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Holland America cruise line to appeal punitive damages award

MS_Amsterdam_from_Elliott_Bay,_Seattle_5

Cruise ship operator Holland America says it will appeal against a punitive damages award. A jury in Seattle hit the cruise operator with a US$21.5 million (£14.1 million) penalty for an accident in which an Illinois man  suffered brain damage when an automatic door slammed shut on his head.

James Hausman, 61, and wife Carol were on a round-the-world voyage aboard the cruise operator’s MS Amsterdam in November 2011 when the accident happened. CCTV cameras captured the incident and footage from them was played in court.

The video shows the doors closing on Mr Hausman’s temple. He seems to teeter a little and then glances at his wife before attempting to compose himself. Attorney Rick Friedman acting on behalf of Mr Hausman stated that his client was concussed by the blow.

He further claimed that the incident was one of many involving automatic doors aboard cruise ships operated by Holland America. Judge Barbara Rothstein permitted details about 16 of the 34 mishaps to be presented to the jury. 

Mr Friedman said his client was examined by a doctor on the ship and diagnosed with concussion. He finished the cruise with his wife and daughter, but a subsequent examination revealed he had sustained brain damage which has rendered him liable to seizures, vertigo and loss of memory.

The trial in Seattle took nine days. The compensation award is made up US$5 million (£3.3 million) for the pain suffered by Mr Hausman and US$16.5 million (£10.8 million) in damages against Holland America.

Carol Hausman says that even though Holland America has issued a statement saying it will mount an appeal against what it calls excessive damages, she said no amount of money can bring her old partner back. She says she would swap the multi-million dollar award for a husband not prone to seizures and memory issues in an instant.

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