Legal proceedings begin over Casey Schulman's death

David Schulman files suit for negligence against Semester at Sea, Anchorage Hotel


The father of Casey Schulman, a University student who died during a boating accident in Dominica while on a Semester at Sea trip last fall, has filed a lawsuit against the Institute for Shipboard Education/Semester at Sea, as well as the hotel and the travel agencies through which the chartered snorkeling expedition Schulman was on was organized, charging them with counts of negligence and strict liability.

In Semester at Sea’s 50-year program history, 13 students have died. The University of Pittsburgh, academic sponsor of the Semester at Sea program for 25 years, chose to end the partnership in 2006 due to safety concerns. Three students have died since the University became the program’s academic sponsor in 2006: University of Wisconsin-Madison student Kurt Leswing in 2008, University of California Santa Barbara student Andre Ramadan in 2010, and Schulman in 2012.

“As with any study abroad or home campus, incidents do occur, but given our focus on health and safety we have had an excellent safety record over the past 50 years,” Semester at Sea spokesperson Lauren Judge said in an email. “Safety is and has always been the top priority of Semester at Sea. We will continue to make safety our top priority and regularly revisit, adapt, and improve our safety protocols for every voyage.”

“At this time, Semester at Sea has not been served in a lawsuit from the Schulman family,” Judge said.

Robert Parks, counsel for the plaintiff, confirmed that the lawsuit has been filed. He was not able to make additional comments due to a pending action in Dominica by the government against the captain in the Schulman accident.

Law Prof. Kenneth Abraham said such cases rely on a doctrine called the “assumption of risk.”

“Under [the assumption of risk doctrine] a party agrees, expressly in writing or impliedly under the circumstances, to subject herself or himself to a risk created by another party,” Abraham said in an email. “Whether Ms. Schulman assumed the risk will depend on the documents, if any, that she signed, whether the circumstances gave her notice of the risk or risks in question, and the particular way in which the state or other country whose law applies interprets and applies the doctrine of assumption of risk.”

Anchorage Hotel, Whale Watch & Dive Center of Dominica, the business which owned the catamaran involved in Schulman’s death, said in a press release that the proper protocol was followed.

“We are deeply saddened by the fact this accident occurred notwithstanding that all standard operating and safety procedures were being employed by the Captain and Crew of the Yacht Passion,” the company said, according to Dominica News Online.

According to the United States Coast Guard’s boating safety division, between 200 to 250 injuries and 25 to 35 deaths are reported annually as a result of boat propeller accidents. There have been at least eight reported catamaran propeller accidents similar to Schulman’s since 2004, resulting in eight court cases.

Alpha Phi is hosting their first annual “Thankful 5k” in honor of Schulman on Nov. 16 at 10 a.m. at Nameless Field.

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