We are taking the threat of COVID-19 very seriously. Click here to find out what our firm is doing.

Articles Posted in Coronavirus

royal-caribbean-665682_640-300x181Two Royal Caribbean crew members — one from the Symphony of the Seas and one from the Oasis of the Seas — were “medically evacuated” from their respective ships Monday at Port Everglades, the cruise line confirmed.

Even though Royal Caribbean would not confirm whether the members have been diagnosed with COVID-19, a spokesman for the company said the crew members were evacuated “for observation and treatment of respiratory issues.”

Ellen Kennedy at Port Everglades said: “It’s a Coast Guard mission. Port Everglades is not involved.”

Late Monday the Coast Guard confirmed that Coast Guard Sector Miami watch standers monitored two medical evacuations, one from each of the cruise ships. “The vessels arranged commercial transfer ashore of each patient for further transportation to local area hospitals,” the Coast Guard said.

Both ships were located just outside the port Monday. Royal Caribbean canceled all cruises March 13 because of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

According to the Miami Herald, a crew member on Oasis said Monday that “the ship is coming into port due to a crew member who’s really ill but not the coronavirus.” 

It is known that there are 14 people on board who have tested positive for COVID-19.

Coronavirus & Cruise Ships

Cruise ship lawsuits involve an injury or illness of some kind. When only one person on board falls ill it can be difficult to prove fault with the cruise ship, making it tough to build a winning case. But, when a massive outbreak is involved, it can be much easier to prove that the cruise ship was at fault for the spread.

COVID-19, the novel coronavirus currently classified as a global pandemic, has already caused lots of commotion on several cruise ships, and the virus was only discovered last December. As of now, lawsuits have started emerging against cruise ship companies for their negligence and recklessness in the way they handled the spread of the disease on board.

Falling ill on a cruise ship is already hard enough, but these warning signs could indicate there is a much bigger problem on board: 

  • How many other people on board are sick
  • If any passengers are quarantined
  • If the ship’s hospital is at or over max capacity
  • If the crew issues any health warnings or announcements
  • If the crew members on board start taking extra precautions about spreading an illness 
  • If the ship deviates from its original itinerary in any way

Were you on board a cruise ship that failed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus while you were on board? Our Florida Cruise Ship Injury and Maritime Law Lawyers at Whittel & Melton can help you file your own lawsuit or join a current lawsuit, like those against the owner of the Diamond Princess and the Grand Princess.

Accidents on Cruise Ships are Common 

While the spread of the coronavirus on cruise ships is currently a new and widespread issue, accidents aboard luxury liners are nothing new.  

Other reasons for filing a lawsuit against a cruise ship may include one of the following scenarios: 

  • Food poisoning from food or another illness from unsanitary conditions
  • Legionnaires’ Disease, which is caused by a bacterium which is common in settings like cruise ships
  • Medical malpractice
  • A passenger getting lost at sea or falling overboard 
  • Physical or sexual assault by a crew member or passenger
  • Slip and fall accidents
  • Swimming pool and waterslide injuries

Whittel & Melton Can Help You 

There are six cruise ship terminals throughout the state of Florida that thousands of people travel to and from every year. These include: 

  • PORT OF MIAMI (Miami)
  • PORT EVERGLADES (Fort Lauderdale)
  • PORT CANAVERAL (Orlando)
  • PORT TAMPA BAY (Tampa)
  • JAXPORT (Jacksonville)
  • PORT OF PALM BEACH (Palm Beach)

Cruise lines with ports in Florida include:

  • Carnival Cruise Line
  • Celebrity Cruises
  • Norwegian Cruise Line
  • Royal Caribbean International
  • Disney Cruise Line
  • Hapag-LLoyd Cruises
  • MSC Cruises
  • Virgin Voyages
  • Seabourn Cruise Line
  • Oceania Cruises
  • Azamara Club Cruise 
  • AIDA Cruises
  • Crystal Cruises
  • P&O Cruises 
  • Regent Seven Seas
  • Balearia Caribbean
  • Costa Cruises
  • Cunard
  • Holland America Line
  • Princess Cruises
  • Ritz Carlton Yacht Collection
  • Silversea Cruises

If you have suffered an injury or illness, including the coronavirus, while aboard one of these or any other cruise lines cruise ship, contact our Florida Cruise Ship Injury and Maritime Law Attorneys at Whittel & Melton as soon as possible. Cruise ship cases generally have a short and strict statute of limitations.

