Holland America Line Cruise Ship Amsterdam, Automatic Door Injury - Jury Awards $21.5 Million
Holland America Line Cruise Ship Amsterdam, Automatic Door Injury - Jury Awards $21.5 Million
We found a very odd and shocking out come for Holland America Line after a cruise ship passenger from Springfield, Illinois filed an injury lawsuit in Seattle Washington, striking gold with a jury awarded $21.5 million for an injury incurred from an automatic closing door.
Cruise Bruise opened an investigation into what circumstances lead to such a high jury award, an injury which was sustained aboard their cruise ship Amsterdam. We secured over 40 documents in the public domain and through the Freedom Of Information Act related to this case and James Hausman.
We asked ourselves, was this injury so severe, so life changing for this individual and/or was this person so important his injury was worth such an incredible award?
What we discovered during our investigation paints a picture of the circumstances surrounding this event. The first piece of evidence was the video from the incident. The video shows Hausman not paying attention when he walked through the doorway.
The screenshot above from the video captures the moment before impact. Hausman is looking at someone on the pool side of the door, perhaps the person who filmed the event, as the automatic door opens. In effect, he walks into the door, which is already open an estimated 8-12 inches, as you can see. He is walking very close to wall/door housing, which is also obvious. This is enough, for us say, in our personal opinion, Hausman appears to be at least partially at fault for not paying attention to his immediate surroundings while walking.
There was the launch of the lawsuit against the State of Wisconsin Natural Resources on 8-07-2014, while he was suffering from those stated injuries ("traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic vertigo, seizures, epilepsy, neuropsychological, psychosocial impairments" ) and involved in the litigation against HAL.
More concerning was his private investigator business practice with Illinois State. Though Hausman reports to having seizures and other impairments from the injury, he updated his Private Investigators license with a renewal on February 26, 2014, showing his intent to work and provide a competent service to clients ,in spite of "traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic vertigo, seizures, epilepsy, neuropsychological, psychosocial impairments".
Hausman's Illinois State FIREARM CONTROL CARD was renewed April 30 2013. Illinois State FIREARM CONTROL CARD Requirements: The form asks, "Have you ever been declared by any court incompetent by reason of mental or physical defect or disease?" While Hausman wasn't declared incompetent, the information provided in the court case related to his brain injury, opens the door to public discussion about his ability to handle a firearm competently with the stated "traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic vertigo, seizures, epilepsy, neuropsychological, psychosocial impairments".
There are other aspects of the case which are cause for pause. With a long history as a private investigator, you would think Hausman might have investigated the potential cruise line and cruise ship for a planned world cruise with his wife and child, in order to consider comfort, security and safety issues. If Hausman had done pre-booking due diligence as an investigator, he would have discovered the lawsuits for those automatic doors, which numbered around a dozen in the prior three years, according to his lawsuit.
There is also a pause at this set of facts. The Hausmans were booked into one of only two Pinnacle Suites for that seven-month-long world cruise. The Pinnacle Suites are forward on the Deck 7, also known as the Navigation Deck. The HAl description of the suite amenities includes, "Bedroom with 1 king-size bed, oversize whirlpool bath & shower, living room, dining room, dressing room, private verandah, pantry, 1 sofa bed for 2 persons, mini-bar, refrigerator, guest toilet, floor-to-ceiling windows. Approximately 1,181 sq. ft. including verandah."
You would think after a cruise ship injury warranting a $21.5 million jury award, the Hausman's would have disembarked the cruise in Honolulu, the next port. They didn't. Instead, they cruised for another five months, with "traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic vertigo, seizures, epilepsy, neuropsychological, psychosocial impairments". We considered this fact.
Head injury post-traumatic vertigo creates numerous problems. First, it creates what Hausman termed "dizziness". The dizziness of post-traumatic vertigo actually involves the symptoms of motion sickness, including a sensation of spinning, rocking or to-and-fro oscillation sensations, floating, or drunkenness. It generally causes severe nausea, which requires medication to ease symptoms. The vertigo symptoms mirror the symptoms described in our Mal de Debarquement Syndrome cases. Second, these vertigo symptoms are aggravated by elevation, walking up road grades, height of tall buildings, sometimes in buildings as low as two stories high, stairs or using elevators.
