Seattle Jury Awards $21,000,000 Verdict Against HAL

Yesterday, a jury in Seattle awarded $21,000,000 to a cruise passenger hit in the head by an automatic glass door on Holland America's MS Amsterdam in 2011.

KIRO Channel 7 reports that the passenger suffered a traumatic brain injury which included debilitating headaches, problems with his balance and fatigue.

His lawyers at the Friedman Rubin Law Firm showed the jury that sliding doors injured 30 others across Holland America's fleet of cruise ships in the three year period before the accident. 

Holland America Line said in a statement that it is "committed to the safety and security" of passengers, and that it will appeal the verdict. 

 

 

Crying Captain Schettino Shows No Remorse: Sentenced to Sixteen Years

After a nineteen month long trial, the three judges presiding over the Costa Concordia trial sentenced Captain Francisco Schettino to sixteen (16) years in jail for manslaughter, causing the disaster and abandoning ship. The sentence was broken down as follows; ten (10) years for multiple counts of manslaughter, five (5) years for causing the shipwreck, and one (1) year for abandoning ship. Schettino was also sentenced to one month for making false communications to maritime authorities after the shipwreck.

During closing arguments, breaking down in tears, Schettino demonstrated little concern for the consequences of his recklessness other than feeling sorry for himself, saying that three years ago "I died along with the 32 others." Schettino's defense lawyer said: "In these three years, Schettino has suffered the same as a 30-year sentence." His legal counsel argued that he was made a scapegoat by Francesco Schettinothe cruise line Carnival-Corporation-owned Costa Cruises.

The prosecutor described Schettino as an "idiot" and a "coward."

Costa paid a relatively small fine of 1.1 million dollars to avoid a criminal trial.

The prosecution sought 26 years in jail for Schettino. The defense requested a maximum of 5 years. The judges essentially split the difference with 16 years. Schettino is entitled to an automatic appeal of the sentence and is likely not to serve time in jail during the appeal.

The stock of Costa's parent company, Carnival Corporation, is up today.

You can read our first article about the disaster here: Passengers Panic As Costa Concordia Cruise Ship Begins to Sink.

The question which I keep asking myself is what does the brother and parents of Costa crew member Russel Rebello think of the verdict

Have a comment?  Please leave on below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

Photo Credit: Reuters

Miami-Dade Jury Hits Royal Caribbean with $6.2 Million Verdict

Today, a jury here in Miami, Florida returned a verdict over $6,200,000 on behalf of a seriously injured crew member.

The crew members is from Haiti and worked as a cleaner on the Jewel of the Seas

He sustained a serious back injury due to the repetitive nature of his work and the long hours which crew members are required to work.

After the crew member sustained injury, Royal Caribbean sent the crew member to Santa Domingo in the Dominican Republic for medical treatment. There a surgeon performed a back fusion. The Brett Rivkindcrew member's lawyer alleged that the surgery was unnecessary and caused the crew member unnecessary and additional injuries. 

We have written about the medical facilities in Santo Dominican before. Rather than fly the injured crew members to Miami, where the cruise line in headquartered and the executives reside, the cruise line often sends their ship employees to the Dominican Republic where the medical expenses are substantially cheaper although the treatment is substantially inferior.

We have discussed the sub-standard medical facilities in Santo Domingo before. A jury in Miami previously returned a $1,000,000 verdict for a Celebrity crew member who underwent a crippling, unnecessary pacemaker surgery.   

Royal Caribbean tries to save money by keeping its ill and injured crew members out of Miami, and this is often the result. Read: Cruise Ship Medical Care - Royal Caribbean Gives Their Crew Members the Royal Shaft

Royal Caribbean reportedly made no settlement offer before trial.

The jury returned a verdict for the crew member finding that Royal Caribbean was negligent under the Jones Act, the vessel was unseaworthy, and the cruise line failed to provide prompt and adequate medical treatment. 

The crew member was represented by Miami maritime lawyer Brett Rivkind, photo above.

