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Mike Myers
Mike Myers
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Duty of Care on Board Holland America

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A lot of people go on cruises over the holidays. Many of these people will cruise on Holland America. Holland America is one of the “high end” cruise lines.

Passengers develop the expectation that they deserve more from Holland America. And, quite frankly, they do.

Passenger expectations primarily relate to customer service. But certainly cruise passengers, and particularly those on Holland America should also receive the highest standard of care when it comes to on board and excursion safety.

Many passengers are legally owed the highest standard of care. This applies to passengers on trains, buses, etc. However, the law has evolved in such a way that cruise lines, including Holland America, owe their passengers only an ordinary duty of care.

Duty of care is important because it sets the parameters by which negligence claims are judged. The bar is set much higher for the defendant if the defendant owes the plaintiff the highest duty of care rather than simply an ordinary duty of care.

The majority of claims against Holland America involve falls and food-borne illness. The majority of claims involving falls require a "mechanical" analysis to determine whether the fall could have been prevented had Holland America exercised ordinary care towards the injured passenger. Food-borne illness cases are somewhat more complicated because they involve a two-step process. First, was the illness in fact food-borne (did passenger contract the illness while eating aboard the ship as opposed to on shore) and second could the exercise of ordinary care, insurance of hygiene and food handling process have prevented the passenger’s illness?

Many passengers – no doubt due, in part, to the high fares charged by Holland America – have the expectation that if they get hurt on a Holland America vessel the cruise line will compensate them. This expectation, while perhaps reasonable, does not align with the law. In order to recover for an injury suffered aboard Holland America it is necessary to prove that the cruise line was negligent. This requires the not only an attorney but also the intelligent utilization of experts.

Without an attorney, passengers injured or who become ill while cruising with Holland America are not going to receive an offer from the cruise line that approximates the actual value of their case. In order to maximize value, the injured person needs to retain counsel familiar not only with personal injury law but also with its application to cruise lines and, in particular, Holland America.