After Lawyer Passenger Dies Estate Sues Florida Cruise Line

Lawyer Dies Medical Mal Practice Lawsuit Explorer of the Seas
Lawyer Dies Medical Mal Practice Lawsuit Explorer of the Seas
Attorney Richard James Puchalski
Attorney Richard James Puchalski

After Lawyer Passenger Dies Estate Sues Florida Cruise Line – On Sunday, July 31, 2016, Attorney Richard (Dick) James Puchalski from Chicago, illinois was traveling aboard Royal Caribbean Cruise Line ship  Explorer of the Seas with his family to celebrate his 70th birthday. According to the lawsuit filed by Puchalski’s estate, he visited the ship’s clinic at around 1000 hours, complaining of shortness of breath.

The Explorer of the Seas ship’s doctor, Amanda Saunders, ordered an EKG and diagnosed Puchalski with a “septal infarction, age undetermined,” indicating that the patient had likely suffered a heart attack at some point in the past.

Explorer of the Seas was docked in Juneau at the time, but rather than have Puchalski taken offboard to be seen at a hospital.  Dr. Saunders prescribed metoprolol. The plaintiffs say Dr. Saunders made no effort to alert Puchalski’s family regarding his potentially serious condition.

Metoprolol is the generic form of the brand-name drug Lopressor, prescribed to treat high blood pressure and prevent angina (chest pain). Metoprolol is a type of medication called a beta blocker. It works by relaxing blood vessels and slowing heart rate, which improves blood flow and lowers blood pressure.

Bartlett Regional Hospital Juneau Alaska
Bartlett Regional Hospital Juneau Alaska

Mr. Puchalski’s son, Clifford, said that shortly after his father returned from the clinic, he collapsed while trying to walk to the bathroom in his cabin. The son contacted the ship’s emergency number and two nurses were dispatched to the room.

After the nurses and other emergency staff were unable to revive Mr. Puchalski in his cabin, he was transported once again to the clinic, but his family says it wasn’t until hours later that their father was finally transferred to the Bartlett Regional Hospital in Juneau. From there, he was airlifted a significant distance to an intensive care unit in Anchorage.

By the time Richard Puchalski arrived in Anchorage, his condition had deteriorated and he ultimately passed away on August 4, 2016.

On Thursday, March 7, 2019, a Florida judge ruled Royal Caribbean Cruise Line is largely responsible for the death of Lawyer Richard James Puchalski.  Puchalski went into cardiac arrest while aboard Explorer of the Seas during an Alaskan cruise.

Explorer of the Seas 7 Day Alaska Cruise
Explorer of the Seas 7 Day Alaska Cruise

Jurors found Royal Caribbean to be 70 percent at fault for the approximately $34,000 in medical expenses and $4.8 million in loss of companionship and pain and suffering.

The family alleged that Royal Caribbean was negligent by failing to “provide prompt and appropriate medical care” as soon as Mr. Puchalski arrived at the clinic. And this week the jury in this lawsuit agreed, finding the cruise line liable for both medical expenses and damages, totaling $4.834 million. Royal Caribbean’s exact share of liability was determined to be 70 percent, leaving the company on the hook for $3.384 million.

For the past forty years Dick worked as a prominent pension, labor, employment and immigration attorney. He was a founding partner of several successful law practices with the most recent being Puchalski Goodloe Marzullo, LLP.  Dick worked hard all his life to provide and care for his family. His strong work ethic and commitment to his wife, Cheri, of 41 years and family lives on in his children, family and friends.

Dick enjoyed cooking, gardening, playing the piano, the Premier League Tottenham Hotspur team, and Ron Rico rum (double tall, splash of Diet Coke, and one ice cube).

Dick was instrumental in starting the Remembrance & Survivors Fund in 2003 to provide financial assistance to the families of Illinois police officers and firefighters killed in the line of duty.

He is survived by his wife, Cheryl Susan; his children, Cliff (Cindy) Puchalski, and Laura (Jeff) Goodloe; his brothers, Dennis (Mary Ann) and Don (Ginny) Puchalski; and sisters, Connie Puchalski and Bonnie Heraty.

Royal Caribbean Cruise Line says they will appeal the decision.

This case has been added to thr Cruise Ship Deaths database.

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Video: Tracy Arm Fjord Time Lapse, Explorer of the Seas July 29 – August 5, 2016

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