Today, the Miami Daily Business Review (DBR) reported on an arbitration award entered against Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) on behalf of a seriously injured crew member.
The DBR article, titled “Miami Attorney Helps Secure $3.3M for Man Whose Arm Was Amputated After Seeking Care for Flu-Like Symptoms,” explains that the case involved a 30 year-old crew member from Serbia by the name of Ilija Loncar who was employed by NCL as a waiter aboard the Norwegian Breakaway.
Mr. Loncar, who previously worked as a carpenter prior to working on the NCL cruise ship, was treated by the NCL shipboard team for flu-like symptoms in March of 2016. NCL had earlier hired a doctor, Sebastian Campuzano, who the arbitrator described as a “young, inexperienced, Columbia trained physician (licensed in 2013) who was hired by NCL just 4 months before the subject accident.”
Dr. Campuzano prescribed promethazine which the ship nurse injected in a massive dose too quickly, causing an intensely painful and harmful reaction. NCL then failed to timely medically evacuate Mr. Loncar from the ship, squandering any chance his arm could be saved. As a result of the malpractice and delayed medical evacuation, Mr. Loncar developed Compartment Syndrone and required the eventual amputation of his dominant right arm.
The arbitrator’s decision reflects what appears to be completely abysmal medical care by an inept doctor and nurse who demonstrated a complete lack of basic medical knowledge, training and experience. The arbitrator found that: Dr. Campuzano had no experience or familiarity with the drug which he ordered to be mistakenly injected intravenously in Mr. Loncar’s arm rather than intramuscularly in his buttocks; he first attempted to schedule a consultation via the internet with a medical facility in South Florida for advice but he gave up after he could not establish a connection; he didn’t read the relevant physician desk book, medical literature, package inserts or warnings for the medication; he never warned Mr. Loncar of the risks associated with the medicine or obtain his informed consent; and he didn’t consider ordering a lower dosage or other medicines available on the ship which did not contain the risk of such catastrophic injury.
Dr. Campuzano tried to refute his deposition admissions after the fact via an “errata sheet” which the arbitrator rejected. The decision seems to indicate that the arbitrator did not find Dr. Campuzano or the ship nurse (Marco Oracion) or NCL’s defense particularly credible.
The case was the result of “arbitration.” NCL is one of many cruise lines which prohibit injured crew members from filing cases in the U.S. legal system and require them to pursue “arbitration” cases where a single arbitrator, paid by the cruise lines, applies the law of the Bahamas. NCL started the trend toward arbitration after a decrepit, poorly maintained steam boiler on NCL’s 40+ year-old SS Norway exploded at the port of Miami in 2003. The explosion killed eight NCL crew members and seriously burned another nineteen crew members. NCL forced the families of the dead Filipinos to pursue the limited benefits permitted under Filipino law, as opposed to the full range of damages permitted under U.S. law.
The arbitration award, which you can view here, was rendered in June of this year. The arbitrator awarded past pain and suffering in the amount of $337,500, and $3,000,000 for future pain and suffering (estimated at 48 years), loss of future earning capacity (over the course of 35 years) and future medical expenses, including the replacement of the crew member’s prosthesis.
One of the reasons NCL requires arbitration (as opposed to a trial by a U.S. jury) is to keep awards to a minimum in catastrophic injury cases like this.
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Photo credit: Dickelbers (Dick Elbers) CC 3.0 wikipedia / commons.