The Hausmans were on Deck 7. Deck 8 has the Lido Pool, Lido Bar, Canaletto Restaurant, Lido Restaurant, Sea View Bar, and Sea View Pool. In order to go to the Canaletto Restaurant or Lido Restaurant, Hausman would have to go down stairs or use the elevator, something which is very problematic for a person with "post-traumatic vertigo". In fact, using the elevator to go down to disembark at ports, which the Hausman's did in numerous ports during the next five months, would seem to be a problem. It wasn't.
Holland America Line had months to prepare for a potential lawsuit, to follow and document Hausman after the head injury, as the Hausmans' went on enjoying their cruise. HAL produced photos of Hausman. See Exhibit list for the list of photos submitted to the court by Holland America Line. Special Notice "D26 - Photo: Hausman Elephant Ride, taken March 2012"
How to ride an elephant video by Tripp Films - (photo example shown here)
Photos Submitted into evidence By HAL :
D13 - Photo: James Hausman /2011
D14 - Photo: James Hausman /11
D15 - Photo: Hausmans at Recife, Brazil, taken (ERROR /15), /11
D16 - Photo: Hausmans at Perito Moreno, Taken /2012
D17 - Photo: Hausman in 02/2012
D18 - Photo: Hausman in 02/2012
D19 - Photo: Hausman
D20 - Photo: Hausman at Tahiti, taken /2012
D21 - Photo: Dinner in Caims, taken /2012
D22 - Photo: Hausman-Hosted Dinner in Caims, taken /2012
D23 - Photo: Hausman-Hosted Dinner in Caims, taken /2012
D24 - Photo: Hausman-Hosted Dinner in Caims, taken /2012
D25 - Photo: Hausman-Hosted Dinner in Caims, taken /2012
D26 - Photo: Hausman Elephant Ride, taken March 2012
D27 - Photo: Hausman Ashore in Phuket, Thailand taken March 2012
D28 - Photo: Hausman Ashore in Safaga, Egypt taken April 2012
D29 - Photo: Hausman Ashore in Safaga, Egypt taken April 2012
D30 - Photo: Hausman Ashore in Barcelona, Spain taken April 2012
D31 - Photo: Hausman Ashore in Barcelona, Spain taken April 2012
D41 - Post-Incident Photos Collection re PL. Hausman and Various Events/Excursions
Other evidence submitted by HAL included gangway logs from Hausman coming and going from the cruise ship while the cruise ship was in port, per the photo list above. The gangway logs are divided up into those for Hausman, those for his wife and daughter and those for Kallie Knutson. Kallie Knutson was the person who reported the injury according to HAL evidence submitted to the court. She is listed as living in Springfield, Illinois and her address listed is the same as the address listed in company records for the Hausmans at The Gold Center and apparently was a Hausman guest on the world cruise.
In a summary of a deposition labeled 'Exhibit A' dated Jan 30, 2015, the cruise line discovers some other interesting facts. Of importance to us is the information Hausman offers as how he managed his business back home while spending 8 months at sea. He states "116,000 minutes on the internet for 270 days, comes out to 8.33 hours a day." The math doesn't add up, but the point is this. He clearly states he used the internet for approximately 7-8 hours a day, seven days a week for 270 days, running his business while on the cruise. There were over 150 days days after the head injury within those 270 days. Surely, he didn't use the internet 7-8 hours a day running his business in those more than 150 days, given his traumatic brain injury?
Hausman says in 'Exhibit A' (Jan 30, 2015) he sold his business, as he could no longer run it any more. A Corporate fling dated /2015 for the year 2015, shows Hausman still connected to the business.
Also in 'Exhibit A' the cruise line is clearly digging for information as to whether Hausman had been having seizures, how many and how his own actions might have contributed to those seizures, which Hausman estimates at perhaps as many as 100. We wondered about that line of questioning in the deposition Hausman gave.
