The first of what will probably be many lawsuits has been filed against Carnival Cruise Lines relative to the engine room fire of February 7, 2013 that left the Carnival Triumph at sea without power for days. The lawsuit was filed in Federal Court in Miami by a woman named Cassie Terry of Texas who was a passenger onboard the ship.
In her complaint, she states that she was “forced to endure unbearable and horrendous odors on the filthy and disabled vessel, and wade through human feces in order to reach food lines where the wait was counted in hours, only to receive rations of spoiled food.” The lawsuit goes on to state that Ms. Terry “was forced to subsist for days in a floating toilet, a floating Petri dish, a floating hell.”
The complaint also states that “[d]uring the horrifying and excruciating tow back to the United States, the Vessel listed sharply several times, causing human waste to spill out of non-functioning toilets, flood across the Vessel’s floors and halls, and drip down the Vessel’s walls.” It concludes that “Plaintiff feared for her life and safety, under constant threat of contracting serious illness by the raw sewage filling the vessel, and suffering actual or some bodily injury.”
Obviously, the filing gives a graphic depiction of the horrific conditions onboard the Carnival Triumph.
The suit alleges four separate and distinct legal causes of action: (1) breach of maritime contract, (2) negligence, (3) negligent misrepresentation, and (4) fraud. It then asks for damages for actual damages for Plaintiff’s physical and emotional injuries; attorney’s fees pursuant to law; pre- and post-judgment interest; and court costs.
The passengers who boarded the Carnival Triumph signed a fifteen page release that stated what they can and cannot sue for. The release states that class actions are not allowed, but under federal law the release does not and cannot prevent negligence claims. The release actually states, “Carnival shall not be liable to the passenger for damages for emotional distress, mental suffering/anguish or psychological injury of any kind under any circumstances, except when such damages were caused by the negligence of Carnival and resulted from the same passenger sustaining actual physical injury, or having been at risk of actual physical injury, or when such damages are held to be intentionally inflicted by Carnival.”
So, Carnival can be sued if there was an act of negligence that resulted in a passenger’s physical injury. For example, if a passenger slipped on urine in the middle of a hallway and sustained injury, Carnival can be held responsible. Also, a passenger who became physically ill from the poor conditions or contracted an illness will also likely have a valid claim.
However, the hundreds of passengers who were “merely” subjected to sleeping on the floor with hundreds of other people in hallways flooded with the smell of sewage will have a much more difficult time asserting claims. Although claims for “negligent infliction of emotional distress” are allowed in certain circumstances, they are generally limited to situations where the passenger was within the “zone of danger” of physical harm and suffered an emotional injury with some physical manifestation or psychological diagnosis.
Many of the legal claims from the Carnival Triumph case will likely have some teeth, given that Carnival has now acknowledged that the Triumph had experienced numerous other mechanical problems before the engine room fire and that many passengers are claiming physical and diagnosed psychological injuries as a result.
Although Carnival has tried to make things right by refunding the costs of the cruise, offering a free cruise, and paying customers $500, many people will likely feel that is not enough and will want to pursue litigation.
If you have questions about this or any other legal matter, feel free to contact the Charles E. Boyk Law Offices, LLC today at 419-241-1395 or 1-800-637-8170.