accident occurred just 24 miles off the coast of North Carolina, and it appears that Norwegian Escape was traveling between Cape Canaveral to New York. Further, the two crew members were full-time employees aboard the ship. Jones Act coverage extends to their injuries.
We Provide Comprehensive Legal Assistance
Crew members working aboard a cruise ship — or any other vessel — are entitled to a reasonably safe working environment. If you or a loved one has been seriously harmed due to the negligence, recklessness, or intentional misconduct of the vessel operator, then you may have a cause of action for damages.
Here at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A., our attorneys have over a century of combined experience handling maritime injury claims on behalf of passengers and crew members alike, including those that involve cruise ship equipment defects and engine room fires. Our commitment to providing truly comprehensive, client-oriented advocacy has brought us significant success over the years. We have litigated thousands of cases since our founding, and have secured over $200 million in favorable verdicts and settlements for our clients.
Contact Lipcon today to arrange a meeting with one of our experienced maritime lawyers. We look forward to assisting you with your claims.