Elizabeth McQuillan, 80, from Gulfport, Mississippi boarded Norwegian Jewel on October 27, 2013 in New Orleans, Louisiana. But, she never sailed on the cruise.
McQuillan, who is handicapped, was brought by wheelchair to Deck 4, though she had selected a cabin on Deck 8. McQuillan complained, and was informed that changes were made, and she would have to accept a cabin on Deck 4. McQuillan's luggage hadn't arrived to her cabin on Deck 4. So, she decided to wander alone on foot.
As McQuillan made her way to the elevator. A short distance from her cabin, she noticed her luggage piled up in an alcove area "designated for crew only". The alcove area had a curtain at the opening which her lawyer stated "... creating the dangerous condition of the drop down by leaving the curtain at the entrance of the alcove open", so McQuillan could see her luggage. Her lawyer also says in the complaint "McQuillan was forced to retrieve her own luggage", though the ship was still boarding passengers and crew were still distributing luggage to passenger cabins.
As McQuillan approached the luggage in the crew only area, she didn't notice that there was a clearly marked 7" drop off of the floor, she stumbled and fell, sustaining "severe and crippling injuries". McQuillan dislocated her shoulder and underwent shoulder replacement surgery. McQuillan was disembarked before Norwegian Jewel left port.
The lawsuit claims the 80-year-old previously handicapped woman incurred,
"over EIGHT HUNDRED FIFTY THOUSAND DOLLARS, in physical injuries and damages as follows:
A. Medical treatment past, present and future $150,000.00
B. Mental pain and anguish past, present and future, and loss of life’s enjoyment $250,000.00
C. Physical pain and suffering past, present and future $250,000.00
D. Attorney Fees and Costs In an amount to be determined
E. Disability $200,000.00
F. Loss of funds expended for the cruise and Travel expenses $3,640.27"
Tle lawsuit further states, "the aforementioned judgment include legal interest thereon from the date of judicial demand until paid, for attorney fees if permitted by law and for all costs of these proceedings."
Deck 4 is the lowest deck with passenger cabins, cabins are located on only one side of the ship and all outside cabins have porthole windows. Deck 4 is also the location of the cruise ship medical center.
Deck 8 is the lifeboat deck, has a better class of cabins, with 8 handicap designated cabins. Deck 4 has one handicap cabin, located right across from the medical center. Given her age and handicap, the location on Deck 4 was a better option if she needed medical assistance on the cruise, which she did, so she could get quick care from the cruise ship's medical team.
Norwegian defense pointed out "the location of Plaintiff’s fall on Deck 4 portside amid-ship on the vessel was a reasonably safe area and satisfied the standard of care. The 7 inch step down in the location of Plaintiff’s accident was an open and obvious condition. The lighting in the room where Plaintiff fell was normal, and the floor surface below the step was a different color, clearly demarcating a change in elevation. Nothing in the area was in a state of disrepair."
The defense argued she should not have walked into an area designated for crew only, and the jury agreed in part. The jury found NCL (Bahamas) Ltd. 60 percent liable and McQuillan 40 percent liable on January 13, 2016. The jury awarded $50,000 of past medical expenses, $100,000 for past pain and suffering and $0 for future pain and suffering for a total award of $150,000. with McQuillan getting $90,000 after lawyer fees which we estimate to be at least $30,000.
If Norwegian Cruise Lines appeals, the verdict could be over-turned, like the case of James Hausman. James Hausman Jury Award Vacated
It's interesting to note that McQuillan isn't new to the judicial system. Court records show, on April 13, 1997 Elizabeth McQuillan and her husband William, 79, were robbed in their home by three men wielding a gun who pushed their way into the couple's home. Court documents say, "The man with the gun told William to stay on the floor and turn over, while the other man tied William's hands. The suspects also tied Elizabeth to a chair.
After they tied the McQuillans, the young men proceeded to destroy things in the house. In an effort to calm them down, William told them where they could find sixty-five dollars. Elizabeth also told them to take her car. The men took the keys and drove off in Elizabeth's 1995 Mazda 626. Before leaving, the suspects took two watches and the $65. After freeing themselves, the couple called the police." Police arrested the men in Elizabeth's car after a BOLO ("Be on the lookout",) was issued and the vehicle was observed on a local highway.
On July 9, 1998, a Harrison County Circuit Court jury returned a verdict against Nathaniel Thomas for armed robbery, aggravated assault, grand larceny and burglary of a dwelling.
According to death records, Elizabeth's husband William died on September 14, 2003 at the age of 86.