Injured Crewmember Allowed to Pursue Punitive Damages Against Carnival Cruises
Brais & Brais’ maritime attorneys have the privilege to represent former crewmember Edward Florian in a lawsuit against Carnival Cruises. Mr. Florian injured his back while working as a galley steward aboard the Carnival Valor requiring surgery. Maritime law obligates an employer such as Carnival Cruises to promptly provide an injured crewmember competent medical care as well as a daily living stipend until the crewmember’s medical condition plateaus. This is called the maintenance and cure obligation. So great is a maritime employer’s obligation to provide maintenance and cure, the Supreme Court recently held when a maritime employer fails to promptly pay all owed benefits, a crewmember may seek punitive damages.
Mr. Florian’s initial medical treatment was performed at South Miami Hospital. However, when it came time to preform a back surgery, Carnival opted to save money and required the surgery to go forward in Peru. This proved to be disastrous for Mr. Florian. The operation in Peru was inadequately preformed which caused him to be bedridden for slightly over two months. During this time, Mr. Florida experienced excruciating pain, was required to wear an orthopedic corset and underwent rehabilitation therapy to enable him to re-learn how to walk. (The above photograph depicts Mr. Florian undergoing rehabilitation therapy). In addition to tendering an incompetent doctor to perform the back surgery, Carnival did not pay all amounts owed under the maintenance and cure obligation thus requiring Mr. Florian to incur these expenses.
A lawsuit was filed against Carnival in Miami, Florida (the location of its corporate headquarters) alleging claims of negligence under the Jones Act, unseaworthienss of the vessel as well as failure to provide all maintenance and cure. A hearing was held to assess whether sufficient evidence exists to support a punitive damages award by a reasonable jury as required by Florida procedural law. The Judge, after reviewing all the evidence and listening to legal argument, agreed with Brais & Brais’ maritime attorneys and concluded Mr. Florian may proceed with a punitive damages claim against Carnival Cruises. Trial of this case is expected to occur in 2012.