Continue reading

truck-1499377_640-150x150The federal administration that oversees regulations for America’s six million professional drivers has temporarily suspended a trucking safety law that’s been in place since 1938

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration said Friday evening that truck drivers who are moving goods “in support of emergency relief efforts related to the COVID-19 outbreaks” will temporarily not have to follow the hours-of-service laws, which mandate how many hours a truck driver may work. 

This is the first time since 1938, when the rule was developed, that it’s been suspended on a national level. It’s common for states and local governments to lift the rule amid natural disasters, when consumers “panic buy” household goods and hospitals need medical supplies. 

“Waivers of this type are a common response by FMCSA to natural disasters and crises because trucks delivering food, fuel and medicine are a critical part of the response,” America Trucking Associations spokesperson Sean McNally said in a statement to Business Insider. “This waiver will help keep loads of medicine, supplies and food moving as the country manages this current pandemic.”

Around 70% of the nation’s goods by weight is moved by a truck — so ensuring that they can get to your local grocery store or hospital ramps up in times of crisis. 

In its current edition, HOS requires truck drivers to drive only 11 hours within a 14-hour work period. They must then log 10 hours of “off-duty” time. The safety law, which is aimed at eliminating exhausted truck drivers from the nation’s highways so they do not endanger others, is disliked by many drivers. Some say the strict regulations actually disrupt their sleep schedule and make them more likely to drive tired. 

According to the FMCSA’s Friday evening emergency declaration, here are the types of loads that are exempt from HOS laws:

  1. Medical supplies and equipment related to the testing, diagnosis, and treatment of COVID-19
  2. Supplies and equipment necessary for community safety, sanitation, and prevention of community transmission of COVID-19 such as masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, soap, and disinfectants
  3. Food for emergency restocking of stores
  4. Equipment, supplies, and persons necessary to establish and manage temporary housing, quarantine, and isolation facilities related to COVID-19
  5. Persons designated by Federal, State or local authorities for medical, isolation, or quarantine purposes
  6. Persons necessary to provide other medical or emergency services, the supply of which may be affected by the COVID-19 response

The coronavirus outbreak, which has been ruled by the World Health Organization as a global pandemic, has seen “panic buying” envelop the nation. 

Shipments to grocery and discount retailers increased by 25% last week, according to freight data visibility company Project44. On March 14, a Saturday, that boost was 60%. 

Across the country, US sales of hand sanitizer jumped by 228% during the four weeks ending on March 7, compared to the same period last year, according to the most-recently available dataset from retail sales tracker Nielsen.

During January and February, Adobe Analytics, which tracks 80 top online retailers in the US, said sales of cold, cough, and flu products popped 198%, toilet paper grew 186%, canned foods jumped 69%, and “virus protection” items like gloves and masks jumped 817%.  

Recent studies show just how damaging coronavirus can be. About 0.1% of people who get the seasonal flu die, but the coronavirus’ death rate is now at about 3.4%. Even those who recover from coronavirus may have 20% to 30% less lung capacity, causing survivors to gasp for breath while walking, doctors in Hong Kong have found. 

While there is a demand around the country for supplies ranging from pasta to toilet paper, drastic measures have been necessary. While HOS has lifted regulations, saying putting more trucks on the road and for longer should help, there is a downside to all of this—the very real potential for more truck accidents.

Some of the most deadly motor vehicle accidents involve semi trucks and tractor trailers. The sheer size and weight of these trucks are no match for smaller vehicles such as cars and motorcycles. An accident with a big rig can easily lead to catastrophic injuries and even death

There are two main factors, aside from weight and height, that are likely to cause deadly truck accidents:

 

  • Truck drivers being fatigued and driving for too long, which decreases their focus. 
  • Improper loading, which can create an imbalance that can cause the truck to tip over.

 

Encouraging truck drivers to ignore how long they are driving as well as lifting weight restriction on these vehicles could truly be a recipe for disaster. Governments are creating dangerous conditions that could result in a surge of truck accidents. 

