California Court Dismisses Costa Concordia Lawsuit

Earlier this week, a federal district judge in California dismissed a lawsuit filed on behalf of two cruise passengers against Carnival arising out of the January 2012 Costa Concordia disaster, ruling that the case must be pursued in Italy where Costa Crociere is located.

The name of the lawsuit is Patricia Sandoval et al. v. Carnival Corporation et al., Case No. 2:12 CV 05517, filed in the United States District Court for the Central District of California.

Judge Fernando M. Olguin applied the doctrine of forum non conveniens, where the courts determine Costa Concordia the appropriate location of lawsuits.

The Court concluded that the majority of the physical evidence and witnesses are located in Italy and the passengers can obtain an appropriate remedy in Italy. The decision is not surprising at all.  

The Costa cruise line is based in Italy where the company is incorporated.  Its principal place of business is in Genoa, Italy. It registers its ships like the Concordia in Italy. Much of the crew is Italian, including the captain, and cruise the ship departed from an Italian port and sank in Italian waters.  The Italian Coast Guard responded to the disaster and of course there is an Italian criminal trial which has been ongoing for year. The passenger ticket specifies Italy as the location where litigation must be pursued. 

Our firm advised Concordia passengers long ago not to waste time and money filing suit in the U.S. because their cases would likely be dismissed.  

We advised our clients to proceed directly to Italy and retain Italian lawyers to pursue compensation. Here is one of such articles, published back in January 2010: Are Lawyers Taking Costa Cruise Survivors Into Dangerous Legal Waters?

 

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Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Jean-Philippe Boulet Creative Commons 3.0

Florida Remains Cruise Ship Lawsuit Capital of the World

According to the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), more cruise passengers have sailed in Florida and around the world than ever before.

Last year, the number of passengers taking cruises on North American cruise lines increased approximately nearly 4 percent to 17,600,000.

6,150,000 passengers sailed from Florida, an increase of 1.3 percent to 6.15 million from the prior year. Miami saw more than 2 million cruise passengers boarding ships, and Fort Lauderdale saw Crew Ship Capital of the World more than 1,800,000 passengers.

Florida also remains the lawsuit capital of the world against cruise lines. 

Most cruise lines insist that lawsuits involving injuries to cruise passengers must be filed in Florida. Carnival, Celebrity, Disney, Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, and Silversea Cruises require in their "forum selection clauses" that passengers file suit in this state of they are injured or a victim of a crime during the cruise.

It doesn't matter where the cruise departed from (a different state or even country), the passenger tickets of these cruise lines state that their guests must pursue their cases here in Florida.

Several years ago, the Miami Herald published an article "Lawyers Turn Cruise Lawsuits Into Industry." The article stated that between 2001 and 2006, over 2,100 lawsuits were filed against the Miami based cruise lines - Carnival, Celebrity, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean.

The article begins: 

"How many lawyers does it take to sue a cruise line?

Only one, or one too many if you're the cruise line.

The $25 billion-a-year cruising industry has faced more lawsuits than it cares to count over the past few decades -- some 2,100 in South Florida alone since 2001.

Many are filed by a small group of lawyers -- about 15 locally -- who specialize in representing injured cruise passengers and crew members and make up a thriving cottage industry in South Florida."

The article mentioned that I was one of the "big three" leading adversaries of cruise lines.

Cruise Ship Capital of the WorldI have not seen an analysis of lawsuits recently, but we know that the number of people cruising since 2006 has increased substantially.

The cruise ships have gotten bigger and bigger and the fleets have grown substantially.

There has also been an unprecedented number of cruise ship disasters which have plagued the cruise industry as of late. 

Every single day we receive a telephone call, or an email, or a Facebook inquiry, or a comment to this blog about a serious cruise ship injury.

In the last few days, we filed:

  • a lawsuit when a child from Mexico was seriously injured on the Flow Rider;
  • an arbitration claim on behalf of an Indian crew member (waiter) with a serious back injury who was denied appropriate medical care;
  • a lawsuit by a Canadian passenger whose finger was amputated by a cabin door which slammed shut due to a wind current from an open balcony door; and
  • an arbitration claim filed on behalf of a crew member who was denied medical treatment from the cruise line for advanced Hodgkin's Disease.      

Yes, most people have a fun time on a cruise vacation. But many passenger and crew members become seriously injured or denied appropriate medical treatment during cruises, particularly crew members from around the world.   

 

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Read: Cruise Ship Accident and Injury Law - Miami Florida - Forum Selection Clauses

Photo Credits:  Jim Walker

Belize Tourism Industry Association Sues NCL to Block Mega Cruise "Harvest Caye" Development in Belize

Belize 7 News reports in an article "BTIA Gets Their First Day In Court Against NCL" that the Belize Tourism Industry Association (BTIA) is trying to block the Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) "mega cruise development" on Harvest Caye in Southern Belize.

BTIA argues that under pressure from Miami-based NCL, Belize's Department of Environment (DOE) rushed the massive and environmentally unsound project and avoided consulting with the public in Belize.

The news source quotes the lawyer for the BTIA saying that the DOE refused to provide the public with notice of the project and an opportunity to object to the Miami-motivated project:  " . . . they were Harvest Caye NCL Projectrushing the thing and doing it in breach of the law which is set up there to make sure that the public has full opportunity to participate."

In April, the San Pedro Sun reported that there was resistance to the project with local residents objecting to the flawed Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and the procedural impropriety of the DOE for failing to follow statutory procedures.

The newspaper indicated that NCL and local supporters of the project hosted a wine and filet mignon party on the Norwegian Jewel to convince the local media to support the Harvest Caye project.

Read NCL Wines & Dines the Media While Frosting the Harvest Caye Cake.

This area has beautiful, ancient coral reefs (see video) which will be destroyed by the dredging to accommodate NCL's large cruise ships.   

Consider what Royal Caribbean did to the coral reefs when it expanded the port in Falmouth, Jamaica

Former Royal Caribbean Crew Member, Acquitted of Raping Passenger, Wins Unlawful Detention Lawsuit Against the Bahamas

The Nassau Guardian published an article yesterday about a former Royal Caribbean crew member, Ruel Lockwood, previously employed as a stateroom attendant, who was accused of raping a young woman on Royal Caribbean's Sovereign of the Seas cruise ship during a cruise to Nassau in 2006.

The crew member entered the college student's cabin with a key card, which he used to enter cabins to clean them.

The jury in the Nassau, Bahamas acquitted the crew member of the rape in the criminal case, although Nassau Bahamas CourthouseRoyal Caribbean paid $1,500,000.00 to settle the civil case which we filed here in Miami.

After crew member Lockwood was acquitted, he remained in jail for 4 days in Nassau. For that, he sued the Bahamas for "unlawful detention."

The Bahamian judge entered the order of acquittal on November 19, 2007, but immigration officials kept him in jail until November 23, 2007. The immigration officials contended that the cruise line did not complete the travel arrangements for Lockwood until November 23rd. However, Lockwood contended that Royal Caribbean had a ticket for him to fly home to Nicaragua earlier but the immigration officials refused to release his passport and kept him in jail unnecessarily. 

In 2011, Lockwood filed a civil case against the Bahamas for the extra days he stayed in jail. Yesterday the Bahamian trial court found that Lockwood should have been released by November 21st and awarded him compensation and legal costs to be determined at a later date.

We wrote about this weird situation back in 2011.  Lockwood spent approximately a year in a Bahamian jail for the alleged rape. But after the immigration officials and/or Royal Caribbean screwed up, Lockwood will receive compensation for 2 days. I wonder what a Bahamian judge will think that's worth?

Carnival "Poop Cruise" Passengers Seek $5,000 a Month for Life

Carnival Poop Cruise LawsuitReuters is reporting that the Carnival "poop cruise" passengers are seeking $5,000 a month for life. Ridiculous, many people will say. I don't disagree.

I went on record a year ago saying that Triumph passengers should not bother suing because they are not going to get anything - read Carnival Triumph Cruise From Hell: Here Come the Lawsuits!

Carnival's lawyers responded by telling Reuters that "this is an opportunistic lawsuit brought by plaintiff's counsel and plaintiffs who seek to make a money grab."

That's like the pot calling the kettle black. Carnival CEO Micky Arison is worth $7 billion and just sold $395 million of stock. But Carnival still felt compelled last year to raid the crew member's tips and suspend their retirement benefits. Talk about a money grab.

I say what do the hard-working Carnival crew members get for cleaning up the filthy ship?

Foreign Cruise Lines Propose Prohibiting Foreign Crew Members From Filing Suit in the U.S.

The cruise lines are at it again.  They are proposing a bill, HR 4005, which will prevent "foreign" cruise ship employees from filing suit in the U.S. for compensation for injuries sustained or bad medical care received on cruise ships.  The proposed legislation includes banning crew members who are injured on cruise ships owned and operated by companies with headquarters here in Miami, like Carnival, Royal Caribbean and NCL. 

Who are these workers? They are the state room attendants, waiters, bartenders, and cooks who work 7 days a week for 12 hours a day, all month long. for many months at a time. They live and work on the cruise ships thousands of miles away from home for 6 to 10 months at a time. They are from India, Honduras, Jamaica, Trinidad and Croatia.  

Who are these cruise lines? They are multi-billion dollar corporations which are based in the U.S. and whose incomes are derived mostly from U.S. passengers. Over 13 million U.S. citizens take cruises Royal Caribbean Crew Memberevery year. Yet, these companies do not pay U.S. income tax and they do not follow U.S. wage & labor laws or U.S. safety laws.  

This proposal discriminates blatantly against crew members around the world. It is also a job killer for the American worker. This bill would guarantee that the cruise lines will never hire U.S. citizens to work onboard their vessels. If non U.S. citizens cannot recover anything in the United States under U.S. law even though the cruise line is negligent, the cruise lines will have a disincentive to hire American workers.

The concept of cutting off a seaman's right to file suit in the U.S. violates hundreds of years of maritime law.  "Foreign" crew members are the backbone of the cruise industry. This is a xenophobic effort to strike at the heart of the cruise industry by stripping the rights of the heart and soul of the employees who make the cruise ships work. It is unconscionable.  It is also a duplicitous effort, considering that all of the cruise lines are "foreign" corporations, incorporated in countries like Panama (Carnival) or Liberia (Royal Caribbean) and operating cruise ships registered in countries like the Bahamas or Bermuda.    