The total verdict was in the amount of $6,282,261.

The cruise lawyer was defended by defense lawyer David Horr.

Celebrity Cruises Hit with $2,500,000 Verdict

A blog discussing Goa India, and Miami's Daily Business Review, are reporting on a significant verdict that was recently reached against Miami-based Celebrity Cruises. 

The jury verdict involves a Celebrity crew member, Vincente Fernandes, from Goa, India. Back in September 2009, Mr. Fernandes was an assistant stateroom attendant on a Celebrity cruise ship. He alleges that there were shortages of sheets and towels for passenger cabins on the cruise ship. Cabin attendants had to compete to obtain them.

When Mr. Fernandes requested linens & towels to assist in preparing the passenger cabins, the linen keeper verbally abused him and then physically assaulted him. Fernandes was just 5 feet, 4 inches in height and weighed just 140 pounds. The linen manager who attacked him? He was twice Fernandes' size - 6 feet, 6 inches and weighed 280 pounds. Fernandes suffered a badly fractured leg which required surgery with the insertion of plates and screws.  

Celebrity flew Mr. Fernandes back home to Goa, India after the surgery. Celebrity paid no compensation to Fernandes and did not timely pay monies for the injured crew member's food and lodging, medical care, therapy or medication. Mr. Fernandes's lead trial lawyer, Ervin A. Gonzalez of the Colson Hicks law firm, assisted by Christopher Drury and Tonya Meister, argued that Fernandes suffered a deformed leg which will need several additional operations, including a knee replacement. 

The trial addressed only the issue of compensation. The trial court, the Honorable David Miller, struck the cruise line's defenses for pre-trial discovery violations. 

The cruise line was defended by David Horr and Eddie Hernandez of the Horr, Novak & Skipp law firm.

The jury awarded a total of slightly over $2,496,000 in damages, consisting of $1,750,000 in pain and suffering & mental anguish, $350,625 for medical expenses, and $395,400 for lost wages and loss of earning capacity.

Mr. Fernandes counsel, Ervin Gonzalez, summed the case up as follows: 

"Celebrity pounded Mr. Fernandes, a five foot four and 140 pound cabin steward, to a pulp, through its employee, a six foot six 280 pound assistant linen manager brute. As a result, Mr. Fernandez's leg was shattered. His knee was destroyed and will need to be replaced in ten years. The 2.5 million dollar verdict cannot replace his knee and make him healthy but it will at least help him find economic stability. Without the civil justice system, Mr. Fernandes would be broken, financially devastated and discarded."

6 Years Later: Verdict in Deadly Sinking of Sea Diamond Cruise Ship

Long before Captain Schettino smashed the Costa Concordia into the rocks off of the coast of Giglio, another captain of a passenger cruise ship slammed his vessel into the rock and sank the ship.

Six years ago, the Sea Diamond cruise ship struck a reef and eventually sank off the coast of Santoniri. Two French cruise passengers drown. 

In both cases, the captain's poor navigational skills, recklessness and negligence in efficiently evacuating the cruise ship killed passengers.

Sea Diamond SinkingAfter a long legal proceeding, a  three judge panel in Piraeus sentenced the ship's captain to 12 years and two months in jail and sanctioned him €8,000 fine.  The judges sentenced an employee of DNV (Det Norske Veritas), which deemed the cruise ship seaworthy, to eight years.

The cruise ship, owned by Louis Hellenic Cruises, sank on April 6 2007 after ramming  a reef near the Aegean island of Santorini with 1,195 passengers and 391 crew on board.

A French man, Jean Christophe Allain (age 45) and his daughter Maud (age 16), died. 

According to a Greek newspaper, the judges also sentenced the navigation officer (two years and 10 months), chief engineer (two years and four months), company's legal representative (two years), an inspector/auditor (15 months) and a security officer (six months and a €600 fine).

The newspaper states that it is unlikely that anyone will serve actual jail time.

