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Curtis Mase & Scott Mebane Obtain Defense Verdict

Carnival Corp. defeated $6.4 million in negligence claims from a man who burned his feet on a hot pool deck on a Caribbean cruise, leading to an infection requiring the amputation of all of his toes.

The Miami-based company’s legal victory hinged on selling the jury on a key idea: The man had a lack of sensation in his feet due to diabetes, and he should have known better.

“For him to not wear shoes was absurd,” said Curtis Mase of Mase Lara in Miami, who represented Carnival with his colleague Scott Mebane.

Plaintiff Gregory Golden was on the upper pool deck of the Carnival Sunshine in May 2014 on a cruise from Florida to the Bahamas with his family. He took off his sandals and walked around, blistering the soles of both feet on the hot deck, according to his complaint filed in Miami federal court.

About five weeks later, “the burns on Gregory Golden’s feet became horribly infected and gangrenous, and large swaths of skin cells and tissue on both feet began to necrotize and die,” the negligence complaint states. “Foul-smelling pus oozed from the wounds.”

The infection spread and caused kidney failure, and Golden ultimately needed all 10 toes amputated. He claimed this happened because Carnival failed to post signs warning ship passengers about the hot pool deck.

But during trial in June, Carnival’s lawyers argued the Georgia man’s allegations strained credulity.

“I bored in on the fact that you can’t go for a month and a half and develop this kind of infection and not know it, even if you lack some sensation,” Mase said. “The feet literally turned black.”

Golden’s lawyer, Peter Walsh of David W. Singer & Associates in Hollywood, called an expert witness who tested the pool deck and found a temperature of 130 degrees. He argued Carnival’s switch from hard-to-clean teak decks to synthetic decks put passengers in danger.

The defense expert disputed the method of temperature measurement and said the deck heat was much lower.

Mase emphasized Golden’s responsibility for the millions of dollars in claimed damages. Golden was educated in diabetes care, such as wearing shoes and going to the doctor for any cut on the foot, Mase said. The defense argued Golden’s decision to self-treat his blisters for more than a month was the real cause of his severe injuries.

But Mase was unsure of a jury decision.

“The plaintiff was doing something that everybody does,” Mase said. “Everybody walks on pool decks barefoot … But because of that unique condition, it isn’t safe, reasonable or appropriate for him to walk barefoot on a deck.”

After an eight-day trial before U.S. District Judge Joan Lenard, the jury deliberated for a little more than an hour before delivering a defense verdict June 10.

Walsh did not respond to requests for comment. His colleague David Singer did not participate in the trial except to apologize to the court after a brouhaha surrounding a Facebook status he posted May 30, the day before trial started.

Singer’s comments included the statement that Carnival “offered money at mediation, but never enough for my client,” which the cruise line argued could prejudice the jury. Singer declined to comment.

Case: Golden v. Carnival Corp.

Case no.: 1:14-cv-24899-JAL

Description: Personal injury

Filing date: Dec. 30, 2014

Verdict date: June 10, 2015

Judge: U.S. District Judge Joan Lenard

Plaintiffs attorney: Peter Walsh, David W. Singer & Associates, Hollywood

Defense attorneys: Curtis Mase and Scott Mebane, Mase Lara, Miami

Verdict amount: Defense verdict

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