Injured Royal Caribbean Cruise Janitor Awarded $6.3 Million

, Daily Business Review

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Brett Rivkind
Brett Rivkind

A Miami jury awarded $6.3 million to a Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. janitor who was injured on the job and then sent to the Dominican Republic for back surgery.

The lawsuit alleged Haitian national Willy Alphonse Dolcin, 42, severely injured his back through overwork and improper equipment. Royal Caribbean sent him to the Dominican Republic for back surgery but provided little follow-up care, the complaint said. The 42-year-old father of five now has permanent lifting restriction of 20 pounds. He is now back in Haiti and out of work.

"I'm thrilled with the verdict," said Brett Rivkind of Rivkind & Margulies of Miami. "I'm always concerned that a crew member from a Third World country won't receive a substantial award. But this gentleman deserved it. I told the jury pool, lady justice is blind, and you're supposed to balance the facts, regardless of what race or nationality the person is."

Royal Caribbean attorney David Horr of Horr, Novak & Skipp in Miami said the company plans to appeal.

"We are extremely disappointed with the jury's decision as the damages awarded are grossly out of proportion to the evidence presented," Horr said in an email. "However, we are pleased the jury found that Royal Caribbean fully complied with its maintenance and cure responsibilities. RCCL will be pursuing all available post-trial and appellate remedies to correct the serious errors with this jury's verdict concerning the other causes of action."

The verdict delivered late Friday included $5 million for past and future pain and suffering, $714,194 for future medical care and $514,131 in lost future earnings. Rivkind said the amount is close to what he requested. He said the company offered no pretrial settlement.

Dolcin worked on the vessel Jewel of the Seas from 2007 to 2009. He worked seven days a week, 10 hours a day, for $566 a month, Rivkind said. His main job was as a cleaner but he was also required to help handle luggage for the ship's 2,400 passengers on turnaround days when the ship returned to its home port.

"Over time this schedule breaks their backs," said Rivkind, who specializes in representing cruise line workers. "It's called a cumulative trauma."

Dolcin complained to his employer when the ship was in Miami, Rivkind said. Rather than take him to a doctor in Miami, the company sent him to the Dominican Republic for back surgery. Surgeons fused his vertebrae, and he was sent home to Haiti with minimum physical therapy.

"Simply providing the plaintiff with a few months of physical therapy and then abandoning him by finding him at maximum medical cure violates the applicable standards of care and violates defendant's duty to provide prompt, proper and adequate medical care and treatment," Rivkind said.

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