Carnival Nightmare Cruise Triggers Class Action Lawsuit

A dream vacation turned nightmare has sparked a class action lawsuit against the Carnival Corp. cruise line.

Over 100 passengers of a cruise that was marooned for days in the Gulf of Mexico without functioning power or plumbing have joined the suit, alleging that the ship wasn’t seaworthy to begin with, and that it forced guests to spend extra days stranded at sea by not heading to the closest port once it was disabled.

The ship, illogically named Triumph, left Galveston, Texas on Feb. 7, but was disabled by a fire on the 10th. The boat was then towed to Mobile, Ala., but did not arrive until the 15th, forcing the 3,143 passengers and 1,086 crew to live in horrific conditions in the meantime.

“Plaintiffs and all other similarly situated passengers were forced to sleep on deck and/or in other communal areas on the vessel, relieve themselves into buckets, bags, showers, sinks, were given spoiled or rotting food that was unfit for reasonably safe human consumption, and were generally forced to live in squalid conditions that created a severe risk of injury, illness and/or disease,” the lawsuit reads. “Due to the lack of working plumbing and sanitation systems on the vessel, sewage and/or putrid water filled with urine and feces leaked onto floors, walls, and ceilings.”

The disaster cruise captured headlines for a week and even sparked conversation in the Senate about mandating more safeguards for vacation cruise lines.

 

All Hell Broke Loose

Charles R. Lipcon

Carnival should have known the ship was a potential hazard, the lawsuit alleges. “Carnival knew or should have known that the vessel Triumph was likely to experience mechanical and/or engine issues because of prior similar issues,” the suit reads, citing propulsion problems that had occurred on other ships.

“Number one, the vessel wasn’t seaworthy at the time the cruise departed,” says Charles R. Lipcon, founding attorney of Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, the Miami firm representing the plaintiffs. “It never should have gone out.”

The suit also mentions that the cruise line was only 150 miles from a port in Progreso, Mexico, as opposed to 500 miles from the Mobile port where they were towed. “Secondly, once they were out there and all hell broke loose, rather than taking them to the closest port which was Progreso, they took them to Alabama where the repair yard was located,” says Lipcon. “That resulted in passengers having to spend extra time at sea without the most basic of necessities.”

The plaintiffs allege that Carnival was trying to save money by taking the ship to where it could be repaired and the passengers bussed back to Texas, as opposed to taking it to the nearest port, flying the passengers home and then towing it to a repair yard.

 

Legal Hurdle

The suit is filed as a class action for obvious reasons — all the passengers experienced roughly the same conditions, and individuals are less likely to file their own suit against a giant company like Carnival (although at least two individual suits have been filed so far).

However, the attorneys have a hurdle to clear if the class action is to proceed: The Carnival ticket contract contains a class action waiver providing for “exclusive resolution of disputes through individual legal action.” The plaintiff attorneys contend the waiver is not enforceable.

“It’s not negotiated with or discussed with the passengers. Courts do enforce some of those but not all of them,” Lipcon says. “There’s a statute that says shipowners cannot reduce or relieve themselves of liability in tickets if a vessel touches a U.S. port.”

Will the horror cruise victims see recourse for their ordeal? Stay tuned.

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