Cruise Ship Worker Awarded Damages of $20.3 Million for Severe Hand Injury

Royal Caribbean International may have to pay $20.3 million to a former employee, who badly injured her hand while working on board a Miami-based cruise line, Voyager of the Seas, which was sailing out of Barcelona, Spain. In August of 2008, Lisa Spearman, a marketing and revenue manager for the cruise ship, severely injured her hand after attempting to help a nurse. While in port, the cruise ship conducted a routine fire safety drill. During this drill, some of the vessel’s semi-water right doors closed and one of the ship’s nurses she tripped and fell when she attempted to open and pass through one of the doors. The plaintiff jumped in to help the nurse, but when the plaintiff placed her hand on the door handle in an attempt to keep the door open, the door swung back and pinned the plaintiff’s hand. The nurse was unharmed, but the plaintiff suffered a broken middle finger, broken index finder, and the nails on both fingers were ripped from the cuticles.

After the injury, Royal Caribbean referred Spearman to a doctor in Barcelona. This doctor misdiagnosed her condition and incorrectly treated her injuries. Spearman participated in physical therapy for two years following the incident, while Royal Caribbean paid her a daily disability payment of $25.00, the amount stipulated in her employee disability insurance coverage. Two years after her injury, Royal Caribbean dismissed Spearman, stating that her injury prevented her from performing necessary safety tasks, such as lifting 50 pounds.

In 2016, Spearman brought suit against Royal Caribbean alleging the company was negligent regarding the door, failed to provide proper medical care, fired her for a non-performance related reason, and breached her employment contract by refusing to pay her full wages. After a three-week jury trial, the jury found Royal Caribbean at fault and ordered the cruise line to pay the plaintiff $20.3 million in damages, lost wages, and future medical expenses. Royal Caribbean will be appealing the decision of the trial court.

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