Seattle Jury Awards Man $21.5 Million For Being Hit By Automatic Door On A Holland America Cruise

Screen Shot 2015-11-12 at 7.20.05 PMThere is an extraordinary verdict of of Seattle where Illinois businessman James R. Hausman was awarded $21.5 million in damages after he suffered minor brain injury when he was struck in the head by a sliding-glass door on the Holland America cruise line’s Pacific fleet flagship, the M/S Amsterdam. The videotape below does not exactly scream out liability, let alone massive punitive damages, but the unanimous 8-person jury clearly view the company as ignoring repeated injuries to dozens of passengers from the doors on various ships. The defense proved to the jury’s satisfaction that the company had shortened the time for the doors to remain open — allegedly to save money on air conditioning.

Hausman, 61, a gold and precious-metals retailer was awarded $5 million for past and future pain, suffering and emotional distress. He said that the accident caused him memory loss, vertigo and seizures as a result of the injury. However, the videotape shows him walking away from the incident and he was able to complete the 280-day world cruise. He was on his way to Amsterdam with his wife, daughter and a tutor. The ship had left Seattle in September 2011 and was approaching Honolulu, when Hausman and his wife left the ship’s penthouse to walk to a pool. He is shown below hitting the door. It seems like he walks into the door that was beginning to close. While the ship’s doctor diagnosed a concussion and “post-concussion” syndrome, he was later diagnosed with “minor traumatic brain injury.”

His lawyer argued that the company “suppressed” documentation for as many as 34 other sliding-door incidents throughout its fleet for three years, including two incidents where passengers broke their hips and another where one suffered a back injury. That evidence was allowed in by U.S. District Judge Barbara Rothstein.

The most damaging evidence was the testimony of experts that automatically closing doors should have been closing on someone in this way — leading the defense to argue that the doors were manipulated by the company to save on air conditioning by closing faster. His counsel argued that the motion sensors on the doors set to open at the last moment and close within half a second after the sensors stopped detecting motion — that would be against the manufacturer’s recommendations.

Here is the collision from the ship:

Putting aside the question of whether this is truly negligence on the part of the company, my main concern is the size of this verdict. I have seen severely disabled victims receive a fraction of such damages. Clearly, it is possible to suffer minor brain damage and to walk away. However, $5 million in compensatory damages seems quite high for the injuries claimed. The punitive award further magnifies those concerns about the size of the damages vis-à-vis the actual injury and alleged misconduct.

What do you think?

41 thoughts on “Seattle Jury Awards Man $21.5 Million For Being Hit By Automatic Door On A Holland America Cruise”

  1. In 1959 I sailed as a passenger on the Rotterdam of the HAL from Rotterdam to New York. There were no doors partitioning the various classes on that ship. By mistake I walked towards the first class dining room. From the looks of the crew I realized that I was in the-for me- wrong part of the ship.

  2. Amartel, Good to see you! it does seem many people think there is a free lunch, whether it’s “free” college tuition, “free” healthcare, or big settlements. It appears there is a large number of adults who still believe in the tooth fairy. That said, many people are more than willing to assist my fraud investigations because they know the money is not free, it comes out of the pockets of everyone who pays taxes, buys insurance, etc.

  3. Ask Chevron what it’s like to have your company located near a large concentration of gullible crybaby hick perma-victims. One plume of smoke coming from their refinery and the plaintiffs’ bar would have its runners out combing the streets of Oakland and Richmond for people with respiratory problems of which there was no shortage on any given day.

  4. No LOC, GCS of 15. He’s fine. Minor traumatic brain injury is a massive scam much like toxic mold cases.
    But don’t worry, you’re the ones who are paying for it! Yay, you. The legal system cares as much about you as you care about cruise lines and their evil and deceptive automatic sliding doors. #winning.

  5. Mark, I can see you know your stuff. I worked for a large, loop law firm in Chicago as a PI. They did mostly insurance defense work. They did some Great Lakes freighter litigation and I remember it was Lloyds that was the carrier. What I love about being a PI is working different cases and learning about things I knew nothing about. It was like watching Mr. Rogers. I learned all about what a ship chandler does, never having even heard of the word previously. Working a case on an international freighter lawsuit, I learned the crews on many ships are almost slaves, always from the poorest nations on the planet.

