Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Portland Cruise Ship Illness

Reported on the front page in today's Oregonian (Apr. 4, 2007):

Vacationers on a four-night river cruise departed Portland on March 21. After getting underway, they learned that there had been an outbreak of gastrointestinal illness on the prior cruise. On the March 16 cruise, 33 people fell ill. An unknown number fell ill on the March 21 cruise.

The ship, The Empress of the North, reportedly has not passed various health inspections. Yet no one breathed a word until the ship got underway.

The article relates that company officials are discussing refunds. But that hardly seems sufficient to cover the harms and losses suffered by sick passengers. Buried in the article is this nugget: federal law does not require cruise ship operators to inform passengers of prior disease outbreaks. As with so many safety issues, consumers place blind reliance in sellers. I imagine that almost all consumers who go on cruises would expect to be informed about problems before departing.

If consumers can't count on government inspections and company disclosures, what is left? About all that remains is the civil justice system. Paying sickened travelers for their harms and losses is a lot less desirable than avoiding injury in the first place. But if no one else will take care of these folks, it's ultimately left to our civil justice system.

David F. Sugerman
Paul & Sugerman, PC

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