If you have ever been woken up at night by the sound of ambulances driving past your window or been annoyed about losing time during your commute to work because you had to pull over to make way for an ambulance, consider yourself lucky. It means that you, like most people in South Florida, live near one or more hospitals. It is easy to take your access to fully staffed and equipped hospitals for granted until you spend time somewhere more remote, such as the open sea. Cruise ship infirmaries have enough doctors, nurses, and medical equipment to deal with routine health problems, but when a passenger is seriously ill, they must make the decision to get the passenger to a hospital on land as quickly as possible. Recent medical malpractice lawsuits against cruise ship companies have led to calls for a higher standard of care in cruise ship infirmaries.
Details of the Puchalski Case
In 2016, Richard Puchalski took a Royal Caribbean cruise of the islands off the coast of Alaska; the vacation was a present to himself for his 70th birthday. On the morning of July 31, he went to the ship’s infirmary because he was having chest pains. The ship’s doctor, Amanda Saunders, diagnosed him with “septal infarction, age undetermined,” which means that he had previously suffered a heart attack, but it was not possible to know how long ago it had happened. She gave him medications and sent him back to his room, where he collapsed about half an hour later. Several employees carried him back to the infirmary, but the doctor did not decide that Puchalski needed to go to a hospital on shore until late that afternoon, the same time that she contacted Puchalski’s family about his health. He was admitted to a hospital in Juneau when the ship reached the shore, but it was too late to save him, and he died four days after arriving at the hospital.
Puchalski’s wife filed a lawsuit in Florida, alleging that medical errors by Saunders were the cause of Puchalski’s death. She argued that Saunders should have decided, the first time that Puchalski went to the infirmary, that he needed to be taken to an on-shore hospital without delay. She sought $34,390.32 in medical expenses, plus $4.8 million in noneconomic damages. The court determined that 70 percent of the fault for the events leading to Puchalski’s death belonged to Royal Caribbean and 30 percent to Puchalski. Thus, it awarded $3,384,073.22 to Puchalski’s estate.
Contact Smith, Ball & Báez Injury Lawyers About Medical Malpractice Cases
If a previously healthy person suddenly died or became disabled as the result of a medical error, that person or their family could be entitled to compensation. A medical malpractice lawyer can help you recover damages; most medical malpractice cases result in settlements without the case ever going to trial. Contact Palm Beach County medical malpractice lawyers at Smith, Ball & Báez Injury Lawyers for a consultation.