If the cruise lines are not held accountable in U.S. Courts, they will be free to abandon their employees back in countries like India, Jamaica and Honduras when they are injured and need medical care. 

There is a risk to the safety and security of cruising if cruise lines are permitted to overwork their crew members, including officers and staff, and not face any economic consequence. An overworked, exhausted and poorly treated crew is a danger to the cruise ship and all aboard.  

Cruise CEO's living here in Miami are making hundreds of millions of dollars over the years by operating businesses based in the U.S. which are "foreign" incorporated and registered. They should not be allowed to discriminate against the "foreign" men and women who sweat all day on cruise ships sailing in and out of U.S. ports and are injured.  

Greed On the High Seas: "Poop Cruise" & Concordia Cruise Executive Cashes $395,000,000 of Carnival Stock

Last week I wrote an article about Royal Caribbean CEO and President Adam Goldstein cashing in over $2,300,000 worth of Royal Caribbean stock, still leaving him with around $19,000,000 worth of his company's stock. 

It's difficult to justify the enormous wealth of the cruise executives given the fact that the cruise business is rigged to create gigantic profits free of U.S. taxes. Cruise lines like Royal Caribbean (Liberia) and Carnival (Panama) incorporated in foreign countries in order to avoid U.S. taxes, labor and wage laws, and safety regulations. The cruise lines pay dirt cheap wages to laborers from India and the Caribbean islands. They provide no benefits at all to their loyal crew members.

Cruise executive compensation isn't tied to whether the line's ships sink or catch on fire. One of the Micky Arison Carnival CruiseRoyal Caribbean cruise ships, the Grandeur of the Seas, caught on fire for two hours last year yet cruise CEO Goldstein still raked in millions. Cruise executives are rewarded for squeezing blood out of the stone. 

Tax-fee Royal Caribbean pays a salary of only $50 a month to its waiters and cabin attendants who it works like dogs, relying on the tax-paying cruise passengers to pay tips so the employees can try and make a living.  Yet Royal Caribbean is stealing, some say, some of the passenger money intended for tips and using the "tips" to pay the salaries of the non-tip earning crew members. Last year Royal Caribbean fired over one-hundred employees in its corporate offices here in Miami because of "tough economic times." Yet the cruise line executives like CEO Goldstein and chairman Richard Fain still pocketed millions and millions and millions at the end of the year.

No doubt the cruise employees are getting the shaft. The crew is getting poorer while the fat cat executives are getting richer and richer.  

The greediest cruise executive in my opinion is, hands down, no doubt-about-it, by-far Micky Arison. He makes Goldstein look like chump change. Arison is the news this weekend after agreeing to sell up to 10 million shares of Carnival Corporation stock. At $39.50 per share, that's $395,000,000. 5 million shares were sold on Friday and the remaining shares will be sold over the next 15 months, After the sale is complete, the Arison family will still own 188,000,000 shares worth over $7,426,000,000.

What will multi-billionaire Arison do with the $395,000,000? Build medical clinics in Goa, India where most of his crew members come from? Fund the retirement benefits for his hard working Filipino crew members who have slaved away far-from-their-children for decades on his ships?  Create schools in Nicaragua where thousands of family members of Carnival crew members reside? No, no, no. The nearly $400 million in cash will be solely for his own tax and estate planning.

CEO Arison paid himself a $90,000,000 bonus in 2002 - the same year of the Costa Concordia disaster. In my assessment, he seems like a money hoarder without a social conscious. Here are some of the infamous incidents involving Carnival Corporation and its brands over the last few years:

It is an amazing spectacle to watch Arison enrich himself irrespective of the Concordia capsizing and the Triumph engine room fire. 

Just last week we commented on Carnival's press release, issued during the middle of the Triumph "poop cruise" trial here in Miami. Carnival characterized the cruise passengers, who endured four days in the Gulf of Mexico after the negligently maintained old ship caught fire, as greedy.

I suppose it's business as usual for Carnival to malign its Triumph cruise guests while chairman Arison is cashing in a fraction of his cruise stock during the middle of the Triumph trial for $395,000,000. 

 

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Triumph Trash Talk: Carnival Mocks Its "Poop Cruise" Guests

Lawyers involved in a trial are not suppose to make comments during trial which are likely to affect the jury or trier of fact. The theory is that trials are suppose to be decided based on the testimony and exhibits introduced into evidence, and not by PR statements which are not subject to the rules of evidence and which may be designed to sway the jury.     

Yesterday Carnival send a written statement to NBC News, Carnival said: "The current litigation by a handful of individuals is an opportunistic attempt to benefit financially . . . principally based on claims of alleged emotional distress."

A nasty statement no doubt. There is no indication that Carnival's trial lawyers made the statement. But Poop Cruise Carnival Triumphpress releases like this from the Carnival PR team are obviously not released to the public until after they are vetted by Carnival's in-house lawyers.

It's a statement designed to try and send a signal to the trier of fact. Carnival is trying to sway the trier of fact to believe that the Triumph cruise passengers are just a greedy bunch of people who are not to be believed and are just looking for a pay out. 

What Carnival doesn't say, however, is that the cruise line made a business decision last year not to pay a dime to any passengers who elected to file suit. Carnival was clearly negligent. Any other cruise line would have resolved this type of case on a reasonable basis long ago. But not Carnival. It would rather pay its defense lawyers a few million dollars to try and squash the Triumph passengers who decided to seek compensation.

Remember that Carnival Cruise Line's parent company is Carnival Corporation. This is the same company which owns the Costa Concordia which capsized with over 4,000 passengers and crew on board, killing 32 souls.  The passengers on the Concordia lost not only their vacations but all of their clothing, cameras, iPhones, and computers which they brought on board. They lost any jewelry or cash in the cabin safes. They were terrorized as the cruise ship tilted over and the coward captain abandoned ship.

Carnival offered the passengers 11,000 euros on a take-it-or-leave-it basis.  If that seems like a pittance to you, you're right. But remember that Carnival didn't offer the crew member anything.

To add salt into the wound, at the end of the year, Carnival Chairman Micky Arison (already worth close to $6,000,000,000) paid himself a $90,000,000 bonus.

In the same year, the CEO of the Carnival owned Costa cruise line, Pier Luigi Foschi, received $3,970.000 and later received a bonus of $1,700,000 when he retired. He also reportedly has shares of cruise stock worth $4,700,000.   

This is the way it works with the Carnival brands. They have tens of millions in salary and bonuses to reward their CEO's even when their ships catch fire or sink.  They have millions and millions to spend on defending lawsuits. But for the nice people who boarded the dangerously neglected and unseaworthy Triumph cruise ship last year, Carnival doesn't have a penny. It has only disdain. 

Concordia Two Years Later: Former Costa CEO Pier Luigi Foschi Retiring from Carnival with Bonus While Victims Remain Uncompensated

Its been nearly two years since the Concordia recklessly crashed into the rocks surrounding the little port of Giglio, killing 32 passengers and crew and terrorizing thousands.

The officers of the operator of the cruise line, Costa, and the owners of the owner, Carnival corporation, quickly dumped 100% of the blame on the now disgraced captain, Francesco Schettino, who remains on trial for manslaughter and abandoning ship. 

Although salvors have up-righted the cruise ship during the highly published "parbuckling" maneuver at a cost of nearly one billion dollars, the ship is still sitting in the water at the port. 

Pier Luigi Foschi Costa Cruises The big news this week has been Carnival's announcement yesterday that the former CEO of Costa Cruises is retiring.  

Pier Luigi Foschi was CEO at Costa Cruises at the time of the disaster. Many people believe that Foschi and other senior Costa officials knew that their captains were altering the cruise routes and performing dangerous "flybys" but diverted attention from themselves by foisting all of the attention and blame on Captain Schettino.

Carnival announced yesterday Foschi is retiring from the Carnival organization after 16 years. He had retired from Costa in the summer of 2012, six months after the Concordia capsized. Carnival Corporation then named him as the CEO of the Carnival-Asia operations. 

The Miami Herald says that Foschi is receiving a bonus of 1,250,000 euros ($1.7 million) as part of a separation agreement.

According to the Independent newspaper, Foschi was paid $3,970,000 in 2012, for the one year period after the Concordia debacle. He also reportedly has shares worth $4,700,000.

Carnival Chairman Micky Arison praised Foschi yesterday for his contribution to Carnival's business.

Meanwhile, those Concordia passengers who did not accept Costa's settlement offer of 11,000 euros are continuing to pursue lawsuits against Costa and Carnival. The Costa crew members affected by the Concordia disaster were essentially left out in the cold and were lucky if they ended up on another Costa ship.

Its a telling list of financial priorities. A billion dollars to salvage the Costa ship, millions of dollars for the Costa CEO, peanuts for the Costa passengers, and nothing for the Costa crew members.    

 

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CNN Report on Triumph Fire: Carnival Cruise Line Knew of Danger Before Sailing

Triumph Cruise Ship FireAnderson Cooper aired a short special last night on his program AC360.

Over and over again, Carnival engineers indicated on their Triumph inspection reports and maintenance records that one of the ship's diesel generators was way past due for maintenance. The cruise ship was out of compliance with the IMO's Safety of Life at Sea requirements.

Carnival irresponsibly delayed and deferred maintenance and overhaul of the diesel engine. 

The program indicates that the Triumph had a dangerous propensity for a fire problem but Carnival neglected the engines and then set sail anyway. CNN said that the fire was a disaster waiting to happen and the cruise line risked the passengers' lives and well being.   

The problem could be traced back for over a year to a "dangerous pattern" of fuel line leaks on other ships, including the Carnival owned Costa Allegra which previously erupted in fire.

This fire, which disabled the Allegra, fore-shadowed the Triumph fire. There were reportedly nine instances of fuel leaks from flexible fuel hoses throughout Carnival's fleet. The cruise line was recommending the installation of spray shields on some but not all of its ships to protect the flanges Carnival Triumph Cruise Ship Fireand hoses from leaking fuel on hot spots which would ignite.

The hose which was not shielded on the Triumph sprayed fuel which ignited the fire. This was foreseeable and preventable. 

