A Miami-Dade County jury returned a verdict against Royal Caribbean Cruises of more than $20,000,000 on behalf of an officer who was injured on the Voyager of the Seas during an accident in 2008.

Royal Caribbean officer Lisa Spearman was seriously and permanently injured when a watertight door crushed her right hand when she came to the assistance of the cruise ship nurse. The ship nurse stumbled while attempting to walk past the door during an emergency test, according to the lawsuit which her attorneys filed.

Ms. Spearman alleged that following the accident, Royal Caribbean refused to re-hire her and then refused to pursue disability benefits on her behalf. She sued the cruise line for negligence under the Voyager of the SeasJones Act, unseaworthiness of the vessel under the General Maritime Law, failure to provide prompt, proper and adequate medical care (also under U.S. General Maritime law), failure to pay wages under 46 U.S.C. 10313, retaliatory discharge and breach of contract.

The jury returned a verdict of $20,300,000 after a three week trial. 

Ms. Spearman was represented by Miami maritime lawyer Tonya Meister-Griffin, who was assisted by attorneys Deborah Gander and Susan Carlson of the Colson, Hicks Eidson law firm.  

Congratulations to Ms. Meister and the team of lawyers who represented Ms. Spearman.

Royal Caribbean was represented by David Horr of the firm Horr, Novak & Skipp.  

Currently, crew members are prohibited from filing lawsuits before a judge and a jury because cruise lines like Royal Caribbean have inserted one-sided arbitration provisions in the ship employees’ contracts. Absent a change in the law, Ms. Spearman, whose employment contract dates back to 2008 and did not contain an arbitration requirement, undoubtedly will be one of the last crew members who are able to try their case before a jury in the Miami-Dade courthouse.  

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Update: The Miami Herald covered the story in an article this afternoon (with photographs).  Newsweek also published CRUISE WORKER WINS $20M PAYOUT AFTER HAND CRUSHED BY DOOR ON ROYAL CARIBBEAN SHIP.  Stuff (New Zealand) New Zealand woman Lisa Spearman wins US$20.3m payout from cruise ship giant Royal Caribbean.

Photo credit: Spaceaero2 – CC BY-SA 4.0, commons / wikimedia. 


    Great to see the verdict in favor of Ms. Spearman. Hope RCL does not appeal.

  • John

    That good that should pay for all of pain

  • Carole Miller

    I congratulate her, the ducks were in order for being an!e to sue. Go girl. But of course she had a team of women behind her and they are quite knowledgeable. Love it!

  • John Smith

    Ok let’s get something straight this is not a watertight door it is a fire door that is reinforced for small amount of water on deck. They are also called splash doors and the goal would be to limit free surface effect. Now those doors are typically pneumatic (on VY class they are) though more and more electric on newer ship since they are easier to maintain. Watertight doors are hydraulic. If one of the splash door close on you it does not have much force and have elevator style contact that make them open again. A watertight door closes no matter what and can cut a body in two. Closing these doors is a weekly routine occurrence and announcements made on the PA as part of the drill and tests. It is always taken very seriously when remotely closing all the doors and reminders are made on the PAs.

    I am not sure how she was not train for that. Both the nurse and M&R managers in their position should have paid attention to the training given on the topic. Plus there is a channel that plays the safety videos 24/7. As managers onboard you are suppose to lead by example and seek knowledge not avoid it. The were responsible for also making sure their subordinate were knowledgeable in this.

    Sure she got injured and I feel bad for her as I would for any shipmates. Should the company pay disability for a workplace accident? sure they should. 20M$ to me is absurd given how much training takes place. I know I use to give that training! Full disclosure before getting accused here Jim, no I am not paid by RCCL anymore and not doing PR for them just a retied deck officer. I do hope that RCCL will appeal because while I hope she gets money to compensate 20M$ is ridiculous.

  • John hunter

    What may be a proper decision to find in her favor (depending on the evidence) is turned into ludicrousness with a 20 million dollar judgement. In no way is even 1/10 an appropriate figure for her situation. Hopefully RCL appeals and gets the verdict amount thrown out and reduced immensely. It is one thing to provide fair compensation and another thing to award an absurd judgement.

  • The other articles cited at the bottom of my post explain that due to RCCL’s delayed and improper medical care, the officer developed complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) – a devastating neurological pain disorder which I would not wish upon my worst enemy.

  • Janice

    This arbitration thing needs to be cut out because lots of crew members are getting hurt the lawyers r saying to settle for little my husband is injured and they say with an arbitrator he might lose his case so we should settle for 150000 and he is permanently disabled / arbitration is a scam and the government should look into it

  • George

    This has gone to way far, crew member aren’t treated like humans, far from that! I am to upset to even write about what is happening

  • Steven

    I agree with John Smith. 8 years in court with multiple female lawyers.. She knew what she was walking into…