The judges acquitted the ship's first engineer officer, chief officer, chief steward and the cabin manager. 

After the verdict, Louis Hellenic vowed to appeal the decisions. 

Shameful: Costa Concordia Plea Deals Pervert Justice & Disrespect Victims

The big news this weekend in the on-again off-again Costa Concordia trial was the announcement that five Costa employees were sentenced to jail time for manslaughter in the death of 32 Concordia cruise passengers and crew members.

But you will see no photographs of the five men in court in handcuffs because there will be no actual jail time to be served, according to most news accounts. They will be serving suspended sentences. There appears to be no fines levied against the men in question:

Helmsman Jacob Rusli Bin:

Captain Schettino Costa ConcordaHotel Director Manrico Giampedroni:

Bridge Officer Ciro Ambrosio:

Crisis Coordinator Roberto Ferrarini; and 

Bridge Officer Silvia Coronica.

The bridge officers and the helmsman were sentenced to between 20 and 23 months in prison, while the hotel director received a two-year sentence, The crisis coordinator received a 34-month sentence.

Lawyers for the victims expressed their disgust with the sentences:

"The plea bargains are unacceptable, they shouldn't have been proposed or accepted. These sentences are ridiculous in the face of 32 dead,' said Gabriele dalle Luche in the Daily Mail, who represents a group of Russian passengers.

The BBC reports that Massimiliano Gabrielli, lawyer for the group Justice for Concordia, compared the "shameful" short length of the sentences to the seven years given to Emilio Fede, who was convicted of procuring prostitutes for former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

The plea bargains leave disgraced cruise ship captain Schettino as the sole defendant. 

Many have criticized the legal proceeding, saying that Costa itself should also be on trial.  The cruise line previously agreed to a fine of $1.3 million to avoid all criminal charges. 

Domnica Cemortan Costa ConcordiaAs soon as the trial began, it was interrupted by a national strike by Italian lawyers. The trial has been again delayed after the lawyers for Schettino requested an opportunity to conduct tests on the cruise ship which remains capsized in the port of Giglio.

The trial itself has been a bizarre spectacle.  It is taking place in a large theater which may be an appropriate venue for such drama.

Captain Schettino has appeared in his sporty blue coat and sunglasses.  His alleged paramour, Moldovan dancer and former Costa hostess Domnica Cemortan, made an appearance to support Schettino. She was wearing attire suitable to a cocktail party and disrespectful to the dead passengers and crew members, while posing for the cameras. Her appearance added to the scandalous nature of the proceedings, given the fact that she is suing Costa for hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to newspapers, "for the damage to her reputation after it became known that Mr Schettino, who is married with young children, had wined and dined her aboard the Concordia." 

The soap opera is expected to resume in September.

 

Phorto Credits:

Schettino: The Independent

Ms.Cemortan: news.au

Walker & O'Neill Featured in "Top Verdicts and Settlements" for $1,250,000 Verdict for Injured Crewmember Against Royal Caribbean

The Daily Business Review released "Top Verdicts & Settlements" for last year.  You can click on the digital version here.

We obtained the highest award in an admiralty / maritime case in Florida in 2011.  The case involved an injured crew member from Royal Caribbean's Jewel of the Seas who the cruise line sent back to Serbia and then denied her appropriate medical care and treatment.

We flew our client to Miami and arranged for her to see a board certified orthopedic surgeon who recommended surgery.  Royal Caribbean sent her to a local "litigation doctor" who never testifies that injured crewmembers need surgery.

The three arbitrators ruled that the cruise line failed to provide our client with a safe place to work and was 100% negligent for causing her accident.

The arbitrators also found that Royal Caribbean refused to provide prompt and adequate medical treatment to its injured cruise employee, and that its failure to authorize the necessary surgery "lacked any reasonable defense."

The arbitrators awarded our client $1,250,000, the highest amount in a crewmember case last year and the most ever in a cruise arbitration matter.      