The documents were produced by Carnival in a lawsuit filed by a lawyer in Houston.

Carnival is defending the lawsuit by saying that no one was physically injured. Plus it claims that the cruise line offers no promise of a safe trip and passengers have no right to sue for unsafe or unsanitary conditions during the cruise.

Carnival also says that it is spending 300 million dollars to make improvements and prevent fires.

The images are from the CNN special. You can see additional photographs on our Facebook page

Watch the video below. 

Lawsuit Allegations: Carnival Security Guard Roughs Up 14 Year Old

Carnival Cruise Lawsuit A local news station WSVN - 7 reports on a lawsuit filed by a South Florida family after their son was allegedly beaten up by a security guard on board an unidentified Carnival cruise ship.

The lawsuit contends that a 14 year-old boy snuck into a nightclub on the cruise ship with his friends. When spotted by security, the boy ran out of the club and into a stairwell where he claims that the security guard roughed him up. He says the guard "grabs me by the shirt, slams me like really heard against the wall." 

The family's lawyer, Spencer Aronfeld, sued Carnival because the family wants the security guard fired and to prevent another family from going through a similar experience.  Aronfeld is seeking damages for what he claims are serious neurological and psychological damages suffered by the boy. 

Expect a vigorous defense by Carnival.

Have a thought? Leave a comment below, or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

 

Photo Credit: 7 - News / WSVN

 

Lawsuit: Couple on Carnival Triumph Endured "Deplorable, Unsafe & Unsanitary Conditions," But They Weren't on the Cruise Ship!

It's hard to develop a reputation worse than Carnival Cruise Lines these days but a lawyer in Houston may have accomplished that feat.  

According to the Houston Chronicle, Houston lawyer John Bruster Loyd filed a lawsuit against Carnival Cruise Lines on behalf of a couple in Texas.

He alleged that they had been victims of the disgusting conditions on the ill-fated Triumph "poop cruise." He said that his clients were forced to endure Carnival Poop Cruise - Triumph"deplorable, unsafe and unsanitary conditions." 

The problem is that the couple were never on the cruise ship.

The couple's beef with Carnival was that they lost the value of their pre-paid wedding in Cozumel when subsequent sailings of the Triumph were canceled. The cruise line allegedly promised to reimburse the couple but failed to do so.

But it seems that their attorney, who had not spoken to his clients for 6 to 7 months, forgot that they never sailed and got carried away with his allegations.

The newspaper quotes the embarrassed lawyer saying "I screwed up." 

  

"Strip Search" Lawsuit: Court Denies Carnival's Motion to Sanction Teenager for Telling Lies

A federal judge denied Carnival Cruise Lines' motion to punish a teenager who admitted that she lied when claiming that the cruise ship's security personnel forced her to remove her tampon in a search for marijuana.  

Courthouse News Service reports that one of Carnival's security officers noticed that a 17-year-old passenger on Sensation cruise ship dropped a container of what he believed to be marijuana in an elevator.

The chief security officer subsequently ordered a search of the girl's cabin. This is when the girl claimed that a female security officer strip-searched her and made her remove her underwear and tampon. The search apparently took place without the girl's mother present.

The minor and her mother were removed from the cruise ship. The girl spent the night and most of the next day in jail in the Bahamas until the U.S. Embassy intervened and the girl was released.

A lawsuit followed and the case headed to trial. But during trial, the girl testified that although she felt like she "had to" take off her underwear and remove her tampon, she admitted that she voluntarily did so that the search "would be over with."

After a jury found for Carnival, the cruise line sought to punish the girl by forcing her to pay all of the the cruise line's attorney fees. The federal court refused to impose the sanctions sought by Carnival, citing her young age and her efforts to set the record straight. The judge also found that the girl was under the influence of her mother who encouraged her to pursue the legal claim in the first place.

The court also took into consideration that the young woman, now 19, is unemployed and is a student on financial aid at a small college. The court already taxed costs of $4,364.06 against her out of the $9,305.14 sought by Carnival.  The court concluded that fining her additional money for the cruise giant's attorney fees would be meaningless.    

You can read the order here

 

Photo Credit: Wknight94 via Wikipedia

Lawsuit: Cruise Line Abandons Passenger with Head Injury in Fiji

A newspaper in Australia reports that a cruise aboard the Dawn Princess for passenger Graham Welsh was suppose to be a vacation of a lifetime.  But things began to go wrong when he sustained an injury after roof panels and lights fell on his head in a hallway on the cruise ship.  The cruise line then left him stranded in a foreign hospital in Fiji without his passport or wallet.

According to a lawsuit filed on his behalf, Mr. Mr Welsh alleges that shortly after his accident he began to vomit and suffered headaches. The cruise ship's doctor disembarked him at the next port, Suva, Fiji, to go to the hospital for a brain scan. The newspaper article quotes him saying: "They took me down the gang-plank and stuck me in a cab. I was surprised because no one accompanied me (to hospital). No one was assisting me and I didn't know what to do."  He basically had only his credit card which paid for the medical visit and scan.

Mr Welsh is suing Carnival Cruises Australia (as the owner of the Princess operated cruise ship) for the injuries and for the subsequent abandonment in Fiji.

The article explains that the cruise line is not denying that the passenger was injured but is contesting his claim that he is entitled to $750,000 in compensation. Dawn Princess Cruise Ship

The defense lawyer for the cruise line suggested that the lawsuit was less about the passenger's head injury and more about seeking revenge for the way he felt he had been mistreated by the cruise line.

"You (were bitter) that you hadn't got what you had bargained for, or paid for, and that was an enjoyable cruise," the defense lawyer suggested.

This is the second highly publicized case where an injured passenger alleges that the cruise line dumped them in a foreign port and and then forgot about them.  

Earlier we discussed the case of 89 year-old cruise passenger Dodge Melkonian who was abandoned in Turkey by Azamara after he broke his hip.  

 

Photo Credit:  Wikipedia / Bahnfrend

U.S. Appellate Court Affirms Dismissal of Another Costa Concordia Case

The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeal has affirmed an order of dismissal on forum non conveniens grounds of a case filed by an Italian citizen and Italian business for damages as a result of the Costa Concordia disaster. 

In a case styled Giglio Sub, S.N.C. and Francesco Onida versus Carnival Corporation et al., the Eleventh Circuit held that the federal district court did not abuse its discretion in granting the cruise line's motion to dismiss the case. The appellate court held that the trial court did not err in holding that Italy was an adequate and available forum for lawsuits surrounding the cruise ship capsizing to be filed.

The first sentence summed up the court's finding, referring to the dispute as a lawsuit filed by an Italian citizen and Italian business seeking damages suffered in Italy as a result of an Italian cruise ship which ran aground off the coast of Italy.

I predicted long ago that although the Concordia was owned by Miami-based Carnival, this would be an issue resolved in the Italian court system.

Costa Concordia Disaster

Photo Credit: Telegraph 

  

 

Lawsuit Filed Against Royal Caribbean After Injury to Child

Today local NBC affiliate channel 6 aired a story today about a 9 year old boy who underwent emergency brain surgery after being injured during a cruise sponsored game on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship.

The incident occurred on the Monarch of the Seas. 

The child's family say that they trusted Royal Caribbean to organize safe activities for their son during the cruise. The family claims that two staff members threw balls at the boy who ran to avoid getting hit.  The boy collided with another child and then struck his head on a hard object. 

Monarch of the SeasaThe child then underwent emergency brain surgery in Nassau.

The family is now suing Royal Caribbean claiming that the activity designed by the cruise line was unreasonably dangerous for the child. 

Royal Caribbean responded with the following statement:

“We regret that a young guest that sailed onboard Monarch of the Seas was injured. A vacation is supposed to be filled with fun, rejuvenation and relaxation, and it is regrettable that this family's vacation was interrupted by their son's injury, However, Royal Caribbean believes that while this unfortunate incident happened on board a cruise ship, it is not unique to a cruise ship, and could happen at any school, playground, or daycare.”

It should be interesting to see if Royal Caribbean releases the true number of injuries caused by the game - or whether it hides the ball so to speak. 

The child and his family are represented by Miami lawyer Spencer Aronfeld.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia / Sparrowman980

  

New Lawsuits Filed Against Carnival for Triumph "Poop Cruise"

Yesterday we mentioned that the first case filed in Galveston by a passenger following the infamous Triumph "poop cruise" was voluntarily dismissed. But today there is news that additional lawsuits were just filed in southeast Texas for damages alleged by passengers who sailed aboard the ill-fated Carnival cruise. 

The Southeast Texas Record reports that twenty passengers filed suit in federal court for the eastern district of Texas (Beaumont Division) for compensation due to the February 11, 2013 engine room fire which caused the cruise ship to drift for five days in the Gulf of Mexico. 

The lawsuit alleges facts well known to the public at this point: passengers claim that they were Carnival Triumph Poop Cruise"exposed to urine and feces, along with odors of raw sewage, which spilled and leaked through the ceilings, walls, and floors". In addition, the passengers allege that they were exposed to extreme heat and cold temperatures, and waited in long lines for hours for inadequate and rationed water and food.

The passengers allege theories of negligence, breach of maritime contract, negligent misrepresentation, fraud by non-disclosure, and fraud.

The newspaper indicates that the lawsuit seeks damages for discomfort, medical expenses, mental anguish, emotional distress, lost earnings, lost vacation time, pecuniary and out-of pocket damages, including cost of cruise, transportation, additional food and lodging and incidentals costs, punitive damages, interest and court costs.

A separate lawsuit was also filed in the same courthouse in Beaumont by a passenger and his eye care clinic claiming that business was lost because employees were stranded at sea on a the disabled Cruise ship.

According to allegations in the lawsuit reported by the Southeast Texas Record, Carnival was aware of the mechanical problems on board the cruise ship and knew the vessel was not “sufficiently seaworthy” to provide a safe, sanitary and enjoyable voyage.

The lawsuit alleges theories of unconscionability, misrepresentation, fraudulent inducement, negligence and fraud.

You can read more about the claim from the Houston Chronicle: Beaumont Man Sues After Entire Staff Stuck on Carnival Cruise

The typical Carnival ticket requires that lawsuits of this type must be filed in federal court in Miami. 

