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July 21, 2011


Lawyer wins $1.25 million in arbitration for employee injured aboard cruise ship
Case: Milja Burzan v Royal Caribbean Cruises Case no: 50-517T00024-09 Description: Workers compensation Arbitration hearing: Jan. 13-14, 2011 Opinion date: March 14, 2011 Award: $1.25 million Arbitrators: Patricia B. Diaz, Cindy N. Hannah and Jerome H. Wolfson Plaintiff attorney: Jim M. Walker, Walker & ONeill, South Miami Defense attorney: Curtis Mase, Mase Lara & Ebersole, Miami Details: Milja Burzan, an employee of Royal Caribbean Cruises, was aboard the Jewel of the Seas when another crew member opened a door, which hit her in the back June 17, 2008. She fell and received medical attention the next day. Plaintiff case: The ships doctor declared her unfit for duty, but she continued working at her superiors insistence and aggravated the back injury. She later received medical care in St. Petersburg, Russia, and in Stockholm, Sweden, where she was misdiagnosed with a spinal fracture. She had a herniated disc and suffered foot drop. Burzan was flown to her native Serbia for back surgery, which took more than five months to authorize and was performed at the wrong level. Burzan remained in pain and sought a second surgery. She claimed Royal Caribbean stopped cooperating and stopped paying her living expenses. Burzan maintained she followed her employers instructions at all times. She was told to obtain the names of physicians in Serbia and submit them to Royal Caribbean for review. The cruise line always controlled the selection process, and Royal Caribbeans medical director approved the surgeon that committed malpractice. Defense case: Royal Caribbean provided medical care and was not responsible for any damages. The defense said Burzan chose a physician outside the employers network. Outcome: The employer did not act in a callous manner, and Burzan was not entitled to punitive damages or attorney fees. However, it was not reasonable for Royal Caribbean to deny maintenance and medical expenses to the employee when it ended payments June 25, 2009. The denial of those benefits lacked any reasonable defense and thus entitles the employee/claimant to compensatory damages, the three-member Miami arbitration panel found. The $1.25 million award includes funds for maintenance and cure, the cost of future surgery and all measures of compensatory damages awardable, including Burzans legal costs related to arbitration. The panel also said Royal Caribbean would continue to bear arbitration-related costs, including any costs related to proceedings brought by Burzans union to enforce the decision. Post-verdict: Since returning to Serbia, Burzan has been working for the Tourist

South Miami attorney Jim M. Walker argued it was not reasonable for Royal Caribbean to deny maintenance and medical expenses to his client after she was injured on the job.

Board of Serbia for $500 a month. Her previous earnings were $1,800 a month. Before her injury, Burzan, 33, was involved in sports and led an active lifestyle. The arbitration report noted she hopes surgery will allow her to resume a more active lifestyle and get a better paying job. Adolfo Pesquera

Reprinted with permission from the 7/21/11edition of the DAILY BUSINESS REVIEW 2011 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All rights reserved. Further duplication without permission is prohibited. Contact: 877-257-3382 reprints@alm.com or visit www.almreprints.coM. # 100-07-11-10

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