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Woman wins $26.6m payout after hand was crushed on cruise ship

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A NEW Zealand woman has won a $27 million payout after her hand was crushed on a cruise ship.

Lisa Spearman was a marketing and revenue manager for Royal Caribbean International when a heavy watertight door smashed her right hand during a routine safety drill while docked at Barcelona in 2008, the New Zealand Herald reported.

She broke her middle finger and index finger, and fingernails were ripped from their cuticles.

Her injuries left her seriously and permanently injured. She needed two years of treatment in New Zealand while Royal Caribbean paid her a daily disability payment of $33, as stipulated in her employee disability insurance cover, a court in Miami heard.

Ms Spearman was officially let go by Royal Caribbean in 2010 because she was unable to perform her daily duties.

She later suffered complex regional pain syndrome, a disabling chronic pain disorder, and also post-traumatic stress disorder, both of which have “severely limited her quality of life”, her lawyer Deborah J. Gander said.

Two years ago, Ms Spearman decided to sue the Miami-based company, alleging negligence, failing to provide proper medical care, being discharged for a non-performance-related reason, breach of contract, and failing to pay her full wages.

After a three-week trial in the Eleventh Judicial Circuit in Miami Dade County, the jury returned the US$20.3 million ($26.6 million) verdict in favour of Ms Spearman, finding Royal Caribbean Cruises negligent and 100 per cent liable for her injuries, absolving Ms Spearman of any possible fault.

“We are extremely pleased with the jury’s verdict,” Ms Gander said.

“This case was fiercely defended but justice rightfully prevailed in the end.”

Ms Gander claimed that in the three years before Ms Spearman’s injury, 12 other Royal Caribbean crew members suffered hand injuries when their hands were pulled into the pocket of fire doors on-board.

“We hope this case will bring awareness and lead to substantial safety changes aboard cruise ships so that injuries like Lisa’s, and those of the 12 other crew members, can be avoided,” she added.

Ms Spearman, who lives in New Zealand, was an officer on the Voyager of the Seas when her hand was severely crushed by an automatic sliding door.

At the time, she was rushing to the aid of a fellow crew member who Ms Gander says was violating the cruise ship’s safety policies by going through a remotely controlled power door during a fire safety test.

As the door began to close, Ms Spearman tried to hold it open by pressing down on the handle as she had been trained to do when the door was being remotely controlled.

However, before she could remove her hand it was pulled into the recess pocket of the sliding door and crushed.

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