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Miami-Dade County, FL

The plaintiff was a 42-year-old citizen of Haiti who worked on board the defendant’s cruise ship as a cleaner, which also required him to perform luggage handling on embarkation/disembarkation days. The plaintiff claimed, under the federal Jones Act, (applying to seamen) that the defendant failed to provide a safe place to work. The plaintiff also claimed, under general maritime law, that the ship was unseaworthy in that it lacked a sufficient crew to perform all the jobs tasks. The plaintiff claimed that crew members were overworked and that the defendant failed to provide proper and adequate medical care once the plaintiff sustained a back injury, resulting in the plaintiff undergoing unnecessary back surgery. The defendant argued that the ship was well equipped and that it provided appropriate medical treatment by sending the plaintiff to the Dominican Republic for back surgery and follow-up medical care.

The defense asserted that the plaintiff was trained and instructed regarding rules and procedures to avoid back injuries. The defendant also contended the surgery was necessary due to the plaintiff’s severe back condition, which defendant contended preexisted the plaintiff’s work on the vessel. The plaintiff testified that he worked aboard the defendant’s vessel from ________ to ________ and was required to work ten hours per day, seven days a week. The plaintiff testified that most of his duties involved cleaning, but he was also required to handle heavy luggage on the days some ________ passengers came on and some ________ passengers from the prior cruise left the ship.

The cleaners were required to participate in the handling of the luggage on these days in addition to their regular job duties and the plaintiff received a salary of $________ per month, according to evidence offered. The plaintiff claimed that there was insufficient crew for all the ship-board jobs including the luggage duty. The plaintiff argued that the type of work assignments (seven days a week, for eight-month contracts) exposed crewmembers to the risks of suffering cumulative trauma disorders such as the lumbar injury suffered by the plaintiff.

In addition, plaintiff claimed the medical care provided by the defendant was not proper and adequate. The plaintiff was sent to Santa Domingo, Dominican Republic, for treatment where the plaintiff alleged the doctor performed a two-level back fusion immediately instead of exhausting conservative care before performing the surgery. The plaintiff alleged that the surgery was not necessary.

The plaintiff claimed that he should have been treated in Miami, where the ship was located when he first complained of back pain. The plaintiff also alleged that the defendant failed to provide adequate follow-up care, resulting in continuing pain, limitation of motion and restrictions. The plaintiff has not returned to work and now lives in his native Haiti with his wife and five children. The plaintiff’s vocational expert opined that the plaintiff is totally and permanently disabled from employment as a result of his back condition.

The defendant argued that the plaintiff voluntarily worked overtime and was trained on how to perform the work safely. The defense also contended that the plaintiff’s medical care was fully addressed after he complained of back pain. The plaintiff received necessary surgery and several months of physical therapy before his treating doctor found him to be at maximum medical improvement, according to defense arguments. The defense also contended that the plaintiff could return to work in a light duty capacity if he so desired.The jury found for the plaintiff in the amount of $________. The defendant’s motion for new trial is currently pending.

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