Man Awarded $4.6 Million After Inexperienced Cruise Ship Doctor Causes His Arm to Be Amputated

Spectators watch the Norwegian Breakaway leave the German shipyard Meyer in Papenburg, Germany on March 13, 2013. A worker on the ship lost an arm after receiving the wrong treatment from an on-board doctor. REUTERS/Fabian Bimmer

A man has been awarded $4.6 million in compensation after a ship's doctor prescribed him the wrong medication, causing a reaction that required the amputation of the man's arm.

Thirty-year-old Ilija Loncar, a Serbian waiter aboard the Norwegian Breakaway, went to visit doctor Sebastian Campuzano after experiencing flu-like symptoms, including nausea. But rather than relief, the employee ended up losing a limb.

Campuzano, who is described in court documents as young and inexperienced, had been working for the cruise line for just a few months, legal news website Daily Business Review reported. The physician gave Loncar the antihistamine promethazine, which the court heard he injected in a "huge" dose into Loncar's right arm over a short period of time.

The waiter, who is also a trained carpenter, immediately reported a burning sensation in his arm, but Campuzano continued the treatment regardless. Within hours, the arm was turning black and blue as gangrene set in and tissue died.

Miami-based lawyer Thomas Scolaro represented Locar in court. He argued that the medication used was not suitable for his client's illness and that the intravenous injection method used was incorrect, as that drug should be administered intramuscularly in his buttocks. He also suggested the 25 milligram dose was unnecessarily large.

Scolaro said Campuzano "gave the wrong medication, the wrong dosage by the wrong route through the wrong injection site, and it was administered over the wrong time and by the wrong method," reported.

"They gave [Loncar] the most dangerous type of medication they could give to treat this very simple, common problem that can be treated with a very light and easy medication—Zofran," Scolaro added. "It's all they needed to do."

He noted that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has previously issued warnings because the drug tends to overwhelm vascular walls and damage tissue. The organization has recorded "many publicised amputations" linked to the medicine.

The lawyer described the decision as "taking a howitzer to destroy something when all you need to do is take a little BB gun and it would do the same thing. The howitzer will destroy everything in its path. It was overkill." He suggested 6.25 milligrams was sufficient, far below the 25 milligrams used.

At that time, the ship was traveling down the U.S. eastern seaboard, but Norwegian failed to call for an emergency airlift for Loncar, even as his condition worsened. It was not until 20 hours after the injection, when the boat docked in Florida, that the Serbian could receive treatment. By then, and despite multiple emergency surgeries, it was too late to save the arm.

The $4.6 million in compensation was awarded for Loncar's mental anguish, loss of capacity for the enjoyment of life, loss of future earning capacity, aggravation of pre-existing conditions, inconvenience, humiliation, scarring and disfigurement, court documents explained.

Scolora attributed his suffering to "willful, wanton, and outrageous violations" on the part of Campuzano and Norwegian Cruise Lines staff. The company told Newsweek it does not comment on litigation.

This article has been updated to include a response from Norwegian Cruise Lines.