According to the National Institute of Heath (NIH), "Several pathogenic mechanisms for the development of epilepsy in alcohol users were identified. Most of the relevant studies found that a high percentage of alcohol users with epilepsy would qualify for the criteria of alcohol dependence. Data were inconclusive regarding a threshold for the effect of alcohol, but most studies suggest that the effect may only hold for heavy drinking (four and more drinks daily)."
The NIH further states, "Available data seem to suggest that the prevalence of epilepsy among alcoholics is at least triple that in the general population, and that alcoholism may be more prevalent among epileptic patients than in the general population. Although there is general agreement that excessive alcohol intake can increase the frequency of seizures in epileptic patients, limited available data suggest that light to moderate social alcohol drinking may not affect seizure frequency."
So, while epilepsy is common among those who have suffered a head injury, it is also attributed to excessive alcohol consumption or as increasing seizures for those who have epilepsy. This explains the line of questioning by the HAL team. "How many beers a day do you typically drink now?" [since the cruise] Hausman: 4,5, or 6 per day. If it was choir practice night, 14, 16, 18. Question by HAL team," Has the amount that you drink changed since the cruise?". Hausman: "Estimating, I would say that it had gone down, that at least the first part of the cruise I think it was elevated."
Cruise ship casino dealer (Croupier) Boban Tomasevski
has publilcy stated and claims he worked aboard HAL's Amsterdam during this particular cruise, alleging that "After accident he was complaining all the time but that did not stop him from drinking 24 beers a day in his cabin mini bar and continuing to drink and gamble at casino late at night." As of print date, Boban Tomasevski was a Croupier at Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL) and worked for Carnival Corportation (parent company of HAL)prior to being hired at NCL. This claim, if true, could be supported by HAL CCTV feed from the casino. Cruise ship casinos are well-known for having a lot of noise and bright lights, especially when you consider the slot machines. This would be a traumatic brain injury nightmare.
So, consider this. In an interview after the verdict, Hausman's wife Carol said. "He doesn't like to be in public, he doesn't like to be in places with too much stimulation, too much bright lights. He just can't tolerate that stuff in the way that he used to be able to."
New evidence was presented by Illinois Times newspaper article by Bruce Rushton November 3, 2015 titled: Winner of $21 million verdict speaks out. Hausman is quoted regarding the advice he got from a doctor in San Diego. "The sentence was, 'Don't do a damn thing for six months -- you need to be waited on hand-and-foot,'" Hausman recalls. Yet, the photo evidence HAL acquired shows that didn't happen.
There was also an issue during the jury deliberations, where the jury asked for clarification on numerous issues. The jury then came back again to request a new form for their verdict and use of a shredder to shred the verdict form previously filled out.
All this comprises the anatomy of a $21.5 million award for a "mild head injury" on a cruise, which took place according to the images above. Did Hausman deserve a jury award of $21.5 million? Not in our opinion. To compare this injury to another , there was the much more 'just' verdict in the case of a person injured in an automatic door who was an elderly woman who broke her hip. She had to be put in a nursing home for the rest of her life. She had been caring for her disabled daughter at the time, displacing both women. She was awarded $7 million.
In conclusion, you need to consider the following facts. I can say without a doubt, in the past ten years of investigating incidents at sea, I have never once seen a case which involved an injury serious enough to deserve millions in a lawsuit award, where the passenger stayed on the cruise ship after the injury beyond the time it takes the ship to get the passenger back to port. People almost always are medically disembarked by the cruise ship or choose to get back to port as soon as possible in order to attain qualified medical treatment for their injuries. Hausman elected to stay aboard Amsterdam, more than 150 days after the injury, through the rest of Thanksgiving weekend celebrations, as well as shipboard celebrations for Christmas, New Year's Eve, New Years Day, Valentines Day and Easter instead of going home to manage and treat his $21.5 million traumatic brain injury.
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Tripfilms: How to ride an elephant
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