Woman claims cruise employee dumped her from wheelchair

By Michelle Massey, East Texas Bureau | Dec 16, 2009

MARSHALL – Confined to a wheelchair due to multiple sclerosis, Sheryl Morton was returning to a cruise ship from an offshore excursion with her husband.

She claims the cruise line's employee attempted to assist her up the ramps, but instead dumped her out of the wheelchair.

Morton, and her husband, James, filed a personal injury lawsuit against Royal Caribbean Cruises, doing business as Celebrity Cruises Inc., on Dec. 10 in the Marshall Division of the Eastern District of Texas.

According to the complaint, the plaintiffs were passengers on the Celebrity Infinity cruise ship and were returning from an on-shore excursion in Juneau, Ak. Morton was being pushed up the ramp by one of the defendant's employees.

At the top of the ramp, there was flat section and then another downward-sloped ramp leading to the deck of the ship. Morton states the employee pushed her wheelchair forward down the ramp, instead of turning the wheelchair around on the flat section and backing down the ramp to the deck of the ship.

She claims she was dumped out of her wheelchair and landed on the deck of the ship, fracturing both of her legs.

The plaintiffs allege that Royal Caribbean was negligent for equipping the vessel with a dangerous ramp, for failing to train employees in the proper handling of wheel-chair bound passengers, for failing to provide a safe means or adequate personnel to assist with boarding and disembarking of the cruise ship, and failing to exercise reasonable care for the safety of its passengers.

The lawsuit also states that the defendant is negligent for failing to investigate, record, collate and analyze similar incidents and for failing to take appropriate corrective action, all in violation of the International Safety Management Code.

Morton is seeking damages for physical pain, mental anguish, disfigurement, physical impairment, loss of capacity for the enjoyment of life and medical expenses. Her husband is seeking damages for loss of affection, solace, comfort, companionship and society.

The plaintiffs are also seeking exemplary damages in an "amount sufficient to deter such unconscionable and irresponsible conduct in the future."

Tyler attorney Michael Ace of the law firm Roberts and Roberts is representing the plaintiffs in their allegation.

Jury trial requested.

U.S. District Judge T. John Ward will preside over the litigation.

Case No 2:09cv00382

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