Should Carnival Be Liable When Drunken Passengers Go Overboard From The Fun Ships?

Cruise Booze - All You Can DrinkToday I was struck by the juxtaposition of two headlines - "Carnival Cruise's All You Can Drink Alcohol Package Expands" and Passenger "Claims Carnival Cruise Lines Left Her Drunk Husband to Die After He Fell Overboard."

I have been critical of Carnival's new all-you-can-drink cruise booze package which is similar to the booze policy that Royal Caribbean has been selling to its passengers.  I have been quoted before saying that there is a direct correlation between too much cruise booze and sexual assaults and overboard passengers - Boozy Cruises a Recipe for Disaster.

But truth be told the "new" alcohol policy is just an official designation of the all-you-can-drink atmosphere which has existed on Carnival's Fun Ships dating back over the decades. The drunken anything-goes party attitude results in violence and people going overboard - literally.   

According to the lawsuit papers filed against Carnival, the "drunk husband" was passenger Clint Markham, who drank heavily while ashore in Cozumel.  When he returned to the Carnival Conquest cruise ship, he was "inebriated to the point of being unable to care for his own safety or to think clearly and rationally. He wanted to continue drinking and partying . . .

What followed was a spat between Mr. Markham (photo right) and his wife who tried to calm her husband down and keep him in his cabin where he could take a shower and sober up. But Mr. Markham proceeded to an upper deck of the ship, where he engaged in animated conversation with friends and strangers. He then climbed up on the railing where he sat for a few moments and then fell face forward into the sea.  His body was never found. 

The lawsuit seeks to hold Carnival liable for creating an out-of-control environment where the cruise line encouraged its guests to drink to excess such that "even though he had consumed excessive amounts of alcohol, Clint Markham had been conditioned by defendant to want to keep partying, and to take it to Client Markham - Cruise Boozethe limit and beyond." The complaint (filed by another maritime lawyer in Miami) alleges:

"Defendant Carnival Corporation goes to great lengths to inebriate its passengers and, in so doing, to break down their inhibitions, and create an 'anything goes' atmosphere. Synonyms for the name of the defendant's corporation, Carnival, include 'bacchanal,' 'orgy,' 'debauch' and 'merrymaking.' The word 'carnival' has come to mean in the general lexicon a 'self-indulgent festival.' Defendant's business plan to cultivate this atmosphere among its passengers is no coincidence."    

I'm sure that many reading about Mr. Markham's situation (which I blogged about last year, here) will say that its a matter of "personal responsibility" and place all of the blame on him for what happened.

I am also a firm believer in personal responsibility.  But I must quickly point out that corporations are considered to be persons too.  Cruise lines like Carnival make hundreds of millions of dollars a year pushing the sale of alcohol. Carnival knows that lots of bad bad things happen when their guests drink too much.

Just last month a soldier who was about to be deployed to Afghanistan drank himself into a stupor while aboard the Carnival Fascination. He ended up allegedly running around the ship assaulting people and then apparently jumped from one deck down to another before he ended up jumping off the ship with a life ring when the cruise ship security personnel chased him.  

Robert McGill - Cruise BoozeAnd remember the case of cruise passenger, Robert McGill, (photo left) who drank himself silly with Mezcal and 7 or 8 beers while ashore in Cabo and then returned to the Carnival Elation where he staggered up the gangway, ordered more booze from Carnival, got into an argument and beat and strangled his wife?  Afterwards he ordered a bucket of beer to drink as the ship returned to port.

Yes, all of these individuals share responsibility for drinking too much. Its easy to blame them. But Carnival, which profits greatly from its all-you-can-drink atmosphere, also has personal responsibility for these deaths. 

 

Photo credit:

Client Markham KETK / KHOU / Houston Chronicle

Robert John McGill with FBI L.A. Times

Carnival's motto? Load em' off, load em' in. Let the drinking begin . . .

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Comments (2) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
LaJay - September 23, 2012 4:55 PM

I just returned from a Carnival cruise and the waiters do push the alcohol, but as a responsible adult, I know my limits and that I am in the middle of the ocean. Some were agressive and I got agressive with my response.

Whether there is an unlimited plan or not, people tend to drink more on vacation and let their inhibitions down. There were some individuals on the ship who were escorted out of places because of their behavior, and there is no doubt that alcohol was a factor.

I will never understand why people want to drink until they are no longer in control. It is embarassing and dangerous. Even on an excursion, a young girl drunk so much at 10 in the morning, that she threw up on her friend. Again, embarassing and thank goodness she threw up on a friend and not a stranger. As far as Carnival's liability with the husband's death, they may settle out of court to keep expenses and negative publicity down. However, in the end, it is up to us to act like responsible adults.

Nancy Dixon - November 13, 2012 3:55 AM

I also agree that we all have a personal responsibility, but the same is true when we patronize bars and clubs. However, if you have had too much to drink in a bar or club, the bartender has to stop serving you alcohol because you could attempt to drive and hurt or kill someone in the process. The bar or club then bares some responsibility.
In the case of cruise liners, there should definitely be someone guarding railings on the "party" decks. The cruise liner does bare some responsibilty, as far as I am concerned.

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