Lawsuit Filed After Passenger Stroke Aboard HAL Zuiderdam – On Wednesday, March 21, 2018, Lila Graciela Kohn Gale, 55, and her husband John [Plaintiff], both from Chicago, Illinois, were cruising aboard the Holland America Line [Defendants] cruise ship MS Zuiderdam, which embarked from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on March 21, 2018, at approximately 4:00 p.m.
Gale had a stroke just four hours after Zuiderdam left the docks, and a subsequent lawsuit was filed against Holland America.
Plaintiff, Pablo Esterson, as attorney-in-fact for Lila Graciela Kohn Gale, is a resident of the State of Illinois. Pablo Esterson is the son of Lila Graciela Kohn Gale (“Mrs. Gale”). He has authority to act for Mrs. Gale in the event that she is incapacitated through a durable power of attorney dated May 14, 2012.
The lawsuit states, “As part of providing vacation cruises, Defendants are obligated to provide competent medical care and facilities, as well as personnel capable of making sound medical and medical evacuation decisions. As part of providing vacation cruises, Defendants advertised that the ship’s onboard medical center was staffed by licensed physicians and critical care nurses and that it is well equipped to handle most emergencies.
Defendants charged money to passengers for medical services provided. As such, Defendants are in the business of providing medical services to passengers for profit and owe a nondelegable duty to provide competent and non-negligent medical care and services. Defendants owned, operated, controlled, and/or maintained the medical center aboard the MS Zuiderdam. Defendants maintained a Fleet Medical Operations division at corporate headquarters in Seattle. The onboard medical center and Fleet Medical Operations division work as a team in the event of medical evacuation emergency. A structured emergency response team onboard each of Defendants’ vessels run monthly practice drills. Defendants are aware that medical emergencies may arise on its vessels and are aware of the essential need to promptly evacuate passengers suffering from serious medical emergencies.”
Defendants’ officials and employees had the ability to monitor and participate in safety, security, and medical emergencies onboard the vessel by communicating with the ship’s crew via telephone, videoconference, Skype and other means of communication. Defendants, through both the crew onboard and their shore-side officials and employees, who acted in consultation with one another, failed to properly care and promptly and properly evacuate Mrs. Gale.
Further, plaintiff alleges, “Defendants advertise that they are “committed to providing the highest quality onboard medical care for ship guest and crewmembers and providing excellent first response and emergency care to passengers until they can be transferred to a shoreside medical facility. Defendants advertise that they are recognized as an “industry leader in cruise medicine. Defendants advertise that it was the first cruise line to add thrombolytic treatment to its on-board medical services. Defendants advertise that its ships are able to access “any medical specialist through the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston.” And that “all ships have digital radiology. Defendants advertise that they have procedures for emergency disembarks “via Coast Guard helicopter if medically appropriate and logistically possible in relation to the ship’s distance from land.”
Plaintiff also alleges, “Upon information and belief, the Master of MS Zuiderdam was consulted regarding Mrs. Gale’s deteriorating condition and the emergent nature of the situation. The Master is an employee or agent of Defendants and had the ability to divert or control the vessel or make the appropriate decision to afford one of his passengers the medical care and treatment she desperately needed. At all times Defendants were vicariously liable for the negligence of the medical staff and doctors onboard the MS Zuiderdam, who were employees, apparent agents, actual agents, or joint venturers of Defendants. At all times Defendants were vicariously liable for the negligence of the non-medical personnel onboard the MS Zuiderdam, who were employees, apparent agents, actual agents, or joint venturers of Defendants. At all times Defendants had control or the right to control all persons working in its medical departments, including the Doctors and personnel that improperly treated and negligently mismanaged Mrs. Gale’s condition.”
Plaintiff states, “Mrs. Gale and her family relied upon Defendants’ representations regarding its available shipboard medical facility with its qualified and competent physicians in their decision to purchase the cruise and contract with Defendants.
On March 21, 2018, Mrs. Gale was on board the MS Zuiderdam for a cruise from Fort Lauderdale to the Panama Canal. Mrs. Gale was a paying passenger. On the evening of March 21, 2018, at approximately 8:30 p.m., Mrs. Gale lost consciousness while having dinner.
A medical team from the MS Zuiderdam was dispatched and noted her to be confused, drowsy and with slurred speech. Mrs. Gale was transported to the medical center of the MS Zuiderdam where she was given a provisional diagnosis of “Severe Stroke” or “Query Ruptured Cerebral aneurysm” by the MS Zuiderdam’s Senior Physician, Dr. Socrates Lopez.
In light of the symptoms and manifestations exhibited by Mrs. Gale, any reasonably prudent healthcare provider in Dr. Socrates Lopez’s position would have known that a medical airevacuation to a comprehensive stroke center was medically necessary.”
Plaintiff also alleges, “Mrs. Gale was treated without basic regard to her needs by Defendants. She went untreated on the vessel and declined as the hours passed by. She was eventually loaded onto a tugboat in the middle of the night and shipped to a recognized poorly equipped hospital that was ill-suited to provide any care or treatment for Mrs. Gale. Prior to transferring Mrs. Gale onto the tug boat the Defendants failed to do even the bare minimum due diligence for continuity of care such as confirming that the hospital could provide care and treatment for a stroke patient, that it had a functioning CT scan, that it had a neurosurgery department, that it had neurological specialists, or even whether the local airport for medivac flight was opened or closed.
Because the Bahamian hospital chosen by Defendants could not provide care and treatment for a stroke patient, did not have a functioning Ct scan, did not have a neurosurgery department, did not have neurological specialists and the local airport was in fact closed, Mrs. Gale was left without necessary, timely and appropriate medical care. She was eventually flown back to Broward County, Florida after an excessive and unreasonable 15-hour delay from the onset of her stroke symptoms. During the unreasonable delay her brain was slowly dying from the mounting pressure of blood crushing down on her brain tissue. Time was of the essence to save Mrs. Gale’s slowly dying brain, and Defendants completely failed her. As a direct and proximate result she suffered catastrophic injuries from which she will not recover. Lila Gale’s brain and body was decimated as a result of Defendants’ wanton, willful, and outrageous conduct.”
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