Our Tampa Bay Truck Accident Attorneys at Whittel & Melton know the stress that is on many Americans during this difficult time. If you must be on the road, we urge you to exercise more caution than usual, especially around large trucks. Should you or a loved one get into an accident with a semi truck during this time, you can rest easy that we are working around the clock to help all injury and wrongful death victims. Our offices remain open.

Continue reading

cruise-1578528_640-150x150As countries are sealing off their borders to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus, cruise ships have been left stranded in the Caribbean, South America and Europe, with local governments denying permission to disembark as more cases of infected passengers have come to light.

Some ships have been denied port, leaving them to anchor off the coast of a country. Other cruises have docked with quarantined passengers aboard.

Three cruise ships have confirmed cases of coronavirus on board: the MS Braemar, Silver Shadow and Silver Explorer.

Here is the status of the cruise ships stranded. 

MS Braemar

Status: In the Bahamas, heading towards Cuba

A cruise ship with confirmed coronavirus cases is headed to Cuba after days of searching for a place to dock after it was refused several ports of entry in the Caribbean.

Five people aboard the MS Braemar tested positive for the virus, according to a statement from British company Fred Olsen Cruise Lines, which owns the Braemar.

22 passengers and another 21 crew members, including a doctor, are in isolation after displaying influenza-like symptoms while traveling on the ship, Fred Olsen Cruise Lines said.

Until Tuesday morning, the Braemar was anchored about 25 miles offshore in the Bahamas, being resupplied with vital food, fuel and medication.

The United Kingdom entered into discussions with authorities in Cuba and the US to find a suitable port for the Braemar, according to British government sources familiar with the efforts.

Cuba said it will receive the ship. Braemar is now en route to the port of Mariel. The captain Jozo Glavic announced on board that all guests will be repatriated back to the UK by air.

The cruise line said those who are infected will have their own plane.

The cruise line is working with the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office to firm up details, and with Public Health England to confirm further requirements once passengers are back in the UK.

Fred Olsen’s UK office has set up a dedicated Braemar Relative Support team, for those anxious about family members on board.

Fred Olsen Cruise Lines said that once all ships currently at sea return home, the “cruise operation will then pause all ocean cruise operations until 23rd May.”

The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office expressed gratitude to the Cuban authorities for their support.

Silver Shadow

Status: Docked in Brazil, passengers in isolation

A Canadian passenger tested positive for coronavirus Saturday on the Silver Shadow, which is docked off the port of Recife in Brazil, according to Brazil’s state news agency Agencia Brasil.

Royal Caribbean confirmed the case on the Silver Shadow on Sunday.

“Two guests aboard the Silver Shadow have been medically disembarked in Recife, Brazil, and one has tested positive for COVID-19,” Royal Caribbean said in a statement.

The ship’s 609 passengers have been in isolation since Thursday when a passenger showed symptoms similar to coronavirus, Agencia Brasil said on Friday.

One of the passengers who disembarked, a 78-year-old man from Canada, had a fever, cough and difficulty breathing. He was sent to a private hospital in the city.

Silver Explorer

Status: Docked in Chile, one passenger tested positive

The Silver Explorer docked in Castro, Chile, on Saturday after a passenger tested positive for coronavirus, Chile’s Health Minister Jaime Manalich said during a press conference in Santiago Saturday.

An 83-year-old British man is in “good condition” and being treated at the Coyhaique Hospital after testing positive, Manalich said. Royal Caribbean, which owns the Silver Explorer, confirmed the coronavirus case on Sunday.

“One guest aboard the Silver Explorer has been medically disembarked in Castro, Chile, also testing positive for the virus,” the statement said.

The cruise ship is carrying 111 passengers and 120 crew members, according to Chilean officials.

Golden Princess

Status: Cleared to set sail for Australia

While no one has tested positive for coronavirus on the Golden Princess anchored off New Zealand, at least three passengers have been quarantined by the ship’s doctor, according to local health officials.

One passenger developed symptoms similar to coronavirus and was being treated as a suspected case, according to the Canterbury District Health Board. Two other passengers had contact with a confirmed case in the past two weeks.

