PHOENIX--(BUSINESS WIRE)--For months International Cruise Victims Association (ICV) has worked with several members of Congress, including Representatives Doris Matsui (D-CA), Ted Poe (R-TX) and Jim Himes (D-CT) in the House, and Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Edward Markey (D-MA) to initiate legislation that would correct a major injustice in the pursuit of fair and just compensation in the event of a wrongful death at sea. That work has resulted in what is now known as the Cruise Passenger Protection Act (CPPA).
“I’m sorry, but your loved one’s life was worthless, economically speaking.”
Just imagine hearing those words while you are grieving the loss of your spouse, parent or child. Countless people actually have. Many have suffered what professional mental health experts refer to as “secondary victimization” when their retired or minor aged loved one dies while on a cruise ship vacation. Why? Because of an antiquated, obsolete 1920 law known as the Death on the High Seas Act or DOHSA. This act, which was originally intended to be a sword for any claimant whose seafaring relative died due to a wrongful act, negligence or default on the high seas, has actually become a shield for the modern cruise line industry, according to Jamie Barnett of International Cruise Victims Association..
In 1996, TWA Flight 800 crashed into the Atlantic Ocean, killing all on board, including 16 children from Pennsylvania. Because the plane went down approximately nine miles offshore of New York, DOHSA was applied, thus rendering the lives of 16 teenaged victims nearly worthless from a legal standpoint.
Bereft and outraged, the determined family members of those victims rightfully sought to change that outcome, and with the help of Congressional representatives from Pennsylvania DOHSA §30307 was introduced. This remedy retroactively allowed compensatory noneconomic damages for “commercial aviation accidents” only. Unfortunately, the injustice of DOHSA’s original noneconomic damage prohibition was left intact for all maritime fatalities, due to intense lobbying by shipping interests, according to Ken Carver of International Cruise Victims Association.
What does this mean for Americans? If you or someone in your family flies from Miami to London on an airplane and it should crash, legal action for compensatory noneconomic damages can be taken should the person die. However, Carver explains that if the same person takes a cruise ship from Miami to London and dies because of poor medical care or other acts of negligence, no such compensatory action can be taken.
The DOHSA portion of this legislation would establish requirements for the cruise industry in line with those of commercial airlines. This much needed and long overdue remedy would ensure that families of cruise ship victims are able to pursue fair compensation after a death on the high seas in the same way families of airline disasters can.