$3,000,000 Recovery for Slip and Fall
A 25 year old cruise line employee slipped on an oily step in the engine room. P&K offered expert testimony from a former USCG safety officer that the cruise line knew or should have known that oil spills and drips would occur in the engine room and that reasonable care required adequate fall protection safety measures, including the use of metal grating with non-skid “teeth”, non-skid paint or adhesive strips, oil absorbing pads or mats.
The crewman hit the back of his head when he fell but did not lose consciousness, he was not bleeding and he never reported the incident. There were no witnesses to the fall or to any oil residue. Approximately 90 minutes later, the crewman began experiencing severe headaches and dizziness in his cabin and he called for medical help. The first responding crew member testified that he heard the victim say that he had not fallen or hit his head. The medical crew then arrived as he was lapsing into a coma. The ship’s medical crew immediately requested a helicopter evacuation for an initial diagnosis of cerebral hemorrhage. The ship was enroute from Florida to Mexico and was already beyond the range of U.S.C.G. helicopters.
P&K retained a ship’s captain expert to prove that the cruise line was negligent in failing to divert back to Key West, and also for failing to have an air ambulance jet ready and waiting in Mexico when the ship arrived. Instead, the crewman suffered another 8 hour delay at a Mexican clinic which had no neurosurgical facilities. Upon arrival in Florida, the crewman underwent surgery to relieve the pressure and remove a subdural hematoma. He was in a coma for over 5 weeks before beginning rehabilitation. Fortunately, he made a miraculous recovery and regained his ability to speak and walk, but he was left with a slight permanent impairment of his balance and motor skills.
The cruise line vigorously denied that the crewman ever slipped and fell because he first reported the event months later after waking from his coma and regaining his memory. Also, his CT scans and MRIs showed no swelling, fracture or other signs of fall trauma to his head. The cruise line used these negative findings to argue that he suffered some form of spontaneous cerebral hemorrhage unrelated to any fall or head trauma. P&K retained medical experts to prove that the brain injury was most likely caused by head trauma from a fall. The case settled for $3,000,000 shortly before trial.