Unfortunately, cruise ship food poisoning incidents happen pretty frequently. However, these food poisoning cases are not easy to win because of the difficulty in proving which food is contaminated.
Sharing the same common spaces and often even the same serving utensils in buffet lines is an ideal climate to spread germs. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is aware of these facts. That’s why their Vessel Sanitation Program (VSP) requires cruise ships to report the number of passengers and crew who report symptoms of food poisoning. The CDC uses this data to publish the VSP Outbreak Report. They also inspect every cruise ship at least once a year. Yet, annual check-ins and online reports can only do so much.
Common Viruses That Cause Cruise Ship Food Poisoning Outbreaks
In terms of foodborne illnesses on cruise ships, the novovirus is public enemy number one. Norovirus is highly contagious with several unpleasant symptoms such as intense stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and head and body aches. Sickness sets in quickly—often just hours after being exposed, and there is no vaccine against this virus. While most people will get better over time without advanced medical treatment, if you’re exposed while cruising, it’s safe to say your hard-earned vacation will be ruined.
There are a number of other virus strains that trigger foodborne outbreaks on cruise ships that may cause serious health risks, hospitalizations, and fatalities. These include:
Foodborne virus outbreaks on cruise ships occur in several ways. The most common cause is that an infected person contaminates a shared surface. Other viruses are airborne. Some are caused by the failure to properly store, process, handle or serve food—instances in which the cruise ship is liable for your sickness.
This type of outbreak is noteworthy because in order to recover compensation, you will need to prove that the cruise ship was negligent and that negligence caused the food served to you to become contaminated. You’ll also need to prove that the tainted food was the reason you became sick and, as a result of this negligence, you suffered damages.
What to Expect When Pursuing a Cruise Ship Food Poisoning Claim
Regardless of its nature, bringing a claim against a cruise company is always challenging due to the likelihood of encountering issues with jurisdiction, the applicability of maritime law, and general liability. Further, there are time constraints: cases pertaining to cruise lines have a one-year statute of limitations limit under which an injured passenger can pursue a legal claim.
Unfortunately, food poisoning injury claims are even more complicated. To be compensated for your pain and suffering—along with your medical costs, you must prove that your illness was the result of exposure to food or sanitary conditions on the cruise ship. Determining causation is difficult. This often requires a knowledge of many disciplines such as medicine, infectious disease, epidemiology, sanitation, and food safety.
Furthermore, these claims necessitate the need for expert testimony of doctors, and different types of scientists with training in foodborne illness. Your case will most likely hinge on proving there was a breakdown in some critical area of appropriate and acceptable food sanitization practices.
Finally, a victim won’t be able to pursue a food poisoning claim for breach of implied warranty of merchantability as these claims do not exist under admiralty law nor will a cruise line operator be held strictly liable for food poisoning under admiralty law. See Bird V. Celebrity Cruise Line, Inc.
Cruise Ship Defenses
Two of the most common defense strategies a cruise line will use in a foodborne illness case is to claim the outbreak was instigated by other passengers or that your sickness is caused by a dormant stomach virus.
That’s why these cases are among the most difficult to win. However, this should not prevent you from pursuing your legal rights and remedies. To enhance the probability of a successful outcome, you should seek professional help and never pursue a personal injury claim on your own.
If you or a loved one suspect you have been the victim of food poisoning or have suffered an incident involving foodborne illness on a cruise ship, a good idea is to speak with an attorney prior to filing a claim.
You’ll want an experienced cruise ship injury lawyer like Alan Sackrin—a professional who has taken on the cruise lines and won. He will help you understand some of the issues that can arise from your claim, including the type of evidence needed to prove your case and the type and amount of damages you can recover.
Alan offers a free initial consultation, over the phone or in person, to evaluate your claim and answer your questions.