What you say in a maritime lawsuit is important. Nay, what you say anytime is important. Words are your primary tool for conveying your emotions, positions and beliefs. Yea, I know body language (including the cocked arm) can convey things pretty well too, but words are the primary power plant. A recent decision out of Florida in a cruise ship case sort of speaks to the importance of words.
A woman sues a cruise line claiming she was injured in a slip and fall. The defendants (not unexpectedly) want her to be examined by their own medical expert to understand the extent, nature and potentially the cause of her alleged injuries. These types of exams can be sort of contentious with a big issue being what the plaintiff (the person bringing the claim) told the examining doctor. Me? I always try to attend such exams with my client to make sure things stay on the rails. Sometimes a court reporter or videographer may attend such exams and that's what was in play in this decision. The woman asked the court to allow her attorney and a videographer to attend the medical exam.
Ultimately, the court denied the request in large part, but did allow the woman to make an audio recording of the oral medical history portion of the exam and allowed her spouse to attend. Still, what I liked about the decision is that the court calls it a “compulsory medical exam” and refuses to accept the notion that an exam conducted by a defense-selected and -paid doctor is anything but “independent,” as they are often referred to by defendants. These exams, the court concludes, are adversarial in nature.
In the maritime litigation setting, words can sink the best claim. You must take care to respect what you say, always be accurate, and, as Mark Twain lamented, make note that actions may speak louder than words, but not nearly as often!
Underway and making way.
By John Fulweiler