Couple Information Negligence Lawsuit Towards Royal Caribbean After Defective Process by Physician

Lewis Masotti, 85, in the ship’s infirmary with a bladder drainage bag full of blood.

Photo courtesy Judith Masotti

Lewis Masotti loved to play golf. He has competed at a professional level for many years, participated in charity games and even lived on the Madison Greens golf course in Royal Palm Beach for 18 years. But after a cruise vacation that went wrong, the 85-year-old may never pick up a putter again.

Lewis boarded Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas with his wife Judith the week of May 21, 2018. The cruise was due to sail to Cozumel, Mexico, and the two were ready to have a week of fun and enjoy their retirement at sea – they had done it two or three times a year for many years.

After a few days of mini golf and lazing around the pool, Lewis checked into the ship’s medical bay at 8am on Wednesday, May 23rd. He’d gone on board with a catheter and urine bag that he’d been using for five months. Lewis struggled to reinsert the catheter during the cruise, so he followed his GP’s advice and sought help from the ship’s medical staff.

The on-board doctor inserted the catheter and, according to Judith, immediately only took blood, which had never happened before.

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“In the five months he has been inserting himself, not a single drop of blood has fallen,” Judith tells the New Times. “I asked the doctor what was going on and the doctor said there must be blood in his bladder and he should come back at 4pm when the bay reopens.”

Lewis played mini golf in the infirmary the day before his ordeal.  - PHOTO Courtesy of JUDITH MASOTTI

Lewis played mini golf in the infirmary the day before his ordeal.

Photo courtesy Judith Masotti

The couple went back to their suite, but by noon Lewis was delirious and shivering in his lounge chair. A steward had to help him onto the couch and cover him with blankets to relieve his tremors. At 3:30 p.m. Judith couldn’t wait any longer, she says. She had someone to help her bring her husband back to the infirmary, where they waited half an hour for a nurse to arrive.

“The nurse was shocked that the bag from earlier was covered in blood. They replaced the bag and made a diagnosis, but they eventually sent him back to the suite to stay the night,” says Judith.

Lewis could not eat or sleep that night, and at 6am the next day his wife took him back to the infirmary in a wheelchair – he could no longer walk. His pocket filled with blood again and he became clearer and clearer. The doctors later told them that Lewis suffered from sepsis and severe dehydration from being unable to empty his bladder.

Doctors in the infirmary took Lewis’ vital signs and asked Judith if she had travel insurance. She rushed back to her suite to get the paperwork, and on the way there she heard an announcement on the ship’s PA system asking about blood donors with O-negative blood. “I knew it had to be Lewis,” she says.

She ran back to find her husband open-mouthed and the doctors said they had to take him to a Mexican hospital.

Emergency transport from the ship to a hospital in Cozumel.  - PHOTO Courtesy of JUDITH MASOTTI

Emergency transport from the ship to a hospital in Cozumel.

Photo courtesy Judith Masotti

A few excruciating hours later, after the ship docked, Lewis was transported to Costamed Hospital in Cozumel. Doctors there ordered a CT scan and found that Lewis’ catheter – the one the Royal Caribbean doctor had inserted – never reached his bladder. Instead, it pierced his urethra on the way in and just drew blood. Judith says when they finally punctured his bladder to empty it, only urine came out – there was no blood to be found.

After many months of rehabilitation, Lewis now walks with a stick, which the doctors and Judith weren’t sure he would be able to do. Yet his life is no longer what it used to be.

“The doctor won’t let me fly to see my brother in New York like I would every year. I can’t take cruises … and I can’t play golf,” says Lewis.

The Masottis are now suing Royal Caribbean for negligence. They say the medical staff did not properly insert the catheter or took appropriate steps to correct the problem when his vital signs began to decline.

“Doctors should have detected Lewis’ severe changes in vital signs and acted, but they realized it too late,” said Glenn Holzberg, the couple’s attorney. “Lewis now has an indwelling catheter and his wife needs to be his nurse at home.”

The Masottis say they sent Royal Caribbean a pre-suit request for $ 750,000, which the cruise line didn’t respond to in writing. Royal Caribbean spokesmen cited the pending litigation because they did not want to comment on the story.

Judith is also suing the cruise line for losing the consortium because she and her 31-year-old husband can no longer have sex. His condition “put an end to this part of their relationship,” she says.

In the past, cruise passengers could not sue for consortium losses due to accidents on board because the courts treated passengers like crew members. But a case before the Supreme Court this year could turn the tide of law in favor of passengers. If the court in the Dutra Group v. Batterton decides that crew members can sue ships for punitive damages after personal injury, so can passengers.

As the battle heats up in court, Lewis is still doing physical therapy in the hospital and at home. He walks with a stick as much as possible and hopes to build the strength to pick up a golf club again one day. Judith continues to take care of him and takes on the tasks around the house that he can no longer do.

“The most important thing for me is that he is alive,” she says. “I’ll be his nurse until the day it ends.”