Cruise Ship Law - Lawsuits Against Royal Caribbean Cruise Line in Miami, Florida

Our law firm handles cases on behalf of injured passengers and crew members against cruise lines.  Other law firms handle auto accidents, dog bite cases and whatever may walk in the door.  Our firm sues only cruise lines in cases involving serious injuries. That’s all that we do.

One of the cruise lines that we file lawsuits against on a regular basis is Royal Caribbean.

Types of Royal Caribbean Lawsuits:  The type of cases we handle against Royal Caribbean can be divided into two general categories – personal injury cases and crime cases.

Crime Lawsuits:  Most of the crime cases we have handled over the years involve sexual assaults on Royal Caribbean cruise ships.  We have represented women who have been sexually assaulted on cruises by cruise line ship doctors, security guards, waiters, bar tenders and cleaners. The rapes have occurred in the passenger cabins, utility closets, and crew bathrooms. 

The crimes are not limited to the cruise ships. Crimes against passengers have occurred during cruise sponsored excursions such as diving and snorkeling trips, sailing and catamaran outings, and in and around bars at the cruise port in the Caribbean and Mexico. We have represented parents whose minor children have been molested by Royal Caribbean crew members and teenagers who have been sexually assaulted by older passengers.

Injury Lawsuits:  Passengers on Royal Caribbean cruise ships have been seriously injured in a wide FlowRider Danger - Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship variety of cases.  Passengers occasionally slip and fall on slippery decks and floors and sustain serious injuries such as fractured ankles, knees and hips. Injuries on the cruise line’s wide variety of recreational attractions are common, including skating rinks and rock climbing attractions.  Injuries on the Royal Caribbean FlowRider surfing simulator are frequent.  Royal Caribbean passengers have sustained serious, permanent and debilitating injuries, and have even been killed, on the highly dangerous FlowRider. 

The FlowRider is a major money making attraction for Royal Caribbean, but it's unreasonably dangerous in my opinion.

You can read about FlowRider accidents and injuries here.

Types of Clients:  We represent cruise ship passengers and crew members. Most of the passengers we represent are from the United States. We have represented clients literally from across the United States. 

Our crew member clients, who sustain back, neck and wrist injuries due to the long hours and repetitive nature of their work, are typically from Jamaica, St. Vincent, India, Argentina, Venezuela, Bosnia, Croatia, and Serbia, among other countries. 

If you or a family member have been seriously injured due to the negligence of Royal Caribbean, consider hiring a law firm which focuses its experience and resources on cruise ship lawsuits – not auto accident or dog bite cases.

Call our office at (305) 995 5300 or email me at jim@cruiselaw.com. 

 

Photo Credit: Royal Caribbean FlowRider Sign - Jim Walker

Triumph Poop Cruise Lawsuit Abandoned

A legal journal in Texas is reporting that the first and only lawsuit filed in Galveston County regarding the disabled Carnival Triumph cruise ship has ended with a voluntary dismissal. 

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Kathy Marie Armstrong who was among the 3,000 or so passengers who sailed from Galveston on February 7 2013.  The Carnival cruise ship became stranded in the Gulf of Mexico after a fire in the ship's engine room knocked out power. 

The Southeast Texas Record explains that Ms. Armstrong lawsuit alleged that  she endured what she described as deplorable, unsafe and unsanitary conditions, including “sweltering temperatures, lack of power and air conditioning, lack of hot or running water and lack of working toilets.” Ms. Armstrong Carnival Triumph Poop Cruiseclaimed that she “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” as the cruise ship was towed back to the U.S. 

The lawsuit further alleged “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.”

Ms. Armstrong labeled “a floating toilet, a floating Petri dish . . . a floating Hell.” 

The Carnival passenger ticket requires that all claims involving Carnival must be filed in federal court here in Miami. Carnival did not file a response to the lawsuit. The probable outcome was either a nominal settlement or Ms. Armstrong's lawyers agreed to a request to voluntarily dismiss the case.  

Still pending in Miami is a lawsuit filed by passengers seeking to assert a class action against Carnival for the cruise in question.  

Costa Concordia Lawsuits Remain in Florida, But What's Next?

Costa Concordia LawsuitIn an opinion released yesterday, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeal affirmed a ruling from a federal district court which held that two lawsuits filed after the Costa Concordia disaster, involving 104 cruise passengers, should remain in state court in Miami.

The cases are Abeid-Saba, et al., v. Carnival Corporation and Scimone, et al. v. Carnival Corporation. The cruise line removed the cases to federal court under the Class Act Fairness Act ("CAFA") which establishes federal jurisdiction of "mass actions."

The district court held that CAFA did not apply because neither case involved more than 100 individuals. The lawyers for the passengers were careful to divide the 104 passengers into two different cases which each had less than 100 individuals involved. You can read our article about the district court's ruling here: Costa Concordia Litigation: Tactical Blunder By Carnival Opens Door for Lawsuits in Miami.

Yesterday, the circuit court affirmed the lower court. The court held that CAFA permitted pleading cases in this manner and a defendant could not consolidate cases for the purpose of meeting that threshold standard of a mass action with 100 or more individuals. 

You can read the 11th Circuit's opinion here. The press release by the passengers' lawyers is here.

The federal court decision involves a technical argument and does not address the merits of the case or the issue of forum non conveniens (whether the case should be filed in Italy versus the U.S.). Carnival's next step is probably to file a motion to dismiss the cases based on the argument that the terms of the Costa passenger tickets require that the lawsuit be filed in Genoa, Italy and that Italy is a more convenient location to pursue the litigation.  

There are many hundreds of cases proceeding in Italy. I have written articles stating that the chances of keeping a Costa Concordia lawsuit here in state court in Miami are slim. I hope it turns out that I'm wrong. 

July 5 2013 Update: A reader of this blog brought to my attention that Carnival and the other defendants in these cases have already filed motions to dismiss based on the forum selection clause in the passenger tickets (specifying Italy as the location where the cases must be filed) and the doctrine of "forum non conveniens" which is a doctrine where the court determines the most convenient location to hear the lawsuit.  There have been no rulings on these motions yet.  A recent case from the Florida Supreme Court, Cortez v. Palace Resorts, reinforced the legal proposition that there is a strong presumption in favor of not disturbing the chosen forum of a U.S. litigant. Hopefully, this will assist the passengers in keeping their lawsuits here in state court in Miami.

Photo Credit: Giglio News

More Concordia Craziness: Scorned Woman Sues Costa

The Costa Concordia disaster has created some of the weirdest stories I have ever heard of in the field of maritime law. The notion of a playboy captain dining with a young blonde former ship dancer while the cruise ship heads towards disaster would be an improbable movie script if the story were not so real.

Captain Schettino is, of course, the central actor in this absurd drama. “Captain Coward,” as the press labeled him, is heading to trial later this year for manslaughter and abandoning ship. But that did not stop him from filing a lawsuit last year against Costa Crociere alleging that the cruise line wrongfully fired him. A 600 million dollar cruise ship ruined and many passengers and crew dead under his watch, but Master Schettino becomes Plaintiff Schettino looking for compensation himself.

Domnica Cemortan - Costa ConcordiaHow does a disgraced captain who abandoned ship have the chutzpah to seek money damages after causing such death and destruction?

Schettino has a boatload of excuses. Remember that he claims that he “slipped and fell into a lifeboat.” I am surprised that he didn’t hire a personal injury lawyer to sue the cruise ship company for that too.

And now the Schettino-Costa Concordia story gets even weirder.

According to the Telegraph, Schettino’s alleged girlfriend on the ship, Domnica Cemortan, has announced that she too is suing Costa as well as Schettino himself.

You will recall that Ms. Cemortan was the captain’s dinner companion on the night of the disaster who somehow ended up on the bridge when all hell was breaking loose. She claims that Costa failed to re-hire her and she lost income as a result. She also claims that Costa and Schettino failed to protect her image and reputation. She is threatening to sue the Italian newspapers which labeled her as Schettino’s paramour and portrayed her in an endless series of bikini photos.

Isn’t this the same person who reportedly professed her love for the captain shortly after the disaster? Did Ms. Cemortan really expect that this coward of a captain, who abandoned his ship and thousands of his passengers and crew members, would somehow protect her honor?

I suppose that it’s expected to have hard feelings when your dinner date kills 32 passengers and crew members, abandons ship, and doesn’t call you the next morning. 

 

Photo Credit: genova.ogginotizie.it

Lawsuits Arising Out of Triumph Fire Continue to be Filed Against Carnival Cruise Line

Carnival Triumph LawsuitLawsuits continue to be filed against Carnival arising out of the fire-disabled Triumph cruise ship.

Passengers were subjected to disgusting conditions due to overflowing toilets and a lack of air-conditioning. We made a decision not to be involved in any lawsuits against Carnival in this case. Yes, many people were inconvenienced but most sustained no physical injury and certainly nothing permanent. Read our article: Carnival Triumph Cruise From Hell: Here Come the Lawsuits!  

Carnival offered a full discount, a future cruise credit, a waiver of charges for onboard purchases amd $500.  Crew members received nothing.

A copy of the lawsuit is below. It should make for interesting reading to scroll through the lawsuit and see the particular complaints made by these 17 passengers who decided to file suit in federal court in Dallas Texas.

The Carnival passenger ticket requires that all disputes like this must be filed in federal court in Miami.

 

Carnival Cruise Strip Search Trial Continues

The case of a young girl strip searched by Carnival Cruise employees is expected to reach the jury early this week. 

The case involves allegations that over-zealous Carnival officers strip searched a 17 year old passenger suspected of possessing pot while aboard the Sensation cruise ship.

The search allegedly included a cavity inspection and the girl was told to remove her tampon in front of Carnival Sensation Cruise Shiptwo male ship officers.

Carnival usually does not comment on pending litigation but went out of its way to tell newspapers that the claims were "far-fetched" and to basically call the girl a liar.

We have written a couple of articles about the outrageous allegations in the case:

Lawsuit: Carnival Cruise Lines Strip Searches Girl Looking For Pot

Court Permits Teenager Strip Searched on Carnival Cruise Ship to Seek Punitive Damages

The jury's verdict, pro or con, will come at a particularly bad time for the cruise line. The media has Carnival under a microscope with fires and engine problems plaguing the Carnival Triumph, Dream, Legend and Elation over the past two months and revelations that Carnival does not pay U.S. taxes or reimburse the U.S. for the services of federal agencies such as the U.S. Coast Guard.  

