Carnival cruise passengers sue seeking $5,000 a month for life

A small boat from the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Vigorous patrols near the cruise ship Carnival Triumph in the Gulf of Mexico, in this February 11, 2013 handout photo. The cruise ship lost propulsion after an engine room fire on February 10 and was adrift off southern Mexico's Yucatan peninsula. Credit: Reuters
A small boat from the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Vigorous patrols near the cruise ship Carnival Triumph in the Gulf of Mexico, in this February 11, 2013 handout photo. The cruise ship lost propulsion after an engine room fire on February 10 and was adrift off southern Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula. Credit: Reuters

A group of passengers suing Carnival cruise lines for damages after an engine fire left their ship adrift for days are asking the company to pay $5,000 a month for the rest of their lives for medical bills and mental anguish.

A lawsuit brought by 33 passengers of the ill-fated 2013 voyage could change how cruise lines insulate themselves from legal actions, according to maritime legal experts.

A second pending lawsuit with three-times as many plaintiffs has the potential to further undo the advantageous legal position cruise lines have long enjoyed.

Both cases stem from a February 2013 incident when the Carnival Triumph broke down after launching from Galveston, Texas for what was to be a four-day cruise with a stop in Cozumel, Mexico.

A fire broke out in the ship’s engine room as it was returning from Cozumel. The Triumph was left without engine power, or air conditioning and working toilets. Stalled in the Gulf of Mexico for five days, passengers described human waste seeping into hallways, and being forced to sleep on deck under makeshift tarps with no cooked food.

A federal judge in South Florida last week finished hearing three weeks of testimony from passengers and is expected to issue a judgment in the next two months.

The Miami lawsuit is the first from the Triumph incident to go to trial, with others in preparation, according maritime lawyers.

In a statement, Carnival Corp said that while it recognizes its guests experienced uncomfortable conditions, everyone returned safely and were provided with a full refund, a free future cruise and an additional $500 per person.

“This is an opportunistic lawsuit brought by plaintiff’s counsel and plaintiffs who seek to make a money grab,” a company spokeswoman said.

One of the plaintiffs, Debra Oubre, 59, said she has experienced panic and anxiety attacks since the cruise, and also blames the experience for a urinary tract infection.

“It was chaotic. People were in dire need of help,” said Oubre. “We were standing in line for food for five hours.”

Federal judge Donald Graham has already ruled that the engine catching on fire is proof alone of negligence on the part of Carnival, a significant blow for the cruise line, according to Robert Peltz, a Miami maritime lawyer.

“It would seem rather obvious that ships shouldn’t just catch fire and then have fire suppression systems that don’t work,” Peltz said.

Carnival has since started a fleet-wide “enhancement,” including a major re-wiring of its engine rooms and improvements to fire safety and emergency power features.

Cruise lines like Carnival have successfully inoculated themselves against passenger lawsuits by printing stringent terms on their tickets that require passengers to waive their right to a class-action lawsuit.

Graham’s ruling, which is expected to come in the next two months, could find the terms of conditions printed on the tickets, so-called “contracts of adhesion,” to be overreaching.

The contracts have rankled some federal judges in southern Florida where several cruise lines are based, according to maritime lawyer, David Neblett. The splintering of myriad cruise cases for relatively meager sums clogs their calendars, he said.

One term of the ticket contract is that passengers can only bring their cases to the Southern District of Florida and plaintiffs lawyers complain that people coming from other states to litigate is too costly for them.

 



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
International

Hurricane Odile batters Mexico's Baja resorts, sparks looting

Hurricane Odile injured dozens of people, forced the evacuation of thousands and smashed shops open to looters in the popular tourist area of Baja, Mexico.

National

Apple iPhone 6 pre-orders hit record 4 million…

By Lehar Maan(Reuters) - Apple Inc said many customers will need to wait until next month for their new iPhones after a record 4 million…

National

LAPD investigates complaint from detained 'Django' actress

The LAPD is investigating after "Django Unchained" actress Daniele Watts accused police of violating her rights when they detained her.

Local

Number of New York City smokers increase, topping…

For the first time since 2007, there are  more than one million smokers in New York City, according to the New York City Department of…

Movies

Newsflash: Corey Stoll is still not a man

In director Shaun Levy's "This Is Where I Leave You," Corey Stoll stars as the oldest of four adult children (the others are played by…

Movies

If you don't like Simon Pegg's new film,…

Simon Pegg goes all out in "Hector and the Search for Happiness" as the titular psychiatrist stymied by modern life who embarks on a globetrotting…

Arts

Art in Chelsea: Don't miss these 3 galleries

We selected three sure bets for seeing cool art in the galleries of Chelsea.

Music

Robin Thicke blurs lines further with new 'Blurred…

"The reality is," said Robin Thicke about "Blurred Lines" in a court deposition, "Pharrell had the beat and he wrote almost every single part of the song."

NFL

Tom Coughlin says Giants 'beat themselves' against Cardinals

Head coach Tom Coughlin, who had a day to cool off and reflect, still sounded like he had a gnawing feeling in his gut.

NFL

Marty Mornhinweg accepts blame for Jets timeout fiasco

Jets fans looking for a scapegoat for Sunday’s timeout fiasco found a willing party on Monday: Marty Mornhinweg.

NFL

3 things we learned in Jets loss to…

The wheels came off for the Jets, who gave up 21 unanswered points after a brilliant first 20 minutes in a 31-24 loss at the Packers.

NFL

Victor Cruz catches case of the drops in…

The Giants dropped a tough, 25-14, decision to the undermanned Cardinals Sunday in their home opener. And drop was the operative word of the day,…

Travel

World's most hipster cities: Top 5

Travel blogger Adam Groffman tells us his picks for the Top 5 most hipster cities in the world.

Education

The top 5 regrets recent high school grads…

College application season can seem like a blur for many students - as test prep, campus visits and filling out a seemingly endless stream of…

Parenting

Tech execs tend to limit their kids' screen…

You probably got your iPad before Bill Gates's kids did.

Wellbeing

Wellbeing: Daybreaker returns, Ray Rice jersey trade, Sweet…

  Now that Ray Rice is no longer with the Baltimore Ravens — or any other NFL team — after video footage surfaced showing him…