Jury Hits Celebrity Cruises with $1,000,000 Verdict for Unnecessary Pacemaker Surgery

Yesterday, a jury in Miami returned a $1,000,000 verdict against a Miami based cruise line whose ship employee underwent an unnecessary surgery to insert a pacemaker which he did not need.

The case involves a Celebrity Cruises chef, Shalesh Buttoo, who experienced headaches and pain to his face while working on a Celebrity cruise ship.  Although only 31 years old and apparently in good health, a doctor in Santo Domingo inserted a pacemaker into the crewmember's chest.  The issues at trial focused on whether Mr. Buttoo needed such a surgery and, assuming he did, whether the surgery was properly performed.   

In 2009, the cruise line had flown Mr. Buttoo from Europe, where the Celebrity cruise ship was based, to Santo Domingo.  We wrote about the danger of sending injured or ill crewmembers to Santo Domingo in order to reduce medical expenses for crew back in November 2009.  You can Medical Treatment in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic?  read our thoughts here.  You can read another article we wrote here: Cruise Ship Medical Care - Royal Caribbean Gives Their Crew Members the Royal Shaft.

For those readers not up on international geography, Santo Domingo is in the Dominican Republic, adjacent to Haiti, on the island of Hispaniola. 

Mr. Buttoo testified at trial that the pacemaker caused him debilitating injuries and forced him to use a walker.  The pace maker not only medically unnecessary but was improperly placed and caused inflammation.  He eventually traveled to Miami for follow up medical care where cardiac surgeons removed the pacemaker.

The jury found the cruise line negligent in its care and treatment of its crewmember and returned a $1,000,000 verdict.  Cruise lines are vicariously liable for the bad medical treatment rendered to their crewmembers.

Mr. Butto's trial lawyer in Miami, Earvin Gonzalez, argued that Celebrity Cruises sent the ship employee to Santo Domingo to save money because the doctors in the Dominican Republic are much cheaper than in Europe or here in Miami where Celebrity Cruises is based.  Mr. Gonzalez commented on the verdict:

“I am pleased that the jury was able to appreciate the level of harm caused by Celebrity and awarded damages to compensate Mr. Buttoo for what he went through.  Although no amount of money will ever erase the horror of being implanted with a heart device he did not need, the amount awarded allowed Mr. Buttoo to feel that justice was served.  It is important for ship owners to recognize the need to provide their crew with quality health care and to listen to their needs, rather than taking a calloused and uncaring approach.  The crew is part of the Cruise line’s family and they should be treated like family members and not like indentured servants.”

Celebrity Cruises was represented by Jeffrey Foreman and Noah Silverman of the Miami firm Foreman Friedman.  They declined to respond to our request for a comment.

Slip and Fall on Carnival Cruise Ship Results in $2,998,000 Verdict

A Federal District Court Judge recently awarded a verdict in favor of a cruise passenger who was seriously injured in a slip and fall accident during a cruise aboard a Carnival cruise ship. 

The passenger, Ms. Denise Kaba, reportedly slipped and fell on the deck around a pool on the Carnival Pride cruise ship in August, 2009.  She sustained a fractured knee cap and which resulted in six surgeries and the need for surgery (knee replacement) in the future.

Carnival Slip and Fall Accident - Compensation - LawyerHer theory of liability was that the pool deck was covered with a resin surface which was  slippery as ice.  Carnival had notice of prior accidents on this type of dangerous surface.

Carnival admitted liability for the accident. The case was tried before the Court (without a jury) solely on the issue of damages. 

Judge Ursula Ungaro awarded $2,998,155.70 which consists of $170,483.00 for loss of earning capacity, $221,910.55 for past medical expenses, $373,564.00 for future medical expenses, $200,000.00 for past non-economic damages (pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, mental anguish, scarring, disfigurement, and disability), $1,960,000.00 for future non-economic damages, and $ 72,198.15 in pre-judgment interest:  

The case is styled: Denise Kaba v. Carnival Corporation, United States District Court Southern District of Florida, Case No. 10-21627-CIV-UNGARO.