The ship is anchored in Akaroa Harbor near Christchurch so there could be “precautionary health testing” of guests who traveled on an international flight from Los Angeles. The flight had a passenger who later tested positive for coronavirus in Australia. The cruise line said the airline passenger who tested positive has never been on board its ship.

The passenger with respiratory symptoms tested negative for coronavirus. The Golden Princess was cleared to leave and set sail for Australia.

Norwegian Jewel

Status: Stranded in the South Pacific Ocean, no cases reported

The Norwegian Jewel is searching for a port in the Pacific Ocean after being denied permission to dock at two previously scheduled ports, Norwegian Cruise Line said.

The ship is at sea in the South Pacific Ocean off the coast of Suva, Fiji, as of Sunday evening.

The cruise was scheduled to disembark Sunday in Papeete, French Polynesia, but the port was canceled, the company said. Another scheduled port of Lautoka, Fiji, on March 17 was also canceled.

“We are actively working to find an alternative port and are communicating with guests regularly as we have further information,” the cruise line said in a statement.

Norwegian Cruise Line announced suspension of services from March 13 – April 11. “Voyages that are underway will conclude and guests will be disembarked as soon as possible and assisted with travel arrangements,” said the cruise line in a statement

Pacific Princess

Status: At sea in the Indian Ocean, heading to Fremantle, Australia, but docking rights uncertain

Pacific Princess, owned by Princess Cruises, departed in January for its 111 day around the world voyage.

Stopovers at Bali, Singapore and Phuket were canceled, due to fears over coronavirus.

The Pacific Princess was later refused entry by Sri Lanka while en route.

The ship was refused at the Seychelles, and abandoned its subsequent trek to Zanzibar, as more ports started to close.

The ship is currently heading to Fremantle, Australia, due to arrive March 21.

But Australia has closed ports to cruise ships, so this destination remains uncertain.

Costa Luminosa

Status: En route to Marseille

Two guests on board this ship, one German and one Danish, tested positive for coronavirus, according to Costa Cruises.

These passengers were placed in isolation after displaying symptoms, and later disembarked in Puerto Rico on March 8, where they were hospitalized.

“A third guest was also disembarked after being identified through the temperature check that is performed on board according to protocol,” said Costa Cruises in a statement.

The cruise company said it has suspended operations until April 3, and Luminosa is currently heading towards Marseille, France.

Costa Cruises confirmed that a 68-year-old male passenger with a history of cardiac issues contracted coronavirus. He was disembarked in Grand Cayman, the largest of the Cayman Islands, on February 29. The passenger later passed away.

The Cayman Islands government press release dated March 14 states the patient had two cardiac arrests while on board the cruise ship and was resuscitated, before he passed away in intensive care on Grand Cayman.

Families of those on Luminosa have been active on social media, expressing their frustration.

Cruises to Disembark

The Celebrity Eclipse is anchored in San Antonio, Chile. Celebrity Cruises is working with government officials to provide a controlled disembarkation plan to make sure guests have a way to leave the country, a spokesperson said.

The Azamara Pursuit, which is off the coast of Chile, is working on a plan to disembark passengers and get them home safely. The ship left Ushuaia, Argentina, on March 8 carrying 675 passengers and 389 crew members, Chile’s Health Minister Jaime Manalich said Saturday.

P&O Cruises announced suspension of any new cruises until April 11, 2020, with current cruises currently heading back to Southampton, England.

The Balmoral, another Fred Olsen Cruise Line ship, arrived in Southampton on March 18. Fred Olsen’s Boudicca ship is due to arrive in Dover, also in England, on March 19, while the Black Watch is currently cruising to Southampton, due to arrive on March 17.

Continue reading

covid-19-4908692_640-150x150Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order preventing a wide array of people from visiting nursing homes, assisted living facilities and similar sites in Florida in an effort to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus among some of the state’s most vulnerable people.

Anyone who’s traveled internationally, traveled on a cruise ship, is showing symptoms of the coronavirus or has been in contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus is temporarily prohibited from visiting those sites, he said.

The order applies to nursing homes, assisted living facilities, adult family care homes, long-term care facilities and adult group homes across the state.