The jury trial, which began last week, is before U.S. District Judge Robin Rosenbaum down here in South Florida.

We will report on the verdict as soon as it is announced. 

March 18 2013 Update: Defense verdict for Carnival.  The case was defended by Miami defense lawyers Curtis Mase and Lauren DeFabio. We will update this once we obtain a copy of the verdict form and obtain additional information.. 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia (Wknight94)

Carnival Booze Cruise Disaster Ends Up In Court

Courthouse News Service reports on a disturbing story of Carnival allegedly over-serving alcohol to a passenger who fell off the cruise ship and then not taking reasonable steps to rescue the overboard woman.

The case involves cruise passenger "Sarah."  As Courthouse News explains: 

"After Carnival cruises got her so drunk she fell overboard, and eyewitnesses reported it, the captain refused to turn around the ship for 90 minutes, then refused to airlift her to hospital to treat her fractured bones." 

The incident occurred aboard the Carnival Destiny in October of last year. Sarah was cruising to Jamaica with her fiancé and her friend Rebecca. We wrote about the incident when it happened: Why Carnival Destiny Passenger RescueDid Carnival Delay Rescuing An Overboard Passenger From The Destiny?

The lawsuit alleges that a bartender kept pushing drinks on her. To encourage more alcohol sales, the Carnival bartender offered them free $5 coupons for the ship's casino. As a result, Sarah became "extremely intoxicated" and fell into the ocean but not before first striking a life boat during her 100 foot fall.

Her injuries included what is describes as "fractured orbital bones, lung contusions, hypothermia, fractured ribs, dissection of the carotid artery, heart arrhythmia, broken optical shelves, blood clots in her eyes, arms, and legs, as well as extreme hematomas all over her body."

Sarah's friend, fiance and others on the ship saw and/or heard her fall into the ocean and immediately notified several Carnival staff members.  Carnival refused and delayed before they turned the ship to cruise ship around and eventually found her nearly two hours in the ocean, severely injured and without a life vest. 

But the woman's ordeal was not over. Carnival refused to airlift her to a hospital, but diverted the cruise to Key West, where "doctors explained that they did not have the equipment to handle the severe trauma that plaintiff had suffered. They also stated that the plaintiff should have been air evacuated from the cruise ship directly to Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami."

The story was also covered by Cruise Critic, and the members of that on-line cruise site are blaming Sarah for not exercising "personal responsibility."

Bur cruise lines are considered to be persons under the law. Cruise lines have responsibility to their guests. There is case law in Florida that cruise lines face liability when they over-serve passengers past the point of intoxication which appears to be the case if the allegations are true.  Plus it's inexcusable to delay a couple of hours before trying to rescue an overboard passenger, whether they are drunk or not.

People may scoff at the case but Carnival earns hundreds of millions of dollars pushing alcohol on its huge fleet of cruise ships. It faces a multi-million dollar exposure in a case with such egregious allegations.   

Carnival Triumph Lawsuits - A Just Cause or a Money Grab?

On February 10th the Carnival Triumph's engine room caught fire fire and was quickly extinguished. No one was burned. No one choked and gasped for air. No one died. No family members mourned the loss of their loved ones or buried their dead.

Three weeks later there is a litigation frenzy with lawyers from New York to Miami to Mississippi suing Carnival for billions of dollars.

And you wonder why people hate lawyers.

Star Princess Cruise Ship FireDon't get me wrong.  I don't like the cruise lines. As a former National Transportation Safety Board chairman said, the cruise lines are an "outlaw industry" which suffers from "bad actors."

But suing Carnival if you are not physically injured or seriously sick is wrong, as I have said in other articles.  

There are a hoard of lawyers out there soliciting your business who will sue Carnival whether you have bothered to see a doctor or not.  Just Google "Triumph cruise lawyer" and see the long line of lawyers asking you to call them, such as:

"Carnival Triumph Lawsuit Attorney" - Video - New York lawyer asking for one billion dollars!

"Carnival Triumph Cruise Ship Lawyer" - Video - Florida lawyer who filed class action lawsuit.

What are these attorneys advocating?  None of these lawyers have ever gone to Congress advocating the rights of cruise passengers or crew members injured at sea. Is this just about money?

Contrast this latest Carnival fire on the Triumph with the last fire where a passenger was killed on the Carnival-owned Star Princess cruise ship (above right). Georgia resident Richard Liffridge died when he and his wife, Vicky, tried to crawl down a burning smoke filled hallway as the fire engulfed the ship.

Star Princess Cruise Ship FireAs explained in the LA Times article "Cruise Industry's Dark Waters:"

"Victoria Liffridge recalled that she and her husband crawled along a passageway filled with thick, black smoke as flames shot above their heads. It was "like being in an oven," she said. The couple became separated. 'The last words I heard him say were, "Vicky, don't let me die, she said. Victoria Liffridge crawled to safety, only to be told later that her husband had not survived. When she identified his body it was covered in soot from head to toe."

Mr. Liffridge left behind his wife, four children and many grandchildren.   

We represented the Liffridge family. Richard's daughter, Lynnette, joined the International Cruise Victims organization and testified before Congress regarding the cruise ship fire. She demanded changes to protect future cruisers. She later boarded the same cruise ship where her father died and made certain that the ship was retrofitted with sprinkler systems and heat detectors which were lacking from the ship's balconies where the fire started which killed her father.

Will anyone of the inconvenienced passengers on the Triumph call on their Congressional representatives and ask for a Congressional hearing about cruise ship safety like Lynnette did?  Will anyone travel to Washington D.C. at their own expense to hold the cruise lines accountable?  Will anyone demand changes on the cruise ships to protect the public?  Will anyone work behind the scenes and board the Triumph and see with-their-own-eyes if anything has been done to ensure the safety of the next families who will cruise on the ship?

Or is this just a lawsuit money-grab for a few thousand dollars and a free Carnival cruise? 

Cruise Ship Fire

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Costa Concordia Litigation: Tactical Blunder By Carnival Opens Door For Lawsuits in Miami

A couple of weeks ago (February 4th), Carnival won a major victory in defending the personal injury cases arising out of the Costa Concordia disaster when a federal judge in South Florida granted Carnival's motion to dismiss and ordered that the case must be filed in Italy if the passengers wish to proceed. 

In the case of Wilhelmina Warrick v. Carnival Corporation, Judge William P. Dimitrouleas held that he was "thoroughly convinced that dismissal in favor of an Italian forum is proper."  The order states that the Court carefully considered the matter and concluded that every single factor weighed in favor of dismissing the passengers' case from Florida. 

Costa ConcordiaYou can read the opinion here courtesy of another maritime law firm's website. I considered the decision to be essentially a final nail in the coffin regarding attempts to hold Carnival or Costa responsible here in U.S. courts.

But on February 15th, the same federal court judge reached an opposite result in two other cases involving 104 Costa cruise passengers claiming compensation arising out of the Concordia capsizing.  Denise Abeid-Saba et al., vs. Carnival Corporation (companion case is Scimone v. Carnival Corporation). 

These cases were filed in state court here in Miami.  Carnival removed the cases to federal court pursuant to the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA)  of 2005 which permits defendants to remove cases which involve monetary relief sought by 100 or more persons.  However, there is an exclusion where there are 100 plaintiffs because the defendant seeks to consolidate the cases.  

The Court noted that the Abeid-Saba case involved 57 persona and the Simone cases involved 47 persons. Therefore, because neither case involved 100 or more person, there was no basis for removal of the cases from state court.

The Court further held that there was no foreign interest or foreign policies sufficient to create federal court jurisdiction.  Judge Dimitrouleas ordered that the cases should be remanded back to state court.

But then the judge went further. He held:

"There is no indication that the Italian government owned or ran the vessel. There is no evidence of the importance of the Costa Concordia or cruising to the Italian economy. Italy has not taken a position in this lawsuit. Put simply, there is a dearth of evidence to show that Italy has a strong foreign interest in this case. This case is about international and U.S. passengers injured on a pleasure cruise run by a private corporation and whether that corporation properly adhered to safety standards or was otherwise negligent. U.S. - Italian relationships will not be rocked if a Florida state court judge awards money damages because and Italian corporation was negligent."

The decision is surprising in so far as Judge Dimitrouleas essentially reached a completely different result in his orders just 11 days apart.  The lawyers for the 104 Concordia victims were understandably pleased with the outcome and issued a press release earlier this week.     

Judge Dimitrouleas' strongly worded opinion is hard to reconcile with his earlier opinion that he was "thoroughly convinved" that the cases should be filed in Italy.

But there are two things that all lawyers learn in law school: first, federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction and in practical terms are always looking for a way to get rid of a civil personal injury case; and secondly, federal judges decide only those issues squarely before the court.   

Costa Concordia SimoneThe issue of forum non conveniens (whether the case should be filed in Italy versus the U.S.) was not before Judge Dimitrouleas. The only issue before him was whether the case belonged in federal court (as Carnival wanted) versus in state court (as the plaintiff wanted). The court did not conduct the same forum non conveniens analysis as in the earlier Warrick case. The court reached a decision solely addressing the issue whether federal jurisdiction was properly invoked.

Rather than moving to dismiss the state court cases based on the argument that the only proper location was in Italy, Carnival preferred to try and take the cases into the federal courts. This was a clever technical argument that turned out to be a bad idea. Carnival gambled with a removal argument based on CAFA. It lost and received some bad language from the federal court in the process.   

But the Concordia victims can't count their chickens yet.  Carnival will still have an opportunity to raise the forum non conveniens argument in the state court proceedings.  Carnival will argue that the language in the judge's order is just dicta, and is not binding on the state court in any event. The cruise victims will argue that the rationale in the court's latest ruling is correct and the cases should remain in Florida state court. 

I met the lead plaintiff in the Scimone case (photo above right) while attending the Congressional hearings last year. These families have experienced quite an ordeal and deserve a trial in Miami. I hope they are successful in keeping the cases here.  

