We just settled a case we filed on behalf of a Jamaican crewmember who sustained a wrist injury while working as a cleaner aboard a Royal Caribbean cruise ship. She is now able to support her two boys back in Ocho Rios (photo left).
Her job responsibilities involved cleaning every single public lady bathroom on the cruise ship (around 30). Mopping the floors, scrubbing the toilets, wiping the stalls and mirrors, every day of the week - Saturdays and Sundays included of course. In addition, every embarkation day she was required to deliver hundreds of bags luggage from the elevators to the passengers' cabins.
She developed a painful and debilitating wrist injury. She went to the ship doctor who gave her Ibuprofen and a sling to wear. She then returned to full time duty wearing a sling. I don't know how a one armed cleaner can possibly clean 30 bathrooms every day of the week and then carry hundreds of pieces of luggage on top of that. Her salary was around $550 a month.
Royal Caribbean eventually sent her back to Jamaica. Two general surgeons ended up operating on her wrist. What they did exactly no one knows because neither one of these doctors prepared an operative report. There are no hand specialists anywhere in Jamaica. The crewmember's pain, numbness, swelling and limited motion did not improve. Shortly after the second surgery and without ever providing physical therapy, the cruise line terminated her medical treatment and stopped paying the $12 a day daily stipend.
After she called and explained her predicament, we filed suit, arranged for her to obtain a tourist visa, and then flew her to Miami for treatment with a U.S. board certified hand specialist. After around $60,000 of medical care we forced the cruise line to pay, her symptoms finally resolved. We can't mention the amount of her settlement because the cruise line requires a confidentiality agreement regarding the settlement figure, but we can state that she was happy and, most importantly, pain free when she went home.
Cleaners, waiters, and cabin attendants work insane hours on Royal Caribbean ships. Working 12 hours a day minimum and up to 16 hours on embarkation day, they are instructed not to report more than 10 to 11 hours of work on their times sheets.
The human body is not designed to perform hard manual labor over 330 hours a month.
Repetitive injuries to waiters who carry trays weighing 50 pounds or more are common. Neck injuries, disc herniations in the low back, and rotator cuff injuries in the shoulder are common. Then the cruise line sends these hard working employees to the four corners of the earth to receive bad medical care.
The photo to the right is of another Jamaican client who sustained a severe wrist injury working as a cleaner on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship. My partner, Lisa O'Neill, is shown discussing her injury in a hotel here in Miami. My partner does not like to be mentioned on this blog, but she is the backbone of the team which we have who cares for injured crewmembers. A substantial part of our law practice is flying injured Royal Caribbean crewmembers back to Miami for medical treatment which the cruise line refuses to provide.
Photo credits: Jim Walker