The worst thing imaginable happens.  Someone is on the cruise of a lifetime.  They book shore excursions.  One of the shore excursions they die.

The first think Holland America is going to do is claim it isn’t responsible.  It will point to the fine print.  But we’re on to that game and so is the federal court in Seattle.

Terrible news about a plane crash during a Holland America shore excursion:

The DeHavilland DHC-3T Otter, a floatplane, crashed in steep, mountainous terrain about 25 miles northeast of Ketchikan on Thursday.

The plane was on a shore excursion from a cruise ship, sold through Holland America Line. A private helicopter pilot reported seeing the plane’s wreckage against a granite rock face, 800 feet above Ella Lake.

Authorities haven’t determined what caused the crash.  But the FAA will conduct a thorough investigation.

It’s unlikely that the pilot or the pilot’s company carried enough insurance to compensate the families of the victims.  It will be necessary to hold Holland America responsible.

So what’s the next thing Holland America is going to do?  It’s going to try to implicate a rough and primitive statute meant to apply to Deaths on the High Seas (DOHSA).

But the passenger wasn’t injured on the “high seas”.  The passenger was killed while on a shore excursion.  A SHORE excursion.

That doesn’t matter to Holland America.  It will to convince the court that DOHSA applies.  (This is a “Hail Mary” pass.  Teams don’t throw Hail Mary’s when they’re ahead.)

Here’s why the families of the victims should not recover less than you deserve because of DOHSA:

In Fojtasek v. NCL the cruise line sought to limit its liability under DOHSA.  The action arose out of the death of plaintiff’s spouse during a zip-line excursion, which was sold to her on-board the Defendant’s vessel, in Honduras.  The court held that DOHSA did not apply.  It explained:

[A] cause of action under DOHSA accrues at the time and place where an allegedly wrongful act or omission was consummated in an actual injury, not at the point w[h]ere previous or subsequent negligence allegedly occurred.” Here, the cause of action accrued on land at the time that the decedent fell from the zip-line. Thus, because that injury did not occur on the high seas, DOHSA does not apply.

In Balachander v. NCL (Bahamas) Ltd., 800 F.Supp.2d 1196 (2011), a passenger’s widow brought wrongful death action against cruise ship operator and cruise ship physician, seeking to recover damages for passenger’s death from complications from submersion in water which occurred at resort.  If the injury that caused death occurred on shore there’s no question that the recovery isn’t limited by DOHSA.

Deciding who to hire for these cases is an important decision.  Expertise and experience are two of the important factors.  Our firm has handled approximately 50 cases against Holland America including the most recent and probably most significant shore excursion case against it (Perry v. Holland America).  We have also handled wrongful death cases arising from airplane accidents.

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