Attorneys for an Illinois businessman who won $21.5 million in a personal-injury lawsuit against Seattle-based Holland America Line denied allegations from the cruise line that he hid emails, lied and tampered with a witness before the October trial.
Attorneys for an Illinois businessman who won $21.5 million in a personal- injury lawsuit against Seattle-based Holland America Line denied allegations from the cruise line that he hid emails, lied and tampered with a witness before the October trial.
Lawyer Kenneth Friedman told a federal judge in Seattle on Thursday that Holland America had been put on notice months ago that some of James Hausman’s emails had been deleted but the cruise line showed no interest in them at the time.
It wasn’t until after the punishing verdict over a head injury suffered by Hausman during a 2011 world cruise that Holland America said it was approached by Hausman’s former personal assistant, Amy Mizeur, who claimed Hausman ordered her to lie about his injuries and delete emails sent from a personal account, he said.
U.S. District Judge Barbara Rothstein is presiding over a hearing on Holland America’s motion to strike the verdict — which included $16.5 million in punitive damages — and dismiss the case or grant a new trial.
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Rothstein focused her inquiries on allegations that Hausman may have withheld or deleted emails from a private Yahoo account that were not turned over to Holland America’s lawyers.
Mizeur spent nearly three hours Thursday under grueling cross-examination by Hausman’s lawyer, who pointed out that she was either lying before Hausman’s trial in November, when she had bolstered his claim that he had suffered a debilitating head-injury, or now, when she has testified under oath that her previous statements were false.
Mizeur told the court that Hausman was faking seizures and other brain-injury symptoms but acknowledged she documented the symptoms in emails to others and even tried to enroll him in a brain-injury study.
“It was a show,” she testified. “I never saw him struggle.”
“And you went along with it?” asked Friedman.
“I guess I did,” she said.
She also claims she downplayed and lied about Hausman’s prodigious drinking — up to a case of beer a day — because he was worried it might undermine his lawsuit. Likewise, she said she downplayed his marital problems, which she acknowledged partly stemmed from her relationship with Hausman.
She claimed he had made advances toward her after hiring her as his personal assistant at his Springfield, Ill., gold and precious-metals business, lavishing her with thousands in cash, a credit card and trips to his lakeside cabin in Wisconsin.
It all stopped when she was abruptly fired in April, as the case approached trial. She said she did not know why she was fired, however, Hausman’s lawyers have said it was because she had forged a $2,000 check on one of his accounts.
Regardless, Mizeur told the court she was angry and hurt, which led her to try to get even. She asked Hausman for money for her silence and threatened to reveal details of his private life unless he paid her off, according to emails introduced during the hearing.
“If you were willing to lie to help him before, are you willing to lie to hurt him now?” asked Hausman lawyer, Friedman.
The cruise line’s attorney, Louis Shields, said that most of the recovered emails provided by Mizeur related to her personal relationship with Hausman. But he argued that it showed a broader effort to hide information from the defense.
“This case should be dismissed,” said Shields.
Friedman said emails were deleted, but long before the court’s discovery order and Holland America was told about it.
“They let the matter drop,” he said.
Holland America, headquartered in Seattle, has accused Hausman of lying, destroying evidence, witness tampering and suborning perjury.
Hausman has fired back with a scathing attack on Mizeur, the cruise line’s key witness. Hausman is expected to take the witness stand on Friday.
Hausman sued Holland America claiming he suffered a serious head injury when he was hit by a sliding-glass door aboard the M/S Amsterdam in November 2011. Hausman’s lawyers produced evidence at his trial that dozens of other passengers had been injured in similar sliding-door incidents across the cruise line’s fleet due to faulty sensor settings.
The Oct. 30 unanimous verdict in Hausman’s personal-injury lawsuit was among the largest in recent memory in Seattle federal court. In addition to the punitive damages, Hausman, 61, was awarded $5 million for past and future pain, suffering and emotional distress.