$3.384 Million VERDICT IN MIAMI, FLORIDA ON MAY 19, 2006

On Friday, May 19, 2006, a jury in Miami-Dade County Circuit Court awarded $3,384,185 to a former cruise ship first officer against Royal Caribbean Cruise Line.  The Final Judgment is in excess of $3.4 Million.  The case is styled: Goran Bakalar, Plaintiff v. Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. 11th Judicial Circuit Case No.: CASE NUMBER: 03-24475-CA-01. 

Plaintiff’s attorney:  John H. (Jack) Hickey, Esq.  Hickey Law Firm, P.A.

Defendant’s attorneys: Henry Salas, Esq., Doug Ede, Esq., and Robert Perez, Esq.  Salas, Ede, Peterson & Lage, LLC  

The award was for claims of negligence and unseaworthiness.  The cruise line had its officers--including the Plaintiff Goran Bakalar-- use a broken, bent ladder to enter a fast rescue boat at the Port of Miami.  The cruise line owned the fast rescue boat and was requested by the United States Coast Guard to patrol the waters around the cruise ships.  They were requested also to man the boats with two people. 

The ladder was fixed to a pier.  The cruise line knew about the condition of the ladder and still had its men and women use the ladder to enter the boat.  Also, the fast rescue boat should have been manned by two people.  One person could have been in the front of the fast rescue boat to hold it to the pier or ladder to allow the other person to enter.  But, the cruise line had cut back on the marine department staff at the time and would not man the fast rescue boats with two people.       

On the day of the accident, October 13, 2002, Mr. Bakalar was just back from his vacation.  He had never before entered the fast rescue boat from that ladder.  No one warned him about the condition of the ladder.  When he went to get into the boat, the ladder moved, and he slipped and fell backwards onto the deck of the fast rescue boat about 6 feet down. 

Mr. Bakalar suffered a career ending injury, a herniated disc in his back.  Mr. Bakalar, only 38 years old at the time of the injury, now needs fusion surgery on his back.  The cruise line at trial contended through its expert witness, Dr. Sal Ramirez, that Mr. Bakalar was fit for duty.  Yet, the cruise line’s own medical personnel previously had said in writing that Mr. Bakalar was not fit for duty, and the cruise line refused to renew Mr. Bakalar’s contract or call him back.   

The Plaintiff suffered a loss of future earning capacity.  Mr. Bakalar was a First Officer and was in line to be promoted.  Some of the cruise line’s own records confirm this.  Now, he can no longer serve on ships. 

Trial started on Tuesday May 9, 2006.  Verdict was rendered on Friday May 19, 2006.  The Honorable Scott Bernstein presided.  The breakdown of the award is on the verdict form attached. 


John H. (Jack) Hickey is a Miami native and practices all over Florida.  He is Board Certified as a Civil Trial Lawyer by The Florida Bar and by the National Board of Trial Advocacy.  Jack is a Past President of the Dade County (Miami) Bar Association (the largest voluntary bar association in Florida), Past Chair of the Admiralty Law Section of The Florida Bar, and currently serves as President of the Florida Admiralty Trial Lawyers Association.  He is a graduate of Florida State University (magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa) and of Duke Law School

This year alone, Jack was named by his peers to the “Legal Elite” in the area of personal injury by Florida Trend magazine; as a “Super Lawyer” by Superlawyer.com; and as a “Top Lawyer” in the areas of personal injury and maritime by the South Florida Legal Guide. 

For most of his career, he was a defense lawyer for insurance companies and cruise lines.  For the past 10 years, he has been on the other side, representing people in personal injury and wrongful death cases.  He has won many multi-million dollar jury verdicts.  See more at www.hickeylawfirm.com.  P: 1.800.215.7117 E: hickey@hickeylawfirm.com