A former Royal Caribbean employee was recently awarded $20.3 million in a crush injury lawsuit. The accident, which took place in 2008, occurred during a routine fire safety drill. The result was catastrophic damage to the woman’s hand. Read on to learn more about the lawsuit, the dangers of crush injuries on cruise ships, and how you can protect yourself.
Crush Injury Lawsuit Information
While in port in 2008, the Royal Caribbean ship Voyager of the Seas underwent a routine fire safety drill. A nurse onboard was unaware of the drill and as she attempted to pass through one of the semi-water tight doors, she tripped and fell. The plaintiff in the lawsuit, who worked as a marketing manager, saw the nurse fall and lunged to help her.
The plaintiff grabbed the door handle to keep the door open long enough for the nurse to right herself and pass through. As she did, the door lurched back into position in the recess in the wall, crushing the plaintiff’s hand into a space only large enough for a pencil. The bridge was notified and an attempt was made to disable the door. Unfortunately, the tremendous force on the door caused the woman’s hand to be sucked into the recessed pocket three more times.
The force of the injury resulted in a broken middle and index finger, and the fingernails on both fingers were torn off the cuticles. Following the injury, the woman was referred to a doctor in Barcelona (the ship was docked in Spain). The doctor splinted her fingers in the improper position and misdiagnosed her condition. For two years following the injury, the woman attended therapy. She was subsequently diagnosed with chronic pain syndrome related to a nervous system malfunction. She suffers from severe pain running from her head to her other arm. She has lost mobility and proper use of her right hand.
Two years later, in 2010, the woman was discharged from Royal Caribbean who cited her inability to perform necessary safety tasks, which require the ability to lift 50 pounds. In 2016, the woman filed a lawsuit claiming that the staff was not properly trained to operate the dangerous doors, and that Royal Caribbean was negligent in failing to provide proper medical care, discharging her for non-performance reasons, and breaching their contract with her.
In June 2018, a court ordered Royal Caribbean to pay the woman $20.3 million in damages, which included lost wages, medical expenses, and future medical expenses. Royal Caribbean is planning to appeal the decision.
Anyone who has been injured while working on a cruise ship should contact an attorney right away to discuss their legal rights. Contact Brown & Brothers to learn more.
A String of Similar Crush Injuries Caused by Powerful Doors?
Attorneys in the above case hope that this substantial award will highlight the dangers of hydraulic and automated doors on cruise ships. This case is not the first case against Royal Caribbean alleging hand injuries caused by the same type of door. Between 2004 and 2007, 12 Royal Caribbean employees sustained hand injuries when the same type of door slid into the recessed pocket.
Royal Caribbean is not the only cruise line that has seen its share of crush injuries. In 2001, an engineer officer on a P&O Princess Cruises ship suffered a severe crush injury to his arm after it became trapped in a power-operated watertight door. The injuries were so severe that his arm had to be amputated. In 2002, a subcontractor was killed when a watertight door with only an eight second closing time squeezed him to death.
In 2017, a chief engineer on a small passenger ship was killed after becoming trapped in a hydraulic watertight door. He was trapped in the door for at least eight minutes before being found. The pressure was estimated to be around 1,650 kg. The speed of closing for the doors was found to be twice what is allowed by regulations.
Crush Injuries on Offshore Units Caused by Doors
There have also been several similar injuries reported on offshore units. In 2001, a subcontractor on the Deepwater Nautilus died after being jammed in a hydraulic door. His body was obstructing the operating lever. In order to free his body, the door had to be forced open after the hydraulic pipes were disconnected.
Also in 2001, a worker suffered a severe crush injury to his chest when a hydraulic door closed on him. He was able to activate the operating lever before losing consciousness and open the door. The door was found to close too fast, and it was suggested that lights designed to signal workers that the door was closing may not have been operating properly.
In 2003 a crew member on the West Alpha drilling rig suffered serious injuries after a hydraulic door closed on him as he walked through it. Regulations suggest closing time for such doors to be between 20 and 40 seconds, but in this case, the door closed in only four seconds.
In 2005, a worker on the offshore installation Kristin was killed when a watertight door closed on him. Investigators suggest that a broken spring caused the door to close unexpectedly when it should have been in the open position.
Why are Doors so Dangerous?
Hydraulic and automated watertight and semi-water tight doors are dangerous for several reasons. Consider the following:
- Watertight doors often have different modes, such as “local control” or “remote”. These different modes determine who has control over the doors and how they are open or closed.
- During safety drills, these doors may be set to automatically close. If those onboard are not properly trained, accidents and injuries can easily occur.
- On offshore units, hydraulic doors are numerous, with some units having in excess of 48 or more of these doors. Workers may become too comfortable with the doors and controls, which can lead to lax attention to safety.
- Many of the injuries described in this article suggest that ship operators are not following regulations in terms of how fast the doors open or close. Doors that open or close too fast can be hazardous to anyone passing through them.
- Power fluctuations or loss can affect hydraulic doors. Further, some doors are set to continue operating on hydraulics for a certain number of openings or closings even after power has been cut.
What to Do after a Crush Injury
If you have suffered a crush injury while working on a ship, it is important to take steps to protect your health, and your legal rights. Maritime injury cases are often complicated by statutes of limitations, applicable laws based on your position, and any contracts or agreements you may have with your employer.
To find out more about protecting your rights and the possibility of getting compensation for your injuries, fill out our online form and schedule a free injury consultation with one of our attorneys.