David Lee Fitzgerald, Carnival Liberty Passenger Cruise Ship Illness Malpractice Lawsuit

David Lee Fitzgerald, 76, – Cruise Ship Illness, Carnival Liberty Passenger, November 10, 2010, Time of Death 2:00.

Time of Cruise Ship Death

The cruise industry racks up another Norovirus death and at the same time another doctor malpractice lawsuit in one of the latest cases of cruising gone wrong.

Widow Martha M. Fitzgerald has filed suit with the help of her attorneys, Krupnick, Campbell, Malone, Buser, Slama, Hancock, Liberman & McKee, against Carnival Cruise Lines for the wrongful death of her husband David Lee Fitzgerald, 76, from Florida on November 10, 2006 aboard Carnival Cruise Lines’ Carnival Liberty. The suit, alleging negligence and wrongful death, seeks unspecified damages.

Fitzgerald contracted Norovirus onboard the Carnival Liberty along with 535 other passengers and 143 crew members while on a transatlantic cruise from Italy to the U.S.

The percentage of passengers affected on this cruise was a whopping 19.12% of the 2,804 passengers onboard.

Normal percentage for a reportable event would be in the 3% to 6% range. Events are only reportable at 3% or higher, so the real numbers of infections are not known. This also means a ship can sail with Norovirus infections for numerous cruises before the numbers become sufficient to report to the U.S. Centers For Disease Control And Prevention (CDC).

The suit alleges negligence saying that David ate contaminated food while onboard Liberty, contracted Norovirus, and was not given proper medical care by the ship’s doctor, which resulted in his death.

After arriving home, The Broward Medical Examiner’s Office performed an autopsy and determined that the death was caused by atherosclerotic and hypertensive cardiovascular disease, listing viral gastroenteritis as a contributing cause.

Carnival Cruise Lines dismissed the death after the Norovirus infection onboard their vessel as not their issue, saying that the man “serious pre-existing medical conditions” before he got Norovirus.

The cruise set sail from Rome Nov. 3. There, David Fitzgerald and his wife Martha met up with David Fitzgerald’s brother, Fred, and Fred’s wife, Bonnie, from Arizona. Martha Fitzgerald said she became ill on the first day of travel and had to be quarantined for 24 hours. Then her husband got it on Nov. 7.” Mrs. Fitzgerald said her husband was vomiting and had diarrhea. He reported to the infirmary and was given antibiotics and medication and quarantined for 24 hours. He returned to good health and was cleared by the medical staff, she said. But later in the day on Nov. 8, the vomiting and diarrhea started again, Mrs. Fitzgerald said.

Her husband was admitted to the infirmary again, given another shot and released again, she said. But about 11 p.m. on Nov. 9, she said the vomiting started again and he was admitted to the infirmary for a third time. Blood work was done and he was given an IV. She said he was dehydrated and weak. Because they were nearing Portugal, Mrs. Fitzgerald said she was told her husband was going to be taken to a hospital and stabilized and then flown back to the United States once the ship docked.

“About 2 a.m., they came and told me that he didn’t make it,” Mrs. Fitzgerald said. “They asked me if I wanted to go see his body. Of course I did.” Mrs. Fitzgerald and Fred and Bonnie Fitzgerald were flown back to Tampa by Carnival. David Fitzgerald’s body remained on the ship until it docked Sunday.

“He died in international waters and the medical examiner from Portugal said it could be weeks, maybe months before I could get his body so it was best that he stay on the cruise until Nov. 19,” Mrs. Fitzgerald said.

Norovirus normally spreads through the process of having hands come into contact with feces, vomit or food that has been contaminated with feces or vomit through improper cleaning of hands. Because of that it is very common in institutions where diapers are used such as preschools and nursing homes.

However, in recent years, due to the unsanitary hygiene practices of food handlers it has become a problem in restaurants and hotels, but most notably cruise ships. This is where the popular name ‘cruise ship virus’ originated.

It was only a few months ago, I was leaving a restaurant we had dined at and stopped to make an adjustment in their restroom. I could hear someone in the restroom, clearly finishing a bowel movement, then a flush right before she exited the stall, and bolted out of the restroom without washing her hands. She was a cook in uniform who immediately walked back into the kitchen with those germs (and heaven knows what else) on her hands. I have not been back to that establishment since.

The cruise industry almost always points the finger of origin at passengers bringing the virus onboard, while there is much evidence to show that crew contracted the virus and spread it while preparing food. The virus then spread from passenger to passenger, first within a cabin, then within their traveling companions, and onto other passengers and crew.

The most serious negligence by the cruise industry is not notifying passengers for the next cruise that there was a Norovirus epidemic onboard the prior cruise, and allowing them to cancel without penalty to get a full refund.

Passengers’ complaints have been loud and clear in recent years that they were not notified that a prior cruise or several prior consecutive cruises had Norovirus cases before they too embarked on the plagued ship.

Where the Norovirus is present from past cruises, this is 100% the fault of the crew and their employer for having not sanitized the vessel properly before the next passengers boarded.

Most often, passengers disembark in the morning and new passengers are boarded before supper that afternoon. The cruise lines care more about rushing to board more passengers eager to dump revenue into their pockets, than staying in port long enough to fully sanitize the vessel before new passengers embark.