The Merchant Marine Act of 1920 has been used in a Florida court case to successfully support a compensation claim for the partial loss of a kidney.
The Merchant Marine Act (also known as the Jones Act after its author Wesley Jones) was enacted almost a century ago as a protection measure for the domestic shipping industry. Within its chapters is a section that allows workers to sue their employers when they have been injured at sea and their injuries can be attributed to the negligence of an employer or coworker.
The Act was recently used in Florida to support a compensation claim for the partial loss of a kidney. The claim was made by an employee of Royal Caribbean Cruises, who alleged that the cruise company´s medical personnel had failed to order diagnostic testing or warn her of the risks of kidney damage after she had undergone treatment for hypertension and proteinuria.
The Background to the Claim
In 2004, Teresa Di Trapani – a loyalty sales ambassador for Royal Caribbean Cruises – had undergone treatment for hypertension and proteinuria at the company´s expense while her ship was docked in Miami. Despite her symptoms being an early warning sign for kidney damage, no diagnostic tests were ordered and the recommendation that Teresa should be referred to a nephrologist for follow-up care was never passed onto her.
Consequently, Teresa went five years without a follow-up – and would have gone without a follow-up for longer had she not been taken ill when, on October 10, 2009, the cruise ship docked in Lisbon, Portugal. Teresa was taken to a local hospital where she was examined and discharged with pain medication. The pain in her abdomen continued and the following day – when the cruise ship docked in Spain – she was taken off the ship and hospitalized.
Teresa was diagnosed with hemorrhaging in the right kidney and was flown home to Canada, where a tumor was discovered. Surgeons removed part of Teresa´s right kidney, but she subsequently suffered an umbilical hernia and a right-flank incisional hernia. Unable to lift weights, Teresa was limited to what day-to-day activities she could pursue and was unable to return to her job on the cruise ship.
The Compensation Claim for the Partial Loss of a Kidney Goes to Court
Alleging that she would not have suffered such severe injuries if her employers had ordered diagnostic tests and referred her to a nephrologist in 2004, Teresa made a compensation claim for the partial loss of a kidney against Royal Caribbean Cruises – using the provisions within the Jones Act to support her claim.
The cruise company denied it was liable for Teresa´s injuries and argued that they were due to unforeseeable causes which it had no duty of care to protect against. Royal Caribbean Cruises further argued that Teresa did not exercise “ordinary care, caution or prudence for her welfare” and that she had contributed to the extent and severity of her injuries due to her comparative negligence.
With no resolution possible by negotiation, the compensation claim for the partial loss of a kidney went to the Miami-Dade County Circuit Court, where it was heard by a jury before Judge Jerald Bagley. After five days of testimony, the jury took just one hour to unanimously find in Teresa´s favor.
The jury awarded Teresa $1,991,149 in settlement of her compensation claim for the partial loss of a kidney to account for her past and future pain and suffering, her past and future medical expenses and her past and future loss of income.