Triumph Fire: Here Comes the Lawsuits! (Part 2): Miami Firm Files Class Action Lawsuit

Go big or stay home, so the saying goes.  

This weekend there have been several articles discussing the two lawsuits filed last Friday against Carnival arising out of the Carnival Triumph "cruise from hell."   I have thrown in my two cents in television & radio appearances and in a number of local and national newspapers. Bottom line:

Unless you have a serious physical injury or physical illness, families on the disabled cruise ship face an uphill climb proceeding with a lawsuit against Carnival for the inconvenience and unpleasant Carnival Triumph Class Action Lawsuitcircumstances they suffered last week.

You can read my blog today about the issue of whether to sue or not. 

But one law firm here in Miami is going for broke by filing a class action lawsuit today against Carnival.

The firm's press release contains links to an appearance of one lawyer on Fox and another lawyer on CNN, but contains no information about the cruise-passenger client on whose behalf the proposed class action was filed.

Lawyers working on contingency fees in Florida collect up to 40% of the gross recovery. Passengers thinking of trying to join in this attempt at a class action need to act smart. If you want to gamble with a big case, make certain that you accept for yourself the cruise fare reimbursements, waiver of expenses, free cruise voucher and $500 (which you can accept without waiving your rights).

Don't let any lawyer suck you into a class action boondoggle and take 40% of whatever has been offered to you already.     

Carnival Triumph Cruise From Hell: Here Come the Lawsuits!

Last Friday, the day the Carnival Triumph passengers were finally going home from the "cruise from hell," the first two lawsuits were filed.

The first case mentioned in the press was filed by a Texas lawyer representing a woman from Brazoria County Texas. I printed a copy from the court's online docket to read this weekend. The lawsuit alleges that the passenger was forced to "endure unbearable and horrendous odors on the filthy and disabled" cruise ship.  Because of the "sweltering temperatures, lack of power and air conditioning, lack of running water, and lack of toilets," the woman "feared for her life" and was threatened with Carnival Triumph Cruise Ship Fire"contracting serious illness by the raw sewage" filling the ship. 

The problem with allegations like these is that they are excluded by the terms and conditions of the ticket issued by the cruise line.

Experiencing psychological distress or being afraid of getting sick are not a basis for a lawsuit unless there is a physical injury or actual physical illness.

The lady's lawyer later told the press that his client had a fever and felt nauseous, but notably lacking from the lawsuit or the lawyer's comments were any mention of an actual illness diagnosed by a doctor.  This may be explained by the fact that the woman probably had not been to a doctor yet.        

The other lawsuit was filed on behalf of another Texan passenger by a lawyer here in Miami. As described by USA Today's Cruise Log, the lawsuit alleges that the 42 year old passenger suffered severe dehydration and bruising from aggressive food lines on the crippled ship. Her lawyer said she was so ill from the five-day ordeal that she had to be given intravenous fluids in an emergency room when she returned home to Houston. Severe dehydration may be sufficient to meet the physical injury requirements of the law but it is unknown whether this is just a temporary injury.

I have made my thoughts of litigation in cases like this well know.

Following the last "cruise from hell" engine room fire disaster in 2010 when the Carnival Splendor was stranded off the coast of Mexico and had to be towed back to the U.S., I wrote an article "Three Reasons Why You Will Lose If You Sue Carnival."  The same conclusions I reached two years ago apply to this latest Carnival debacle. 

It's not that I am unsympathetic to the people's plight. But I have represented clients who waved goodbye to family members at the dock and their loved ones either didn't return from the cruise or they returned in a body bag.   

If you are on a cruise ship that catches on fire on the high seas and you return with your family physically uninjured, count your blessings.

Cruise passengers returning from the Triumph need to rest, relax and start trying to recover from the stress.  They should go to a doctor and be checked out. Get your blood tested if you are afraid.  Send the medical bills to Carnival to Carnival to be reimbursed. But filing a lawsuit before going to a doctor puts the cart ahead of the horse. 

Let's hope that no one develops a truly serious and permanent illness from sloshing around in sewage for a week. If the feces and urine cause an innocent passenger to contract hepatitis or Legionnaires Disease or some other debilitating or deadly illness, then the afflicted passenger should sue the hell out of Carnival.

But inconvenience, aggravation, anger and being afraid of disease won't get you very far in a federal courtroom here in Miami.

Update: Triumph Fire:  Here Comes the Lawsuits! (Part 2): Miami Firm Files Class Action Lawsuit!

 

Photo Credit: Fox40

Another Judge Dismisses Costa Concordia Lawsuit Filed in Florida

Costa Concordia Last September Carnival won its first battle arising out of the January 2012 Costa Concordia disaster when U.S. District Court judge Robin Rosenbaum held that the lawsuits against Carnival should be filed in Italy.

In that case, a thousand businesses on the island of Giglio where the Concordia cruise ship ran aground near the harbor tried to sue Carnival in Florida because it is the parent company for Costa which is based in Genoa, Italy.

Yesterday another District Court judge dismissed a lawsuit by cruise passengers against Carnival. Federal Judge William Dimitrouleas held that the passengers' lawsuit should be filed in Italy.  

The ruling was expected from my point of view. The case involves an Italian cruise ship, operated by a company based in Italy, flying an Italian flag, captained by an Italian officer, which crashed in Italian waters and is being investigated by the Italian authorities.  

The case was filed on behalf of Massachusetts residents Adrian, Amanda and Brian Warrick and their parents, Wilhelmina and Ceilito Warrick. 

You can read other articles about this issue here.

Groping on the High Seas? John Travolta - Fabian Zanzi Sexual Harassment Lawsuit Over, Finally

Fabian Zanzi - Royal CaribbeanA year ago. Cruise Law News was the first one in the U.S. to report that a Royal Caribbean crew member, Fabian Zanzi, claimed that movie celebrity John Travolta sexually harassed and assaulted him during a cruise.  We had first heard of the alleged incident several years ago from a crew member client who worked on Royal Caribbean's Enchantment of the Seas cruise ship. 

We were told that a Royal Caribbean crew member claimed that Travolta came-on-to-him during a cruise on the Enchantment in 2009.  

Zanzi's lawsuit claims that after he served Travolta room service, Travolta disrobed, "forcibly embracing" Zanzi while naked, and engaged in "nonconsensual, inappropriate, extreme and outrageous" contact. 

Zanzi reported the incident to his supervisors at the cruise line. Royal Caribbean then punished Zanzi and kept him confined to his cabin. Travolta ended his cruise early and took a jet back to the U.S.    

Travolta denied everything of course. 

Travolta's lawyers responded to Zanzi's lawsuit by moving to dismiss it and to send the case to arbitration. This way Travolta could avoid the publicity of a jury trial. Arbitration usually results in lower damages awarded to the aggrieved party. This is how cruise lines respond to lawsuits by injured crew members.

A federal court judge recently denied Travolta'a motion to arbitrate the case. You can read the well reasoned opinion here. This means that the case would head toward a jury trial.

But yesterday, the Hollywood news reporters said that Zanzi's lawsuit had been "dropped," after the John Travolta - Fabian Zanzi - Cruise Shipparties had stipulated to a dismissal.  Sounds to me like Travolta paid a settlement, after losing his arbitration motion, in order to avoid the prospect of all of his dirty laundry being aired out before a jury in Los Angeles. The parties probably agreed to keep the settlement terms secret.  A good move by Travolta to put this spectacle to bed.

Meanwhile, Zanzi is proceeding with his claim against Royal Caribbean that it falsely imprisoned him in retaliation for reporting the alleged sexual harassment.

The Zanzi - Royal Caribbean false imprisonment claim is in arbitration, so there will be no jury trial for the Hollywood reporters to attend. My prediction is that eventually the cruise line will agree to a settlement, subject to a confidentiality agreement.

Then the case will end like it began, with everyone trying to keep what happens on cruise ships secret. 

 

Photo credit - John Travolta - WENN

Cruising, "Eh!" to Z! What Canadians Should Know Before Getting On-Board . . .

Danielle Gauer, JD Candidate 2013 University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law, joins us for another guest blog.  You can read about Danielle's background and read her first guest blog here. This blog is an interesting inside look at cruising for our friends north of the border:

More and more Canadians are looking for a way to escape the cold and snow during the winter months and instead catch some sun. Cruise ships seem like the perfect way to spend a family vacation offering passengers an experience similar to that of a five star all-inclusive resort in the Caribbean. With luxury travel, activities catered to the entire family, world class-cuisine and entertainment, and Canada Cruise Shipssome of the most fascinating ports of call, Canadians are hopping on-board these monster ships to enjoy the family vacation of their lives. However, with the move towards accommodating more passengers and offering more “risky” activities, such as rock-climbing and surf simulators, there is inevitably an increased possibility of catastrophe occurring.

When serious personal injury arises as a result of negligence on the part of the cruise line, it is imperative that Canadian cruise ship passengers know how to assert their rights and obtain compensation for their damages. Being injured on-board a cruise ship is frustrating. Injured passengers also experience physical, emotional and financial loss. In many situations, Canadians fear that taking legal action in the U.S. will be pointless. They can feel defeated at the outset. The choice not to advance their rights can stem simply from the perception that retaining a U.S. attorney can be expensive and time consuming. The thought of “competing” against a large corporate enterprise, that has equipped itself with a team of lawyers that have unlimited resources at their disposal, can be intimidating.

When Canadians pay for a vacation on a cruise ship, they also agree to certain contractual terms and conditions. Cruise ticket contracts generally include a “forum selection clause” stating where a lawsuit can be brought. This informs the passenger where they can file documents to commence legal action against the cruise line. Most cruise ship companies have inserted an exclusive foreign selection clause in their cruise ticket contract. What this means is that when signed, passengers have submitted to the jurisdiction chosen by the defendant cruise line, whether it is the State of Florida (Carnival and Royal Caribbean), California (Princess), or Washington (Holland America Line). This limits the plaintiff’s choice in selecting a location to file a lawsuit that is more convenient and close to home (i.e. in Canada).

