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Royal Caribbean on the hook for crewman’s crushed hand

After her hand was crushed during a 2008 fire safety drill, a crewman sued Royal Caribbean International and won a $20.3 million verdict in June 2018. But the case isn’t as simple as that.

Lisa Spearman, a New Zealand native, was a marketing and revenue manager aboard the Voyager of the Seas which at the time was docked in Barcelona, Spain. During a routine fire safety drill, a port nurse who was unaware of the drill fell while walking through an open water-tight door. When Spearman stepping in to help the nurse, her hand was crushed when the remote-controlled door lurched to a close.

Two fingers destroyed, improper medical care

While bystanders called the bridge to disable the door, Spearman’s hand was slammed by the water-tight door three more times. Both the middle and index finger of her right hand were broken and the nails were ripped from her fingertips.

Royal Caribbean’s doctor in Barcelona later splinted her fingers in the wrong position. In addition to years of therapy, Spearman suffered from a nervous system malfunction that caused her pain in her arm and head. She said she found rain or wind on her skin to be “extraordinarily painful.” She later suffered post-traumatic stress disorder and permanent disability to her hand.

Spearman’s attorney said that in the three years before her injury, 12 other Royal Caribbean employees suffered hand injuries in similar doors on board their ships.

Fired for 50-pound lift requirement

In response, Royal Caribbean paid Spearman her contractually obligated $25 per day for disability while she underwent therapy for two years, then discharged her in 2010 because even though her job was clerical, she couldn’t meet the job requirement of being able to lift 50 pounds.

Spearman sued in Royal Caribbean’s home port of Miami-Dade County, alleging Royal Caribbean was negligent, failed to provide proper medical treatment, wrongful discharge, breach of contract and failure to pay full wages.

The jury found for Spearman and ordered Royal Caribbean to pay $20.3 million in damages, lost wages and future medical expenses.

Royal Caribbean said it plans to appeal the decision.

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