  6. Re-insurance and the carrier has layers as end Marine re- coverage is probably Lloyds. Statement was related to current corporate structuring doesn’t hold company directly liable absent an intentional breach. All execs know that insurance covers it all.

  7. The line will either be dropped by their carrier or have their insurance rates go up. Virtually any insurance policy covers your legal defense, that doesn’t take layers of insurance. Your homeowners, auto, renter’s, etc. insurance includes your legal fees for defense.

  8. The damages were based on prior injuries to other passengers that Holland was aware of and tried to suppress. This was a right time and right place claim, punitives were a message and the award will be appealed and case settled for $2 – 5 million of which Holland pays $0.00 They have layers of insurance which also pays legal fees, so actually the line doesn’t get punished at all. Other than some bad press.

  9. I think you are experiencing withdrawal from butting heads w/ someone who has been absent for a couple weeks.

  10. You are spinning out of control Schulte. Read the last paragraph again. Maybe diagram the sentences. Look for key words and you will see I am comparing and contrasting another company that, like this cruise line, was based in Seattle then moved their corporate headquarters to Chicago. It’s analysis, Paul. Not your strong suit! Now, just let this go. You’re embarrassing yourself. And, I TRULY don’t like to see that. You dig in your heels and close your mind in situations like this. I know I’m not the first person to say that to you.

    1. Nick – if you wanted to turn to Pacer you should have stayed with the Seattle story. There was no reason to rant about Chicago. You missed a major reason for the punitive award. Admit it.

  11. I’m not sure you knew the term “punitive damages” because if you did, you should have used that term SOMEWHERE in your 7:06p comment. This is my business! This is the last exchange I’ll have w/ you on this topic. I don’t want to encourage your behavior. This was a bad jury. The punitive damages will not stand. You know Paul, I have read several articles on this. I also used my PACER account to read some of what’s available online. I know exponentially more about civil trials, and much more about this trial.

    Some years back Boeing moved their corporate headquarters from Seattle to Chicago. When that occurred, the legal community in Chicago licked their chops and many business executives screamed what a stupid move it was. You see, Chicago and Cook County is infamous for plaintiff loving, excessive award, juries. Defense attorneys hate to even have to try civil cases in Chicago. As I read posts from Darren, and see this award, maybe Boeing made the right move going to Chicago.

    1. Nick – if you read this on your Pacer account you would have seen the judgement was from the Federal District in Seattle, WA. I am not sure why you are ranting about Chicago and Cook County.

  12. Thanks for your expertise Paul. Hopefully you’re standing on your head as you type because you are talking out of your butt. And, the word you should have used in your 6th grade analysis is “punitive damages.” The jury awarded $16.5 in punitive damages.

    1. Nick – we both know the difference between actual and punitive damages. You don’t have to point it out. $16.5m in punitive damages would be unusual were it not for the recklessness of the cruise line.

      BTW, you might want to ratchet down a couple of notches. Just because you’re wrong doesn’t mean you should attack me.

  13. The OJ trial was lost @ jury selection. The defense used experts to get incredibly stupid and malleable jurors. The prosecutors used their gut. It is like these old school GM’s in baseball who use their gut and ignore all the science and stats. If you think “If the glove don’t fit you must acquit” was the deciding factor, well..Johnny wanted you on the jury as an alternate. Trials are my business. I’ve worked on literally thousands, criminal and civil. Stupid jurors buy the smoke and mirrors. They buy the antics. Smart jurors see right through it. No smart juror w/ just average common sense would look @ this video and award $21.5 million.

    1. Nick – both the OJ teams tried their tactics out in mock trials in Arizona before they went full bore. And the County of LA can afford jury consultants. They use them all the time.

      Now, for this trial, the points you are missing are that the cruise line had been sued several times before for the same thing and either lost or settled. They never fixed the problem. The judge let all those cases into evidence. Normally, this would not be worth that much in damages, but as I said much earlier, this jury is trying to get the attention of the cruise line.

  14. I hope he collects! Unfortunately, if an appeal begins the corporation will try to bleed him dry and settle for much less. I hope the verdict holds.

  15. VeloMac, As i said earlier, this was lost @ jury selection. It was akin to the OJ jury. Are Marcia Clark and Chris Darden doing insurance defense work now?

    1. Nick – the OJ trial was lost by the glove and the examination of the racist detective. The collection of evidence was sloppy, they had OJ in their sights immediately and he was their only suspect.

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