The first of many expected lawsuits has been filed against Carnival after its cruise ship Triumph stranded 3,143 passengers and 1,086 crew members in the Gulf of Mexico for five days.
The voyage was approximately 150 miles off the Yucatan Peninsula en route to its home port of Galveston when an engine fire erupted, disabling the ship.
After drifting and floating without any propulsion to move it home for five days, tugboats pulled the disabled cruise ship back to the closest port in Mobile, Alabama. Since returning to the mainland late Thursday night, the Coast Guard has determined that the technical cause of the engine fire was a leak in a fuel oil return line.
This information is of little consequence to the thousands that are now up speaking out against Carnival. While the delayed return home was inconvenient, reportedly deplorable conditions are causing many to pursue legal action against the Miami-based cruise line company.
Lisa Williams is one of many suing Carnival as a result of her suffering “permanent bodily injury, pain and suffering, mental anguish and a loss of capacity to enjoy life.” She stated that she spent the weekend recovering in an urgent care facility from the severe dehydration she endured on the cruise. Like others, Williams reported little and low quality food, insufficient water, no power, limited sleeping areas, long lines to receive food, and the constant, persistent presence of sewage in the hallways.
“I expected to get some sun, I didn’t expect to come home in the situation I was in and it’s not fair. Nobody offered me additional water, and I was not about to drink water coming out of the ship,” she said.
Cassie Terry has also pursued legal action, calling the Triumph “a floating hell.” Terry walked onto dry land with nausea and a fever, and her husband had contacted an attorney before the ship made it to port. According to the lawsuit, Terry endured awful odors and was forced to “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 suit also mentioned that the back-and-forth motion as the cruise ship was towed to port caused even more sewage to spread throughout the cabin, creating a very unhygienic environment.
Although proving the conditions were deplorable will not be difficult, seeking damages will be more challenging for the passengers. The fine print of the cruise ticket itself waives the passengers’ right to pursue a class action suit, imposes other limitations and requirements for legal action, and ultimately makes it more difficult for passengers to do anything against Carnival. Maritime law will come into play, as will the 15-page legally-binding documentation signed by each passenger before departure.
Carnival’s official statement has said that the company can not be held responsible for “mental suffering” and “emotional distress,” but personal injury is a whole additional matter, one which authorities expect many passengers to sue the company for over the following months.