Our attorneys have represented many clients who sustained shoulder injuries after slipping and falling aboard cruise ships. The most common shoulder injury is a torn rotator cuff. The rotator cuff is a group of four tendons that join the shoulder muscle to the skeletal frame which stabilizes the joint and are responsible for upper arm and shoulder movement.
Rotator cuffs are often torn on cruise ships when the passenger is holding onto a handrail and slips on a slick deck or stairway. The mechanics of falling backward and twisting the shoulder many times causes the tendons making up the rotator cuff to tear and/or separate from the bone. If left untreated, a person may permanently lose the ability to fully rotate their arm. Treatment of rotator cuff injuries often begin with anti-inflammatory medication and physical therapy. If the problem persists, surgery is normally scheduled. Depending upon the injury’s severity, the orthopedic surgeon may opt to repair the torn ligament(s) with an arthroscopic procedure. This type of surgery involves the insertions of a small camera, called an arthroscope, into the shoulder joint. The camera displays pictures on a television screen which helps the surgeon guide miniature surgical instruments used to repair the tendons. An arthroscopic procedure is usually performed on an outpatient basis. If the tear is large or complex, the surgeon may have to cut through the muscle and repair or reattach the ligaments in what is called an open procedure.
Slip and falls are common on cruise ships. Being that cruise ships see hundreds of thousands of people a year, the anti-slip/skid properties of the deck and stairway coatings break down. The breakdown of the decks protective coating when combined with liquid cause people to slip and fall. The slipperiness of decks is measured by their coefficient of friction value. The coefficient of friction is ratio of the force that maintains contact between an object and a surface and the frictional force that resists the motion of the object. The lower of coefficient of friction value, the more slippery the surface. An expert engineer in recent case handled by our attorneys tested a cruise ship’s deck when our client fell. The expert found the area of the deck had a coefficient of friction value of 2.0 – the same as ice!!!