On February 20, 2013, the first of what is sure to be numerous personal injury lawsuits resulting from the disastrous Carnival Triumph cruise was filed in Galveston County District Court in Texas by Kathy Marie Armstrong. As anyone who has watched the news over the last month knows by now, on February 7, a cruise liner bound for Cozumel, Mexico, had a fire in the engine room, which led to the ship being cast adrift in the Gulf of Mexico, with no power, propulsion, heat, air conditioning and hot water for five days for the 4,200 passengers and crew on board. Passengers relayed the horrific conditions by text, email and social media of sleeping on carpets and decks soaked with sewage, almost no food, and limited water. One passenger described the conditions as “being locked in a Port o Potty for five days.”
The cruise industry is a rapidly growing field, at a rate of 8% annually since 1980. 14 million people vacationed on cruises in 2012, and 3% of the population took a cruise in 2011. But the industry has been rocked recently with the disastrous Costa Concordia tragedy in 2012 off the coast of Italy, with 32 fatalities. Further, the Centers For Disease Control (CDC) reports that there were a whopping 16 outbreaks of the superbug norovirus in 2012. The Carnival Triumph is a 14 year old ship, and last month, mechanical troubles led to the cancellation of another cruise to Mexico, something which will undoubtedly be looked at by investigators.
Because the flag on the Triumph is from the Bahamas, the Maritime Authority of Bahamas is heading the investigation of the ill fated cruise. Additionally, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has commenced an investigation of their own which will last several months before a full report is released.
Bringing lawsuits against cruise companies is not an easy process. First, there are restrictions placed on the ticket which require that any litigation be brought on the cruise company’s home turf, which in Carnival’s case, is in Florida, and in the federal Court, which creates further complications. Second, under Maritime law, claims for emotional distress are barred unless the victim can prove that their injuries are caused by the cruise operator’s negligence, and you must show a physical injury in additional to the emotional damage. This is a difficult standard to establish.
In an effort to ward off lawsuits, Carnival has offered passengers refunds for their trip fare, traveling expenses and the money spent on board. To be blunt, this is not going to work to prevent litigation en masse from a large percentage of passengers in my opinion.
It will be interesting to see what happens with the Galveston brought by Ms. Armstrong, since she did not commence the action in federal court in Miami as is required by the ticket restrictions. The apparent basis for bringing the case in Galveston is the fact that the cruise originated there, but it is likely that Carnival’s attorneys will move to transfer venue to Florida, and will be successful in that motion. Ms. Armstrong pleads in her legal complaint that the conditions on the ship were “deplorable, unsafe and unsanitary”, that she feared for her life and safety, and was under the “constant threat of contracting serious illness by the raw sewage filling the vessel.” However, she also claims that she feared suffering “actual or some bodily injury”, thus conceding that she was not physically injured during the trip.
We will report further on the status of the Armstrong case and the inevitable Florida cases as they progress.
Contact The Bronx Personal Injury Lawyers at the Law Office of Mark A. Siesel online or toll free at 888-761-7633 if you or a family member are injured in any type of accident, are the victim of medical malpractice, suffer injuries due to a defective product or medication, or are injured in a construction accident for a free consultation to discuss your case in detail and how our aggressive, experienced and dedicated litigators can help.