Widow wins suit with cruise line


By Buddy Nevins
The Sun-Sentinel

Ship doctor responded slowly to husband’s heart attack, woman said.

Carnival Cruise Lines has agreed to pay $375,000 to a widow who charged that her husband died because a ship’s doctor was slow in coming to his aid.

The lawsuit brought by Agatha Meadows alleged that Carnival was negligent in the death of her husband, Harvey Meadows, 40, of Long Island. He died of a heart attack in Aug. 22, 1986, aboard the TSS Carvnivale during a four-day Bahamian cruise.

“I guess they saw merit in our case because they paid out $375,000 before trial,” said Charles Lipcon, Meadows’ Miami attorney.

Carnival had denied that the physician was late in arriving and insisted that Meadows would have died anyway.

The company also argued that ships’ physicians were outside contractors, not employees of Carnival, and thus not the company’s responsibility. The lawsuit was settled last month and announced on Friday.

The incident began at 10:30 p.m., six hours after leaving Miami, when Harvey Meadows began having chest pains in his cabin. As his wife, Agatha Meadows, called for help, about 30 people gathered outside.

The ship’s physician, Wilfredo Delgado, failed to answer his beeper for a half-hour, suit alleged. So Agatha Meadows ran to Delgado’s stateroom and pounded on his door.

“Do you know what time it is? You’re a crazy lady,” she testified that Delgado told her.

Delgado was finally persuaded to come to the Meadows’ cabin, but first insisted on dressing in his uniform, the suit charged.

Testimony revealed that Delgado never took a portable defibrillator, an emergency device that uses a shock to restore a normal heartbeat. Instead, Delgado walked in the room and sat on the bed.

“I never treated him because he was already dead when I arrived,” Delgado said in a pretrial deposition.

After Harvey Meadows was declared dead, passengers in the passageway loudly started blaming the cruise line for the death.

To quiet growing discontent, an officer covered Agatha Meadows’ mouth with his hand and pulled her out of the stateroom, she said.

Delgado, 69 at the time of the incident, was trained in Cuba. He retired more than 20 years ago from his shore practice and has worked on seven cruise ships since.

All cruises sailing from Florida are registered in foreign countries governed by international law. Those laws set no standards on who acts as a ship’s physician.