Faulty Cruise Ship Stairwell Design Results in Life-Altering Passenger Injury

Many travel industry experts have described cruise ships as floating cities. The comparison between cruise ships and cities is appropriate in many respects: they both house thousands of people and can provide for their every need for a theoretically unlimited period of time. And like cities, cruise ship design is paramount for the safety of those who inhabit it. When aspects of the ship are poorly designed, the resulting design flaws can represent significant hazards for passengers and crew members alike.

In February 2019, a cruise passenger was injured due to cruise ship design flaws. Below is an excerpt from a civil lawsuit that Hickey Law Firm, P.A. filed on behalf of this client who was seriously injured on a poorly designed cruise ship stairwell. 

“On February 12, 2019, NCL Getaway was on its second day of cruising and was in navigable waters by Roatan, Bay Island, Honduras. At approximately 7:45 p.m. [THE PLAINTIFF] descended the subject glass staircase from Deck 7 to Deck 6.  [THE PLAINTIFF] descended the staircase while grasping the rail with her right hand.  As [THE PLAINTIFF] approached the last few steps of the staircase, the treads of the steps were of different dimensions.   Because of the different dimensions of the glass steps and because of the lighting and other aspects of the steps described herein which deters someone walking down the steps to fully appreciate the difference in dimensions, [THE PLAINTIFF] made an air step, mis-step, or overstep and fell forward onto and turned her left ankle.   

The turn of her left ankle in turn caused serious injury to [THE PLAINTIFF].  [THE PLAINTIFF] suffered a bi-malleolar fracture, that is, a fracture of the ends of the 2 bones which form the lower leg and the ankle joint, the end of the tibia (medial malleolus) and the end of the fibula (lateral malleolus) with displacement, that is, the injury was so severe that the bones were out of alignment.   [THE PLAINTIFF] sought treatment immediately when she disembarked the ship in Florida.  She stayed in Florida for 3 days for medical care which prepared her for the flight home to Michigan.  She was placed in a cast for 1 week and then a boot with a knee roller to ambulate.  The swelling of her ankle and leg were described as “profound”.  When she returned home to Michigan, she was seen by 2 orthopedic surgeons one of which performed surgery on her.   

On February 20, 2019, [THE PLAINTIFF] underwent open surgery with insertion of plates and screws (open reduction with internal fixation) by Board Certified Orthopedic Surgeon specializing in foot and ankle surgery Dr. Sean A. Matuszak of Michigan Orthopedic Surgeons.  The surgery was performed on both sides of the left ankle.  On the lateral side of the ankle (the outside), the surgeon drilled into the bone and used a lag screw, cortical screw, a plate, locking screws, and proximal screws.  On the medial side of the ankle (inside), the surgeon drilled into the bone and used 2 cannulated screws.   

This surgery generated pain in the days, weeks, and months afterwards.  As a result of the surgery itself, [THE PLAINTIFF] was prescribed medications for the pain and inflammation and for a period could not be weight bearing.  Also as a result of these injuries and the resulting surgery [THE PLAINTIFF] has taken pain medications, anti-inflammatories, corticosteroids, and other medications and those medications have caused stomach problems.   

Also, as a result of these injuries, [THE PLAINTIFF] who is in the physically demanding business of being a hairdresser was out of work for 3 ½ months.  As a result of her unavailability after this incident and as a result of her slowing down as a result of these injuries, [THE PLAINTIFF] has lost clients and will continue to lose clients in her business.   [THE PLAINTIFF’s] work life expectancy as a hairdresser who is required to stand and to use and hold the tools of her trade in awkward positions for hours on end has been shortened.  And because of these injuries and the consequences of them, [THE PLAINTIFF] has spent and will continue to spend a significant amount of time going to see physicians, chiropractors, physical therapists, holistic doctors, and acupuncturists.  This commitment of time in turn has diminished and will continue to diminish [THE PLAINTIFF’s] time at work and servicing clients and being available for clients as well as time enjoying life.  This shortening of her work life expectancy and the expectation as to how these injuries will affect her future cause constant mental anguish.      

This injury and the resulting surgery have caused and will continue to cause other drastic changes in the life of [THE PLAINTIFF].  As a result of these injuries, when [THE PLAINTIFF] puts her foot on the ground in the morning, she feels pain in her ankle and the pain continues or radiates into her knees, hips, and lower back.  As a result of this pain, she has trouble at least in the mornings to walk even short distances.  [THE PLAINTIFF] now feels and will feel in the future pain at rest and with activity and limitations on her activities.  The activities which have been limited or affected include but are not limited to her trade or profession of hair dresser and her out of work activities like walking her dog, working out, hiking, and traveling, all of which she either does less of or does with pain.  These injuries and the resulting pain and limitations have made it painful to walk up the stairway in the house where [THE PLAINTIFF] has lived for 23 years and she may have to sell the house.  And the lessening or lack of activity and exercise as well as the aggravation of her Hashimoto’s disease have caused [THE PLAINTIFF] to gain significant weight which in turn affects every aspect of her life.”