Carnival crew accused of refusing to let a dying man off a ship to get medical care

A Carnival cruise crew prevented a man who’d had a heart attack from leaving the ship despite inadequate medical facilities and caused his death mid-cruise, alleges a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Miami federal court.

Jeffrey Eisenman’s wife (Linda Eisenman), daughter (Julie Eisenman) and son (Ryan Eisenman) accuse the Carnival Sunshine crew of negligence and infliction of intentional emotional distress. They say the ship’s doctor diagnosed Eisenman, a Marble, Pa., resident, as suffering a “major heart attack” on Dec. 3, 2018, but blame the crew for Eisenman’s death the next day at the age of 65.

“Jeffrey Eisenman died onboard while confined to the medical center of the Carnival Sunshine against his will,” declares the lawsuit filed by Ira Leesfield of Miami’s Leesfield Scolaro. “His family was forced to watch on in horror at his mistreatment and decline into a gruesome death.”

In a Thursday email to the Miami Herald, Carnival strenuously objected to the lawsuit’s narrative and characterization of the Sunshine’s crew.

“We are very sorry for the Eisenman family’s loss, but the scenario that is alleged in the lawsuit is not accurate,” Carnival’s emailed statement read. “Our onboard medical team followed all proper procedures to attend to a guest who became critically ill very quickly, including liaising with the local hospital which was not equipped to handle his condition. Mr. Eisenman’s treatment plan and keeping him on the ship was formulated in consultation with his family.”

The suit says while the ship was docked in Grand Turk, Eisenman started vomiting and feeling pain in his left arm and chest. After being wheelchaired into the Sunshine’s medical area, he was seen by the ship’s doctor.

The doctor, the suit says, gave his “major heart attack” analysis, advising that Eisenman might need a stent and definitely would need to be flown to Miami. Grand Turk has an international airport, but no cardiac unit.

This was around 2 p.m., the suit says. The Sunshine’s schedule said it would depart Grand Turk at 4 p.m.

Just before it was time for the ship to leave the port, however, the ship’s physician told the Eisenman family that Jeffrey couldn’t get off because someone else had to be medically disembarked first, the suit contends.

The Eisenman family says it had bought travel insurance that pays for an air evacuation if necessary and told the medical staff this. Still, the Sunshine pulled out of Grand Turk with Jeffrey Eisenman still on board. He was dead the following afternoon.

“Inexplicably, all of their requests and pleas for help went unanswered,” the suit reads. “The Carnival Sunshine left Grand Turk with Jeffrey Eisenman and his family confined onboard against their will, helpless against the willful inhumane conduct of Carnival in holding a critically ill man imprisoned in an unequipped medical center.”

When the boat docked at Puerto Rico, the suit says Carnival’s staff said they couldn’t guarantee Jeffrey Eisenman’s body would get to the continental United States from a still-hurricane damaged island. Linda and Julie Eisenman got off the ship. Ryan stayed on to watch over his father’s body.

The ship docked back in Cape Canaveral five days later.

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Negligence lawsuits concerning in-cruise reaction to heart attacks involved two of Carnival’s competitors earlier this year.

On March 1, a jury hit Norwegian Cruise Line with a $2.084 million judgment because plaintiff Andrew Ow Buland was kept on the NCL Norwegian Pearl for two days after what the ship’s medical staff called a minor heart attack.

Six days later, a federal jury put Royal Caribbean on the paying end of a $3.38 million judgment in favor of the estate of Richard Puchalski. Puchalski died during a cruise to celebrate his 70th birthday.

The lawsuit found fault with ship’s physician Dr. Amanda Saunders diagnosing a heart issue, but not doing more to treat it and not ordering a hospital transfer sooner.

Since 1989, David J. Neal’s domain at the Miami Herald has expanded to include writing about Panthers (NHL and FIU), Dolphins, old school animation, food safety, fraud, naughty lawyers, bad doctors and all manner of breaking news. He drinks coladas whole. He does not work Indianapolis 500 Race Day.