In James Hausman versus Holland America the jury awarded 21.5 million in favor of plaintiff James Hausman. The case took nine days in federal court in Seattle. The plaintiff’s lawyer was Rick Friedman, author of books entitled Rules of the Road and Polarizing the Case, among others. Part 1 of my interview with Rick is below.
Part 2 is below.
I mentioned the books because they are great reads if you’re a plaintiff’s lawyer. I recommend both Rules of the Road and Polarizing the Case, although I have not read his other books. I may do so in the future.
Hausman ran the Gold Center in Springfield Illinois, my home town and were I practice. Hausman sold the Gold Center after this injury. He claimed he was unable to manage after he got injured.
Hausman was on cruise on a Holland America ship when an automatic metal door closed and hit him on the head. He originally believed he was not badly hurt did not immediately go to the doctor. A nurse on the boat thought he was acting strangely and checked him out.
Eventually Hausman sought treatment and was diagnosed with a mild traumatic brain injury. Friedman said in the interview that the medical bills were small enough that he did not even put them into evidence.
Obviously, traumatic brain injuries are suspect by insurance companies and juries, who typically assume they are either fake or exaggerated, so Friedman had numerous friends of Hausman testify at the trial.
Hausman’s friends testified about his prior abilities. Hausman was regarded by his friends as very intelligent, very social, and savvy businessman. Now they said he cannot he stays home and has a personality change. He is now grumpy. Friedman said that Hausman was wealthy and had no reason to fabricate the injury.
The defendant, Holland America, had set the door settings to make the door close as quickly as possible. In the three years prior to this injury the ship company had 21 events, and about 14 of these came into evidence at trial. One lady had suffered a fractured hip, and there were numerous injuries which required medical care. In fact, events that the judge allowed into evidence all involved medical care.
Friedman said it was a little unclear as to why the defendant set the door settings in such a prompt closure rate. His expert testified that by doing so they would have saved on their air-conditioning bill and he believes that may be the cause. However, the defendant never explained.
Compensatory damages were $5 million. This is the amount the jury awarded the plaintiff to reimburse him for his loss. The jury also awarded 16 ½ million in punitive damages, intended to punish the defendant for its bad conduct, presumably in setting the door so that would close so quickly in order to save on electricity.
At Ackerman Law Offices we actively pursue and understand traumatic brain injuries. They are very difficult explained to the jury. Normally plaintiff needs neuropsychological testing and testimony of friends and family members to establish the seriousness of the injury. If you or a friend or family member have had a dramatic brain injury that someone else’s negligence caused, we would be happy to help you.