“These are important efforts to mitigate the risk to our most vulnerable population to COVID-19,” DeSantis said.

The order required facilities to prevent the following groups of people from visiting:

▪ Anyone infected with COVID-19 who hasn’t had two consecutive negative test results cannot visit the facilities.

▪ Anyone showing signs of a respiratory infection cannot visit.

▪ Any person who has or been in close contact with a person infected with COVID-19 who has not tested negative is prohibited from visiting for 14 days.

▪ Any person who has traveled internationally must wait for 14 days from their return to the U.S. before visiting.

▪ Any person who has traveled on a cruise ship must wait 14 days from the date of their return before visiting.

▪ Any person who has been in a community with confirmed “community spread” of the virus must wait 14 days before visiting.

▪ Any person who lives in a community with confirmed community spread is prohibited from visiting.

“No one is exempt from the screening,” Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Mary Mayhew said.

People throughout Florida, the United States, and around the world are concerned about the spread of the coronavirus, which is officially known as COVID-19. This disease originated in China, where over 100,000 people have been infected and thousands more have died. While the U.S. rate of infection has been relatively low in comparison, the main concern is that the disease may continue to spread, causing serious illnesses and deaths.

A large concern with coronavirus is how it affects the senior citizen population, which raises the question of how residents of nursing homes will be able to fight the spread of the coronavirus, especially since the largest outbreak that has occurred in the United States so far has taken place at the Life Care Center nursing home in the Seattle, Washington area. There have been more than 10 deaths at this facility, and the infection has spread to dozens of people in the surrounding community.

Our Florida Nursing Home Injury Attorneys at Whittel & Melton understand the concerns about how coronavirus infections may affect nursing home residents. We are here to help you and your families understand if negligence was a factor when harm is suffered by a loved one. We know the law as it pertains to infections and other forms of nursing home neglect and abuse, and we can work with you to establish liability and help you pursue your legal options. 

The Dangers Of Coronavirus for Nursing Home Residents

It has been determined that COVID-19 is more likely to cause serious harm to the elderly as compared to other age groups. According to researchers who have studied the outbreak of the coronavirus in China, the overall fatality rate for those who are infected is around 2%. But, for those over the age of 70, the fatality rate is around 8%, and it increases to nearly 15% for those over the age of 80. Fatalities are also much more likely for patients who have conditions such as cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory disease, diabetes, hypertension, or cancer.

Nursing Homes Must Act Responsibly to Control the Spread of Coronavirus

All nursing homes and assisted living facilities are required to have plans in place for disease prevention and control, as well as emergency preparedness plans that address how to respond to an outbreak. Staff members are required to follow proper hygiene procedures, which includes thoroughly washing hands and wearing eye protection and facial masks. Commonly-used areas and surfaces should be regularly disinfected. They must also follow the above listed protocols as outlined by the governor’s order. 

Nursing Homes Can Be Liable for Coronavirus Infections

When a nursing home facility fails to follow the proper steps to prevent infections, it may be liable for injuries or wrongful deaths that occurred as a result. If a resident does not receive the proper medical care after contracting an infection, the victim or their family may be able to pursue financial compensation. Claims can also be pursued if the nursing home did not take the proper measures to prevent the spread of infection to visitors to the facility.

Contact Our Florida Nursing Home Coronavirus Infection Lawyers

Continue reading

connection-4884862_640-150x150Across the country from Miami to Seattle, nursing homes and other facilities for the elderly are stockpiling masks and thermometers, preparing for staff shortages and screening visitors to protect a particularly vulnerable population from the coronavirus.

The outbreak began in China where the disease has been substantially deadlier for the elderly. In Italy, the epicenter of the virus outbreak in Europe, the more than 100 people who died were either elderly, sick with other complications, or both.

Of the 19 deaths across the U.S. as of Saturday, at least 14 had been linked to a Seattle-area nursing home, along with many other infections among residents, staff and family members. The Seattle Times reported that a second nursing home and a retirement community in the area had each reported one case of the virus.

That has put other facilities in the U.S. on high alert, especially in states with large populations of older residents, such as Florida and California. About 2.5 million people live in long-term care facilities in the United States.

