SEATTLE – A federal jury in Seattle awarded an Illinois man $21.5 million in damages after a cruise ship’s automatic sliding-glass door slammed shut on his head.
The verdict includes $16.5 million in punitive damages and $5 million for James Hausman’s past and future pain and suffering.
Hausman’s attorneys told the jury dozens of other passengers have been injured by the doors on Holland America Line cruises because of problems with their sensors, The Seattle Times reported Tuesday.
The company has denied that claim and asked the court to reduce the award. It says it will appeal.
Surveillance video shows 61-year-old Hausman walking through an automatic door as it shuts on him on Nov. 26, 2011, as the M/S Amsterdam approached Hawaii.
Hausman, who was traveling with his wife and daughter on the beginning of a world cruise, got hit in the face and side of the head.
Holland America said in court documents that Hausman walked into the doors as they were already closing.
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A ship doctor diagnosed him with a concussion. He and his family stayed on board for the trip.
But Hausman’s attorneys say tests later showed he suffered a minor brain injury that caused seizures, memory loss and vertigo.
“He still has trouble with things that would have been simple before,” said Hausman’s lawyer, Rick Friedman, adding that his client has sold his gold and precious-metals retail business as a result of the accident.
In an interview with Global News, Friedman said that at one point after the injury his client was experiencing up to six seizures a week and continues to suffer from them despite being on medications.
“If you knew that once every 60 days you’d totally zone out when you’re out in public, or driving … it’d be disruptive, to say the least,” he said.
Friedman said his client and family pursued a trial because they wanted “to effect positive change” after information surfaced that there were more victims of Holland America’s sliding doors.
Friedman alleged that Holland America did not reveal documentation on up to 34 other sliding-door incidents throughout its fleet going back three years. The injuries ranged from scrapes to broken hips, he said.
U.S. District Judge Barbara Rothstein allowed the jury to hear about 16 of those incidents; the rest, she decided, were not relevant to the case.
Friedman alleged that Holland America set the doors’ motion sensors to open and close faster in an attempt to save on air conditioning and increase profits.
Holland America denied that allegation told the Associated Press that it had no comment on the specifics of Hausman’s lawsuit.
“Holland America Line is committed to the safety and security of our guests and take all incidents very seriously,” the company said in a statement.
Friedman says Hausman and his family “feel vindicated by the result” and are not concerned about the appeal.
– with files from the Associated Press
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