$4 Million Jury Trial Award Marks First Time Disney Cruise Line Loses Employee Personal Injury Case
Last month a Brevard County, Florida, jury ruled that Disney Cruise Line must pay a former ship employee a $4 million personal injury award following a 2013 accident. The plaintiff, Maria Ana Reis Martins, worked as a dining room server on the Disney Dream Ship that traveled between the Caribbean and Port Canaveral, Florida.
According to Martins’ lawsuit, she was hit by a car while ashore in the Bahamas in 2013. The Disney Cruise ship’s team of doctors failed to diagnose three broken ribs she sustained via the accident, and deemed her fit to return to work. Martins continued serving tables for 10 days despite her injuries.
A Florida doctor subsequently diagnosed her broken ribs, and Martins returned to her native Portugal for five months of treatment. In 2014, she resumed working for Disney Cruise Line in the same capacity, but had to leave a month later on account of nerve damage related to the accident, according to the lawsuit.
Martins’ attorney, Julio Ayala, indicated that the verdict marks the first time that Disney Cruise Line has lost a personal injury case involving a ship employee in a jury trial. Ayala is based out of Miami, Florida.
Court documents indicate that Ayala’s argument before the jury focused on Disney Cruise Line’s negligence and failure to provide appropriate medical care for his client following the car accident. Disney Cruise Line contended that it had fulfilled its necessary duties of care according to maritime law.
The jury required only five hours of deliberation to reach a verdict. On December 19, they found Disney Cruise Line to be negligent, and awarded Martins a $4 million judgment with the following breakdown:
- $1 million for pain and suffering
- $2 million for lost earnings
- $1 million as punishment
According to the Miami Herald, the jury attributed 70% of negligence associated with Martins’ injuries to the Disney Cruise Line, and 30% to her.
Additionally, the Miami Herald noted that Disney Cruise Line’s employment contracts are unique in comparison to their competitors in that they do not include mandatory arbitration clauses. Rather, Disney Cruise Line contracts require employees to sue in either Brevard County Circuit Court or the U.S. District Court in the Middle District of Florida.
At the time of publication, Disney Cruise Line had not responded to a PINews request for comment.