Sometimes these ticket contracts may include clauses that place a limit on the types of lawsuits that a plaintiff can bring. Some of these conditions are valid and legally enforceable; other conditions are illegal and unenforceable. For example, Norwegian Cruise Lines has inserted a clause to limit its liability for injuries or damages resulting from participating in specific activities on-board (i.e. rock Canada Cruise Ship Passengersclimbing wall, ice skating, onboard water-slides). Royal Caribbean has similar conditions which attempt to protect the cruise line from lawsuits arising out of injuries from participating in flow-riding or zip-lining. These types of conditions have been struck down in Florida although the cruise lines still insert the illegal language in their passengers contracts.

Before commencing an action against a cruise line, Canadians must be aware of any clauses in the passenger ticket contract that can limit their claims. Canadian laws make it difficult to challenge forum selection clauses in cruise ship contracts, so Canadian plaintiffs should be fully aware of those challenges before contemplating litigation in Canada instead of the United States. Contacting a US attorney who specializes in cruise ship litigation will helpful as they will be fully equipped with the resources and knowledge to assert their client’s rights and allow a Canadian plaintiff to obtain the most accurate information regarding their claim.

Canadians should also realize that passengers have only one year to file suit, and most cruise lines require that the passenger notify them in writing of their intention to file suit within six months.  

Cruises can be very enjoyable, but Canadian passengers should be aware of their rights before getting on-board!

 

Photo credit: "Winter in Ottawa" - Danielle Gauer

"Boob Cruise" Charter Boat Captain Ordered to Pay $350,000 in Compensation to Injured Woman

And now for some weird cruise news . . .

The owner and operator of  an Australian "boob cruise" charter boat, Dennis Healey, who was below deck with strippers when his boat collided with another smaller vessel, has been ordered to pay an injured woman almost $350,000 in compensation.

The incident involved the 56 foot catamaran "Two Up" which was under charter for a party. The charter boat had 30 passengers aboard including several strippers according to a newspaper in Australia.

An eighteen year old woman was seriously injured when she jumped into the water as the catamaran sailed into the vessel she was on.  

The judge presiding over the trial heard evidence that  the charter boat's captain was on the lower deck with the topless entertainers when the collision took place. The judge held that "his absence from the helm meant that no one was either manning it or keeping a lookout ahead." 

The young woman suffered lower back injuries which prevented her from working for 6 months. Her mother had to help her with cleaning, washing, shopping and taking her to medical appointments.

In addition to the civil compensation, the distracted captain was was fined $50,000 after pleading guilty to unsafe operation of a boat.

No Jury Trial For Seriously Injured Dancer Aboard HAL's Oosterdam

Courthouse News Service reports on a case involving a crew member from Canada who was employed aboard a Holland America Line (HAL) cruise ship.

The Canadian crew member, employed on the Oosterdam cruise ship as a dancer, suffered a serious career-ending injury, but is being denied the right to take his case before a jury.

Courthouse News states that the case involves Anthony Yuzwa who was a talented dancer. He graduated from the Canadian College of Performing Arts, worked for the Burlington School of Dance, Oosterdam Cruise Ship - Holland america Lineand appeared on Canadian television. While performing on the Oosterdam earlier this year, a stage lift collapsed and crushed Yuzwa's right foot, resulting in the amputation of two of his toes and parts of others.

He filed suit against HAL as well as a company which hired him to work aboard the cruise ship. Under the General Maritime Law of the U.S. and the Jones Act which was enacted in 1920, injured crew members - even if they are not U.S. citizens - are permitted to bring their legal disputes before U.S. juries and seek a wide range of remedies against their maritime employers and the owner and operator of the vessel. The cruise lines, however, have increasingly been inserting terms in the employment contracts requiring crew members to submit their claims to "arbitration."

Arbitration is a procedure which strips crew members of their right to trial by jury.  Cruise lines prefer arbitration because they believe that compensation awarded to injured crew members will be substantially less and the chances of defeating the crew member will be substantially greater. Arbitration also limits the ability of crew members to engage in discovery of the cruise line's wrongdoing.

The defendants in Yuzwa"s lawsuit responded by moving to dismiss his law suit, which you can read here, and compel him to arbitrate his case in Canada without a jury.  HAL subsequently stipulated that the arbitration could take place in Los Angeles with U.S. law applying but without a jury.

The U.S. federal judge agreed with HAL's argument and compelled Yuzwa to attend arbitration rather than a jury trial. You can read the judge's decision here.

Injured crew members should anticipate that most cruise lines will respond to lawsuits by arguing that the cases should be decided through arbitration.

Although the arbitration awards may generally be considered to be lower than what could be obtained during jury trials, it may be possible to obtain significant compensation for significant injuries. Our firm obtained the highest award in an arbitration case on behalf of an injured crew member.  Read: Walker & O'Neill Featured in Top Verdicts and Settlements" for $1,250,000 Verdict for Injured Crewmember Against Royal Caribbean

You can read about the issue of arbitration of crew member cases in these articles:

Arbitration of Cruise Line Crewmember Cases

Lindo v. NCL: Crewmembers Lose Rights As Harsh Cruise Arbitration Decisions Continue

 

Photo credit: Sebastian Wessels / Wikipedia

South African Man Sues MSC Cruises for Medical Negligence

A newspaper in South African reports that a man cruising aboard a MSC cruise ship has sued the cruise line, Mediterranean Shipping Company, for damages after experiencing a heart attack last year. The incident took place in April of 2011 while Hilton Curgenven was sailing aboard the MSC Sinfonia.

The gist of the lawsuit is that the cruise line allegedly provided Mr. Curgenven with sub-standard care and then dumped him in a port alone on a stretcher of the wharf. He alleges that the shipboard care consisted only of giving him an injection following which he went into a coma for six weeks.  Instead of airlifting him to a hospital, the cruise ship abandoned him at port in Durban and left a MSC Sinfonia Cruise Shipnote on the stretcher diagnosing him with "severe chest pain and myocardial infarct . . . "  He claims that "thankfully, someone who knew me called an ambulance .  .  ." 

The case highlights some of the issues we have warned about in this blog, namely that the medical care on cruise ships is limited. Cruise lines are spending over a billion dollars building some cruise ships. But instead of investing in medical technology and premier doctors, the lines are paying for skating rinks, rock climbing walls, and flowrider attractions.  

The case also reveals that, as a general proposition, doctors and nurses on cruise ships are considered to be "independent contractors" for whom the cruise lines are not responsible. The ship doctors may appear and act like they are ship employees but they are characterized as independent contractors in the fine print of the cruise ship ticket.    

MSC Cruises responded to the lawsuit saying that Curgenven had entered into a contract knowing the Sinfonia was not equipped as a hospital and that medical personnel were not specialists. The cruise line also points out that Curgenven had failed to purchase his own insurance as well.

 

Photo credit: Wikipedia / Edgar Freitas

Independence of the Seas - a Dirty Cruise Ship? Sick Passengers Sue Royal Caribbean for £500,000

The U.K.'s Daily Echo reports today that twenty-five ill cruise passengers (and their family members) who sailed aboard the Independence of the Seas filed a lawsuit against the Miami based cruise line, Royal Caribbean Cruises, claiming that the dirty ship conditions and unsanitary galley and food led them to become ill.

The newspaper states that in addition to the unsanitary shipboard conditions, the Royal Caribbean cruise ship had insufficient medical facilities and staff to deal with disease outbreaks during cruises.

The lawsuit is described in the newspaper article as including complaints of "flies in their bathrooms, a waiter blowing (his) nose on a napkin that was then placed on a table and an outbreak of illness Independence of the Seas - Norovirus so severe there were often ambulances waiting for passengers in the ports they visited."

There is no mention where the lawsuit was filed or the name of the passengers' lawyers, but it appears that the case was filed in England. The passengers are seeking £500,000 in compensation from the cruise line. The Independence of the Seas sailed from Southampton England.

The affected passengers sailed on five different cruises over the course of a seven month period from December 2010 through June 2011.  In the U.S. courts, cruise lines like Royal Caribbean have successfully enforced a one year limitations period.  There appears to be a longer limitations period in which to file suit in the U.K.

Royal Caribbean denied the allegations of under-cooked food and poor galley hygiene, stating that it delivered “extremely high” health standards for its guests. During the time period in question, "the ship, Independence of the Seas, sailed on 15 cruises, welcoming over 67,000 guests."

Although the cruise line is down-playing the allegations, the fact of the matter is that Royal Caribbean had a problem with norovirus on this cruise ship notwithstanding its attempts at "enhanced cleaning."  It should be pointed out that if the cruise line really carried some 67,000 passengers in this six month period, it collected well over £100,000,000 as well.    

The last norovirus outbreak we reported on which occurred on the Independence  of the Seas was in March 2012.

Independence of the Seas - Lawsuit - Unsanitary FoodThe cruise lines always blame the passengers for not washing their hands, but there is far more to the story than pointing the finger at the guests. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), whereas "person to person" transmission of norovirus has been documented, "norwalk gastroenteritis is transmitted by the fecal-oral route via contaminated water and foods."

The FDA also indicates that contaminated water is one of the most likely causes of norovirus. The FDA reports that "water is the most common source of outbreaks and may include water from municipal supplies, well, recreational lakes, swimming pools, and water stored aboard cruise ships." 

Consider a couple of our articles regarding this subject: 

Cruise Ship Norovirus - Clean the Damn Toilets!

Cruise Ship Bathrooms, Norovirus and Medical Care

It will be interesting how this case turns out! 

 

Photo credits:

Drawing - Maxim Magazine

Independence of the Seas - Echo Daily

Chutzpah: Captain Schettino Sues Costa

Everyone is talking about the disgraced Costa cruise captain Schettino's outrageous lawsuit against Costa claiming that the cruise line wrongfully terminated his employment.

The outrage is appropriate.  After all, this is a captain who interrupted dinner with his mistress only long enough to run his ship into the rocks and kill 32 of his crew and guests and then hop into a lifeboat and leave the carnage he caused behind. 

What are the words that come to mind when you think of this captain?  "Coward" and "chicken" come to my mind.

With news of his lawsuit against Costa, another word which starts with "c" comes to mind - "chutzpah," a Yiddish word meaning audacity.  

Law blogger Eugene Volokh noted in an article entitled Lawsuit Shmawsuit that the word chutzpah has been used 231 times in American legal opinions, 220 times after 1980.

