Injured Passenger Awarded $21.5 Million from Holland America Cruise Lines
James R. Hausman had been enjoying a leisurely cruise on board the M/S/ Amsterdam, owned by Holland America Lines (HAL), in November 2011 when his trip suddenly took a turn for the worse after he was rammed by an automatic sliding glass door, injuring him. He sued the cruise line for his injuries and his ordinary-seeming personal injury lawsuit ended up revealing a much larger problem for HAL, which resulted in the court ordering HAL to pay $21.5 million in damages.
While walking to a pool one day, Hausman had to go through an automatic sliding door and was hit in the side of the head and the face when the door tried to close too soon. The ship’s doctor originally determined that he had a facial contusion and a chipped tooth, but it was later discovered he had suffered a concussion and was suffering “post-concussion” symptoms.
During the trial, the court found that the glass doors on the ships in the entire fleet of HAL ships are programmed to open at the last possible second before the passenger hits the door and close as soon as they stop detecting motion. The company that makes the sensors for the doors does not advise this and criticized the decision when their experts testified in court.
This was far from being the first time someone has sued HAL for this exact same type of injury caused in the exact same way. The jury was allowed to consider 16 different cases where HAL was sued by other passengers for the same issue and HAL’s excuse was always the same – that the passengers who had filed the suits had walked into the closing doors, not that the doors were set to close too soon.
Returning to Hausman’s case, his lawyer stated that Hausman also suffered minor trauma to his head. Hausman now suffers vertigo, seizures that cause him to forget what he is doing for a few seconds, and the inability to remember what he was saying so he ends up repeating himself multiple times. Furthermore, it was said that he “didn’t get better” and that he “didn’t try to hide it”.
Holland America is fighting this verdict. They are still claiming that Hausman was the one at fault and that he, like the other passengers who have sued the line for similar injuries, walked into the closing door. They plan to appeal the verdict in hopes of having the amount lowered. However, with the testimonies of an automated door hitting a passenger supposedly being a “never event” – meaning that it should never happen if the doors are correctly set – it seems unlikely that the line will be able to get the amount of money they have to pay in damages lowered. With so many other previous lawsuits for the same reason, HAL certainly had plenty of time to correct the issue before Hausman took his cruise.