Kiwi woman wins $20m lawsuit against former US employer

Lisa Spearman's hand was crushed by a door on board a cruise ship.
Lisa Spearman's hand was crushed by a door on board a cruise ship. Photo credit: Meister Law

A New Zealand woman has won a lawsuit against her former Miami-based employer after claiming proper training wasn't given that resulted in her hand being crushed by a door. 

Lisa Spearman worked as a marketing and revenue manager on a Miami-based cruise line's Voyager of the Seas ship. In August 2008, a routine fire safety drill on board the ship while it was in port went terribly wrong, Spearman's attorney Deborah Gander says. 

Some of the ship's powerful doors that prevent water from flooding the ship were closed during the drill, and a nurse from the port who hadn't been told about the drill attempted to open one of those doors with a handle. Spearman was on the other side.

The nurse is said to have fallen as she tried to pass through the door, and Spearman moved forward to help her, Miami Herald reports.

According to the lawsuit, Spearman placed her hand on the handle to keep the door open, and the sliding door sprung back into its recess space in the wall, resulting in her hand being crushed. 

Her hand was smashed by the door three more times as bystanders rushed to get help, her attorney said. 

She broke her middle finger and her index finger, and the nails on both fingers were ripped off.  

Lisa Spearman broke her middle finger and her index finger, and the nails on both fingers were ripped off.
Lisa Spearman broke her middle finger and her index finger, and the nails on both fingers were ripped off. Photo credit: Meister Law

She has since suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder after being diagnosed with a chronic pain syndrome associated with a nervous system malfunction. 

She underwent therapy in New Zealand for two years while Royal Caribbean, the owner of the vessel,  paid her a daily disability payment of $25, as part of her employee disability insurance coverage. 

In 2016, Spearman sued the company after she was discharged for not being able to complete necessary tasks because of her injury. 

Spearman's attorney argued that Royal Caribbean should have provided better training for the people abroad its ship. 

She said crew should have been better prepared to operate the type of doors that crushed Spearman's hand, and the nurse should have been informed about the safety drill that was taking place. 

Royal Caribbean was ordered on Friday to pay Spearman $20.3 million in damages, lost wages and future medical expenses, according to Miami Herald. 

The company says it "respectfully disagrees" with the result and will file an appeal. 

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