“For people over the age of 80 … the mortality rate could be as high as 15 percent,” said Mark Parkinson, president of the nursing home trade group American Health Care Association.

The federal government is now focusing all nursing home inspections on infection control, singling out facilities in cities with confirmed cases and those previously cited for not following protocol.

Federal rules already require the homes to have an infection prevention specialist on staff, and many have long had measures in place to deal with seasonal flus and other ailments that pose a higher risk to the elderly.

In Florida, where about 160,000 seniors live in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities, mandatory visitor screening is not in place ‘because we’re not at that stage,’ said Kristen Knapp, a spokeswoman for the Florida Health Care Association.

But elder care centers are posting signs urging visitors to stay away if they have symptoms, and are looking into alternate ways for families to connect, such as through video chats, Knapp said.

Concierges in the 14 Florida nursing homes run by the Palm Gardens corporation are now giving all visitors a short questionnaire asking about symptoms, recent travel and contact with others, said company Vice President Luke Neumann.

Neumann said the nursing homes also have purchased extra thermometers in case they need to check visitors’ temperatures and stockpiled preventive supplies, including medical masks, protective eyewear and gowns. In the laundry rooms, they are making sure to use enough bleach and heat to kill any lingering virus germs, he said.

Many facilities across the country have said they were having trouble getting medical masks and gowns because of shortages.

Facilities are stressing basic precautions, including hand washing and coughing etiquette.

Centers throughout the country are also trying to prepare their staff for the worst.

Late Friday night, the DOH announced two Florida seniors who had traveled abroad have become the state’s first residents to die from the coronavirus plus additional presumptive positive cases in Broward and Lee counties.

Both died following international trips.

The World Health Organization has stopped calling the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak an epidemic, but the disease is causing serious problems all over the world, including Florida. Treating the illness is at the top of everyone’s priority list, but there are still lingering questions that remain to be answered, including those about negligence and liability. Could a nursing home be held liable for virus-related deaths of its patients? The answer may not be that simple.  

What Is Coronavirus? 

Coronaviruses are part of a larger family of viruses that cause illnesses in humans and animals. In rare cases, coronaviruses that infect animals make the jump to humans. This is believed to have been the case with the specific virus responsible for COVID-19. COVID-19 presents as a respiratory illness, and symptoms include coughing, fever, and shortness of breath. For those whose immune systems are compromised, the virus can cause serious problems and can even be deadly. The symptoms are quite similar to those associated with the common cold or the flu, which means that a person might be infected with COVID-19 and not even realize it. This is why these cases can be such a huge problem in nursing homes. 

Can Nursing Homes Be Liable for Coronavirus Deaths? 

A nursing home can be held liable for injuries and deaths to patients if they failed to provide a standard duty of care. This would mean that they did not offer the level of care mandated by local, state, and federal guidelines. In extraordinary situations, as is the case of coronavirus, nursing home facilities are expected to take extra precautions. If they fail to do so, then they very well could be liable for patient injuries or death.

CDC Guidelines

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued guidelines for preventing the spread of the coronavirus in nursing home facilities. To prevent further patients being introduced to the virus, facilities are expected to post signs instructing visitors to stay out if they have symptoms of a respiratory illness. Facilities are also expected to have sick leave policies that allow staff members to stay home if they have similar symptoms.

Furthermore, proper hygiene, such as hand washing and disinfecting procedures, should be used at all times. Residents who are suspected to be infected should be kept away from other residents, and facemasks should be used if they need to leave their rooms for required procedures. Limitations on visitors and outside interactions should also be implemented if and when an infection is suspected.  

Potential Lawsuits

There are certain scenarios where the family of a coronavirus victim could be eligible for compensation from a nursing home. If the facility’s sick leave policy encouraged an infected employee to come to work despite being sick, and a resident was infected as a result, the facility could certainly be held liable. On a side note, the employee that came to work even though they knew they were positively diagnosed with COVID-19 but came to work anyway could also be liable.

A victim’s family can also file a personal injury or wrongful death claim if the nursing home facility failed to take proper steps to quarantine patients who were known or suspected to be infected. Nursing homes must follow the CDC guidelines.

Continue reading

Contact Information