A cruise ship injury resulted in a$21.5 million verdict in favor of plaintiff after jurors in the federal lawsuit determined the cruise line was grossly negligent for failing to fix a faulty door, which was a known problem.
In Hausman v. Holland America Line-USA et al., tried in the Washington Western District Court in Seattle, plaintiff not only produced evidence of his own injury, but of similar injuries suffered by dozens of other passengers before him involving the same type of sliding glass doors that struck him. These other cases occurred across the company’s fleet, with the issue being faulty sensor settings.
Plaintiff alleged he suffered a minor brain injury when he was struck by the door as he exited behind several cruise members. Surveillance video of the incident, which occurred in open water, shows plaintiff approaching the doors and then being struck in the face and side of the head when the doors shut unexpectedly. Defense argued in trial plaintiff walked into the closing doors.
Along with his wife and daughter, plaintiff, a dealer of precious metals and gold, was on a world-wide cruise that left Seattle in September 2011. The group had already been to Russia, China and several other countries in Southeast Asia and the South Pacific when the incident occurred.
He sought treatment from a physician aboard the ship. The doctor initially diagnosed plaintiff with a facial bruise and a chipped tooth. However, the doctor would later update his diagnosis to indicate concussion and post-concussion syndrome. Plaintiff asserted that later neurological testing revealed a minor traumatic brain injury that has resulted in constant vertigo, seizures and memory problems. Although he did continue on with the cruise, his condition did not improve and in fact worsened. He was ultimately forced to sell his business.
At trial, defendant cruise line insisted this incident was an isolated one. However, plaintiff personal injury attorneys initially identified nearly three dozen other incidents involving sliding door-related injuries. The judge, after conducting an in camera review, whittled those down to 16 that were similar to plaintiff’s in nature and that could be used as evidence against defendant. Central to the case was the sensitivity of the door sensors, which are supposed to detect when people are approaching and remain open.
Expert witness testimony from plaintiff witnesses indicated these model doors should “never” close and hit someone, describing such an incident as a “never event.” And yet, it was seen occurring on these ships time and time again. Plaintiffs argued that although defense was aware of these prior injuries – which included two fractured hips and a serious back injury in the course of three years – yet failed to address them because they wanted to save money on air conditioning.
A cruise ship company, just like any other property owner, has a duty to ensure that guests on board do not encounter unreasonable hazards in the course of their stay. When there are dangers that can’t be avoided, property owners have a responsibility to warn patrons about them, especially if they aren’t obvious. Failure to do so opens property owner to potential premises liability.
We expect as we approach automatic doors that they will remain open for us to pass through. A failure to indicate caution was needed in this instance was grounds for both compensatory and $16.5 million in punitive damages.
Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights. Now serving Orlando, West Palm Beach, Port St. Lucie and Fort Lauderdale.
$21.5M verdict follows repeat injuries from Holland America’s ships’ doors, Nov. 10, 2015, By Mike Carter, Seattle Times
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Estate of Gagnon v. Anthony – Comparative Fault in Personal Injury Lawsuits, Nov. 19, 2015, Fort Lauderdale Personal Injury Attorney Blog