Ex-Cruise Ship Worker Lifts Her Way to $4.2 Million Award

September 27, 2002 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - A former housekeeping manager for a Miami luxury cruise line who claimed she can't work because of a herniated disc suffered when lifting boxes of magazines walked away with $4.2 million in compensatory damages.

A Miami Daily Business Review story said a Miami-Dade County jury made the award to Brunhilde Ammann, who worked for Silversea Cruises aboard the company’s Silver Wind cruise ship.

Ammann’s May 2000 lawsuit against Silversea alleged that the company was negligent because the boxes of magazines had been negligently placed in her office, that she had not been taught how to lift the boxes properly, and that she received negligent medical care aboard ship. She said the incident occurred during a November 1998 voyage from Kenya to South Africa

Can’t Sit, Still 

She said she suffered a severely herniated disc that has required two operations, has forced her to leave her job, and has left her in constant back pain that prevents her from sitting upright in a chair for longer than 45 minutes

A German citizen who lives in South Africa, Ammann filed the suit in Miami-Dade Circuit Court under the Jones Act, a 1920 federal statute that entitles seafarers to recover damages for injuries in the course of their employment by the negligence of the owner

A Silversea attorney told the Miami Daily Business Review he was shocked by the verdict and vowed to fight it with post-trial motions and, if necessary, an appeal.


Ammann is currently unemployed and living off savings, according to her lawyer. According to the Business Review story, the jury awarded $576,000 for past and future earnings, $150,000 for future medical expenses, and $3.5 million for pain and suffering. Silversea already paid all past medical costs.

Cause Effects

Both sides agreed at trial that Ammann severely injured her back but they disagreed on the cause and the liability.

Silversea argued that:

  • Ammann reported back pain prior to the alleged accident and it was far from clear that moving the magazines accounted for her severe injury
  • it was not liable because Ammann was under no obligation to move the boxes and chose to do so on her own
  • it had not provided inadequate medical care to her.