Verdicts & Settlements

Man injured by a closing cruise-ship door is awarded $21.5M

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An Illinois man injured by a cruise-ship sliding door that closed as he was walking through it has won a $21.5 million verdict that included $16.5 million in punitive damages.

The defendant, Holland America, contends the verdict, awarded in late October, is excessive, the Seattle Times reports. The State Journal-Register and KING5 also have stories; KING5 has surveillance video of the incident.

James Hausman, 61, of Springfield, Illinois, says he was injured in November 2011 during a world cruise on the Holland America ship the M/S Amsterdam. The sliding door hit Hausman on his temple.

The ship doctor at first diagnosed a facial contusion and a chipped tooth, then later found Hausman had suffered a concussion. Later neurological tests showed Hausman suffered a minor traumatic brain injury, according to Hausman’s lawyer, Rick Friedman.

Friedman told the Seattle Times that Hausman’s brain injury caused vertigo, mental lapses and seizures in which he “spaces out for a few seconds to a few minutes.”

U.S. District Judge Barbara Rothstein allowed jurors to hear about 16 previous sliding door incidents on Holland America ships. Friedman had alleged the cruise line set its doors to open and close faster than recommended by the manufacturer, apparently to save on air conditioning costs, a charge the cruise ship denied.

Friedman told the Seattle Times that Holland America had claimed Hausman walked into the door and had blamed passengers for their injuries in past lawsuits.

Holland America said in a statement that it is committed to the safety and security of its guests and takes all incidents very seriously. It had no comment on the specifics of the lawsuit.

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