The passenger was represented by Jack Hickey and David Appleby of the Hickey Law Firm.

Carnival was represented by Tom Scott and Armando Rubio of the Cole, Scott & Kissane law firm.

 

For other recent awards entered against Miami-based cruise lines, read: Royal Caribbean Ordered to Pay $1,250,000 to Injured Crewmember.

 

Interested in similar articles like these?  Enter your email address in the box at the lower left  for free Cruise Law News updates .  .  . 

Miami Jury Hits Royal Caribbean With $2,900,000 Verdict

Today a jury in Miami, Florida returned a verdict in the amount of $2,900,000 in favor of a disabled Royal Caribbean crew member who received terrible medical treatment after the cruise line sent her back to Honduras. 

The case brings attention to the problem many Royal Caribbean crew members experience when they are injured while working for the cruise line.  Royal Caribbean often sends their cruise employees back to third world countries, where the medical treatment is sub-standard, in order to Royal Caribbean Cruises - Bad Medical Care save money.  This cruise line can easily send their crew member to qualified doctors here in Miami but decides not to do so for economic reasons.  The result is often horrific surgeries performed by unqualified doctors.  

This is inexcusable, given the fact that Royal Caribbean has a net worth of $15 billion, collects over $6 billion a year, and pays no U.S. taxes. 

In this case, Royal Caribbean sent a crew member with a knee injury to Honduras where the local surgeon committed medical malpractice during arthroscopic surgery, causing serious injuries to the ligaments in her knee.  The doctor then botched a complete knee replacement which was not necessary in the first place. 

We have written articles about this particular cruise line and its mistreatment of crew members: Cruise Ship Medicare Care - Royal Caribbean Gives Their Crew Members the Royal Shaft and Titanic Dreams - Royal Caribbean Wins Worst Cruise Lines in the World Award.  Last September, I wrote that: 

"Royal Caribbean has also adopted a strict keep-them-out-of-the-U.S. policy. The company saves money by sending its employee to places like Nicaragua and St. Vincent.  But these places lack basic medical facilities and basic medicines. The crew member’s heath and life are compromised in the process."

The jury's verdict reflects that there is something fundamentally wrong with this cruise line's treatment of injured and indigent crew members from places like Nicaragua.    

The crew member in this case was represented by the firm of Rivkind, Pedraza & Margulies.  Royal Caribbean was represented by Curtis Mase. 

Jury Hits Royal Caribbean With $1.7 Million Verdict for Injured Crew Member

A jury reached a verdict yesterday in the amount of $1,700,000 against cruise giant, Royal Caribbean Cruises, here in Miami.  The crew member is a musician who slipped on stage and suffered an injured shoulder which required surgery and ended his music career.

The Miami Herald reports on the case this morning, explaing that the defense lawyers for the cruise line suggested to the jury that they award less than $130,000 for the crew member's injuries.

Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship VerdictThe case is now being discussed on USA TODAY 's Cruise Log, a popular cruise blog frequented mostly by cruise fans.  The type of comments on this website are often in defense of the cruise industry.  You will often read comments that a verdict like this will cause cruise fares to increase.

The fact of the matter is that Royal Caribbean will collect over $6,000,000,000 (billion $) from its passengers this year.  It will pay $0 in Federal taxes because it registered its business in Liberia and flies flags of foreign countries to avoid taxes, safety laws, and wage regulations.  It is also part of an international "Protection and Indemnity" insurance group with hundreds of billions of dollars in assets.

The verdict will have no effect on the cruise line or any of its cruise passengers.  

Royal Caribbean is considered by many to be the worst cruise line in Miami regarding the mistreatment of ill or injured crew members.  Take a moment and read:

Royal Caribbean Cruises - An Epidemic of Sick, Injured & Neglected Crew Members

Cruise Ship Medical Care - Royal Caribbean Gives Their Crew Members the Royal Shaft

Leave a comment below if you agree or disagree.