Passenger Injured On A Holland America Cruise Ship Is Awarded $21.5 Million In Damages!

 In Maritime Law

Like most cruise lines, Holland America has restrictions on their passenger tickets that dictate where a lawsuit must be filed against them.  Holland America’s ticket says that any lawsuit against them must be filed in Federal Court in Seattle.  Princess Cruise’s ticket says that lawsuits must be filed in Federal Court in Los Angeles.  Norwegian Cruise Lines, Carnival Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean (and all their subsidiaries) all dictate that lawsuits must be brought in Federal Court in Miami.  All these cruise lines also have a clause on their passenger tickets that say the lawsuit must be brought within one year and that a notice of claim must be sent within three and six months after the injury. 

The plaintiff in this lawsuit received $5 million in compensatory damages.  Compensatory damages include fair and adequate compensation for economic damages, such as medical expenses and lost earnings.  Compensatory damages also include noneconomic damages such as pain and suffering and emotional distress.  The $5 million award also includes compensation for impaired future earning capacity.  The large punitive damages award of $16.5 million was given because the jury found that Holland America’s conduct was wanton, willful, reckless and malicious.  The purpose of punitive damages is to reform or deter both the defendant and others from these types of wrongs in the future. 

While some see the huge $16.5 million punitive damages award as excessive (especially Holland America), I am not surprised.  The cruise industry has a reputation for putting aesthetics and profits over passenger safety.  In this instance, Holland America purposefully had the sliding doors on an unsafe sensor setting so that they could cut down on their air conditioning bill.  The sensors in the doors were set to close very quickly and numerous passengers had been injured by the doors previously.  Holland America knew this and chose to put profits over safety.  The attorneys for the Illinois man proved that as many as thirty-four other instances of injures from these doors existed throughout the previous three years.  In two of these instances the passengers broke their hips and in one the passenger suffered a back injury.  Experts were called at trial and testified that there is no reason a sliding door should ever hit someone and that it should be a “never event.”  The experts went onto say that the motion sensors were set at a level that was against the manufacturer’s recommendation.

The same is true with the other lines as well.  For example, Norwegian Cruise Line has intimate knowledge that the decks on their vessels become slippery when foreign substances are spilled.  I personally know of at least twenty incidents where passengers have sued Norwegian Cruise Lines due to an injury they sustained because someone spilled something on a deck.  The materials that the decks are made from are not anti-slip and are chosen for aesthetics over safety.  In fact, Norwegian has even implemented a non-skid shoe program for its crew members in response to the known slipping hazard of these decks.  Again, this is an example of the cruise lines choosing profits and aesthetics over passenger safety. 

A very common defense that the cruise industry almost always plays is “blame the plaintiff.”  In almost every slip and fall, the cruise line will say that the spill was an open and obvious danger and that the plaintiff is at fault for not noticing it.  However, with thorough discovery, an attorney is able to find out a history of similar incidents that proves the cruise line either knew, or should have known, that their choice of decking material makes these incidents more likely to happen.  In the Holland America case, this is exactly what happened.  Holland America blamed the injured Illinois man for his injuries by saying he walked into the door.  Obviously, this did not sit right with the jury. 

Suing a cruise line is always an uphill battle.  That is especially true if you live in another state from the one in which you are forced to sue.  Out of state plaintiffs are forced to attend a CME in Florida.  A CME is a compulsory medical examination done by a doctor chosen by the cruise line to opine that the plaintiff is not hurt or that their injuries were all preexisting.  The out of state plaintiff will also have to travel to Florida to attend a deposition as well as a mediation before their case can get into court. 

The attorneys at the LaBovick Law Group have a specific team dedicated to maritime personal injury claims.  We have extensive knowledge and skills specific to maritime claims that most firms lack.  We take cases from injured passengers and crew from all around the country against defendant cruise lines such as Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian.    Be aware, even if you are injured in another part of the country or you live in another state, if your case is against Carnival, Royal Caribbean or Norwegian, the case must be brought in Miami by a licensed Florida attorney.  Also be aware that there is a very short (one year) statute of limitations on cruise injury cases that will bar you from recovery if not filed in time.  If you have been injured on a cruise, call today for a free consultation. 

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