In Spearman v. Royal Caribbean Cruises, Case No. 2011-023730-CA-01, a Miami-Dade County, Florida jury has awarded $20.3 million to a former crewmember of Royal Caribbean Cruises, whose hand was crushed while coming to the aid of a fellow worker during an emergency test in 2008. After a three-week trial, the jury found the Miami-based cruise company negligent in operating an unseaworthy ship and 100 percent liable for the injuries suffered by Lisa Spearman, who was working an officer on Royal Caribbean’s Voyager of the Seas.
Spearman sued the company in 2011, three years after her right hand was caught in a watertight power door during a fire-safety drill. According to her lawyers, Spearman was trying to prevent the door from closing on the ship’s nurse when her hand was pulled into a recess pocket of the sliding door and crushed. The nurse allegedly breached the company’s safety protocol when she stumbled through the door, prompting the response from Spearman.
According to allegations made by the Plaintiff, Royal Caribbean later refused to rehire Spearman or pursue disability benefits on her behalf. In her complaint, Spearman faulted the company for not providing a safe working environment and failing to properly train and supervise staff. Spearman sued under the Jones Act, made a claim for unseaworthiness of the ship, failure to provide maintenance and cure, failure to treat, unearned wages, retaliatory discharge and breach of contract. News reports suggest that there were various other similar injuries to other crewmembers aboard this and other Royal Caribbean vessels and according to the Plaintiff, the case was "fiercely defended" on this point.
Spearman alleged she suffers from complex regional pain syndrome and post-traumatic stress disorder since the incident. The verdict included $12 million for pain and suffering, $7 million for medical costs and a total of $1.3 million for past and future lost earnings. According to various news reports, including the Daily Business Review, Royal Caribbean has already announced it intends on appealing the decision.