The NSW Supreme Court has ordered P&O to pay over $400,000 in damages to 21-year-old Montana Smith after she was struck by three large sections of ceiling while on one of their cruise ships in 2011.
Then 14, Smith was standing with her cousins in a companionway when three ceiling panels, each a metre long and 15cm thick, struck her on her head and left shoulder.
“I remember standing in the hallway outside my cabin waiting for my friend and I leant against the wall, then the roof just fell down on top of my head. I was immediately shocked and confused by what had happened,” Ms Smith told theHeraldfollowing the judgment last week.
Smith suffered injuries to her cervical spine and the vertebrae that make up the neck, which more than $8,000 in medical treatment had been unable to effectively relieve, Fairfax reported.
Supreme Court judge Stephen Campbell thus ordered P&O to pay Smith $445,000 in damages for the difficulties and expenses, including surgery to her spine, she is likely to incur.
While P&O admitted that it had breached its duty of care towards Smith, its legal team questioned the severity of her injuries following surveillance of her waiting tables and driving a car as well as Smith’s high academic performance.
In response, Justice Campbell pointed out P&O’s observations didn’t discredit what Smith had told doctors or testimonies from other witnesses.
“Although she has done well in life so far, I accept that it has not been easy for her and that she has needed help and consideration to achieve what she has so far. Doubtless her own determination is a credit to her,” he said.
“While my friends’ biggest decisions were what they were doing on the weekend, or what subjects they were picking for school, my decisions were focused around what painkillers I had to have every day to manage my pain to a level in which I can sit my exams, or when to have four needles injected into my spine, whilst I was awake, in an attempt to lessen the pain,” Smith said.
“My whole teenage years were altered completely and I was dealing with regular teenage things such as the HSC, as well as my eight doctors, a legal case, 12 painkillers a day, the psychological effects of suffering an injury like this at 14, and accepting that I will live with pain most probably for the rest of my life.”
“Nothing will ever make up for what happened, the ways in which is altered my life, and the fact that I have been in pain every day since I was 14 years old,” she said. “However, I am glad that the legal side of things are over. Now I can concentrate on moving towards having my neck surgery and recovering from that.”
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