Shortly after the Concordia disaster, I tweeted what I thought was an outlandish joke, namely that captain Schettino had hired me to file a slip-and-fall lawsuit against Costa after Schettino tried to justify his abandonment of the ship by claiming that he somehow slipped and fell into a lifeboat.  Little could I comprehend that the captain would have the audacity to actually file a lawsuit against Costa.

When the criminal trial against Schettino is over, lets hope that he is convicted of all charges pending against him. And he is also found guillty of chutzpah.  

First Set of Costa Concordia Lawsuits Dismissed

Costa Concordia Lawsuit - Carnival Cruise LineCarnival won its first step in battling lawsuits filed against it arising our of the January 2012 Costa Concordia disaster when a a federal court judge in Florida dismissed a lawsuit filed by Italian businesses against it.

U.S. District Court judge Robin Rosenbaum held that the lawsuits against Carnival should be filed in Italy. 1,000 businesses on the island of Giglio where the Concordia cruise ship ran aground near the harbor tried to sue Carnival in Florida because it is the parent company for Costa which is based in Genoa, Italy.

Whereas we would like to see Carnival sued here in Florida for the disaster, this is an outcome that we expected. We recently wrote about whether the cruise lines can be sued here in the U.S. - "Will Costa Concordia Passengers Be Able to Sue Costa and Carnival in the U.S.?"

This development does not bode well for the lawsuits filed against Carnival on behalf of passengers and crew members who were aboard the Concordia when it capsized. 

Passenger Seriously Burned in Cruise Ship Bar

Cruise Passenger Burn Victim James BailyNewspapers in the U.K. and Australia are covering a horrific story involving a 28 year old man who was reportedly sailing on an Amsterdam "booze cruise" when he awoke in the ship's bar on fire.

Cruise passenger James Bailey had what he describes as a "few drinks" and fell asleep in the cruise ship's bar on the deck 8.  Most of his cruise mates who were on what is being called a "stag party" cruise were either asleep or back in their cabins.

According to the Daily Mail, Mr. Bailey stated: ‘I suddenly awoke in extreme agony and quickly realized my clothes were on fire. The bartender assisted in removing my shirt and putting out the flames."  His back and hands were severely burned.

There were a group of 20 to 30 people in the bar when the incident occurred.

The cruise staff refused his requests for an air ambulance claiming that his injuries were not deemed serious enough for emergency medical treatment.  

The cruise ship was operated by DFDS Seaways which denies liability for what happened and would not comment. 

Mr. Bailey states that he suffers from first, second and third degree burns, as well as psychological trauma.  He adds that "I have no idea what happened that night. As it stands there is no one to blame, so I can only blame myself right now until other evidence is found."

In the U.S., there is a legal principle called "Res Ipsa Loquitor," which is Latin for "the thing speaks for itself."  This a legal doctrine that a company or person is presumed to be negligent if they had exclusive control of whatever caused the injury even though there is no specific evidence of an act of negligence, and without negligence the accident would not have happened.

Short of spontaneous combustion, Mr. Bailey obviously did not catch himself on fire.

Cruise ships cannot legally serve passengers alcohol until they pass out in the ship bars and then permit other passengers or crew members to catch their guests on fire.  

There are some very gruesome photos of Mr. Bailey on the Daily Mail site, but be warned that they are disturbing.

DFDS Cruise Ship - Cruise Ship Passenger Burned

Photo Credits:

James Baily - Sam Hardie via Daily Mail

DFDS cruise ship - Daily Mail 

Will Costa Concordia Passengers Be Able to Sue Costa and Carnival in the U.S.?

Costa Concordia Lawsuit The Associated Press just published an article about the hundreds of passengers and crew members who have filed suit against Costa and Carnival here in the U.S. following the Costa Concordia disaster.

A number of newspapers are running the story, as well as TIME magazine which carried the article "Passengers Suing Carnival Cruises for Millions over Costa Concordia Shipwreck." 

Miami lawyer Gabrielle D’Alemberte, who represents five U.S. citizens suing in Florida, explains some of the drawbacks about trying to sue in Italy. She is quoted in the article explaining that Italy does not allow attorneys to work on a contingency fee basis in which the lawyer’s fee comes out of any settlement or verdict. She also states that compensation for pain and suffering and emotional distress are harder if not impossible to collect in Italy. “This was traumatizing at every level . . . That’s a cause of action in this country. It’s not in Italy.”

Travel Agent Central, in an article written by Susan Young, published an article today explaining the jurisdictional difficulties that the passengers will face suing here in the U.S.  The article is entitled Lawsuits Target Carnival Corp. in the U.S. But Will They Succeed? and quoted me extensively.

I would like to see all of the passengers and crew members obtain great success suing both Costa and Carnival here in the U.S. Costa's settlement offer of less than $15,000 is a joke, but I think that prospect of suing in Italy will be prohibitively expensive and time consuming and the outcome uncertain..  I think ultimately the cases here in the U.S. will be kicked out of court. 

I hope I'm wrong but I don't think I am.  You can read my thoughts about the prospects of successfully keeping the cases here in the U.S.in the article here.    

The Washington Post covered the story and included the video interview of lawyer D’Alemberte, as well as Miami attorney Robert Peltz below: 

 

 

 

Photo credit: Travel Agent Central

 

CruiseMates "Most Ridiculous Cruise Ship Lawsuits" Article Forgets P&O Cruises History of Exploitation of Women

PO Cruises Sexual Harassment Lawsuit CruiseMates recently ran an article by its editor Paul Motter entitled "Most Ridiculous Cruise Ship Lawsuits." One of the lawsuits was filed by a 50 year old lady passenger aboard a P&O cruise ship who attended a talent show dressed in a leopard skin dress who sang a Tina Turner song River Deep Mountain High.

One of the P&O judges, entertainer Rory Healey, allegedly told her he could see her underwear through her dress, commented on her breasts and suggested she could "cougar" him any time.

Her husband said that Mr. Healey then touched the screen showing her image, fondling and kissing the screen image of her breasts. Read more here.

CruiseMates editor Motter mocked the woman and labeled her lawsuit as "ridiculous." 

One CruiseMates reader commented: "Wonder what Jim Walker would say about this?" Mr. Motter responded: "Something tells me Jim Walker has already commented on it - probably in the woman's favor."

Well, I haven't commented on this sorry state of affairs yet, but here are my thoughts:  

This happened on a P&O cruise ship. When it comes to sexual harassment and crimes against women, P&O Cruises has a nasty history.

Dianne Brimble -Cruise Ship Crime - Sexual Assault When I started this blog several years ago, one of the first articles I wrote was about a P&O cruise passenger, Dianne Brimble.  A gang of eight slipped her a date rape drug. Ms. Brimble ended up raped and dead, naked on the floor of a cabin occupied by the men who joked afterwards that she had the breath of a dog and they thought about throwing her overboard.  

P&O responded to the horrific incident in a manner that i would describe as somewhere between callous and outrageous. Eventually P&O promised to mend its way and clean up its over-the-top fraternity party attitude where women and booze are just part of the cruise fun.

But did it really clean up its act?

P&O quickly pimped out their female passengers, with a sexist "Seamen Wanted" promotional postcard, depicting a deck full of women wearing bikinis, accompanied by a tag line "More girls, more sun, more fun. There's nothing else a guy needs to know."

No wonder that P&O Cruises experienced sexual assaults in the years following this disastrous ad campaign.

So when I read about Mr. Motter giggling about women's underwear and the foolish P&O crew PO Cruises Sexual Harassment member's not-so-funny comments about "cougar" women, I can't help to think what a sad state of affairs remains on the P&O cruise ships for this nonsense to be going on. A P&O crew member groping and kissing an image of a cruise passenger's breasts?

Mr. Healey needs to be sacked ASAP.  He needs to be made an example of sexism run wild.   

And that goes for CruiseMates' editor, Mr.Motter.  He needs to be canned too.   

Dianne Brimble's family deserves nothing less. 

Update: 

After posting this article, I received a number of emails blasting me for wriiting about this cruise employee.  It seems there is a facebook page called "Save Rory" trying to keep him employed.  I could not find the facebook page but ran across this photo of Rory on facebook.

Seems like he posted a photo of himself, a cardboard cut-out of Jennister Anniston in the urinals. Funny? I don't think so, but let's see what P&O thinks.  The cruise line defense lawyers may want to instruct Rory to take his facebook page down during the pendency of the lawsuit . . .      

PO Cruises Sexual Harassment Lawsuit 

Rough Weather Lawsuit: A Lynch Mob Forms at USA TODAY's CruiseLog

Last week I mentioned a compensation claim filed in the U.K. at London's High Court following the death of a doctor, Michael Bedford, age 70, who lost his life while cruising as a passenger aboard the MV Athena. Dr. Bedford fell down a flight of stairs on the cruise ship as it sailed to North America during a storm. He later died due to his injuries.   

The gist of the claim is that the cruise ship was negligent in not heeding weather warnings or providing safety warnings to the doctor and other passengers. Sixteen passengers are also suing for injuries claimed in the rough weather.

There was not a lot of information on BBC News which mentioned the death.  So I can't comment on the specifics of the storm and the details of the ensuing death and multiple injuries.  But Athena Cruise Ship - Storm - Lawsuitthere are some generalizations which I have learned over the years handling injury and death cases due to rough weather.

First, most injuries are entirely preventable. If the navigational officers utilize their available systems and convey meaningful and timely warnings to the passengers and crew, all passengers and crew should be ordered to stay in their cabins until the high winds and rough waves pass.  All activities on the cruise ship - like dinners, shows, casinos - should be shut down and there should be no one walking around the ship.  

The situation is particularly serious when elderly quests are involved.  Some cruise lines have standardized procedures requiring crew members to be positioned near stairwells and elevators to make certain that the passengers get safely back to their cabins when a storm strikes. 

Maritime law requires cruise ships to exercise the highest degree of care to its guests when rough weather strikes.

Dr. Bedford's wife stated that "Michael was a disciplinarian and would have stayed in his cabin if he was told to do so by the ship's Captain."

No one should forget the two deaths and serious injuries to 14 passengers on the Louis Majesty cruise ship during rough weather in the Mediterranean where passenger were permitted to freely walk around the cruise ship. No one would have died if the officers warned the passengers and instructed them to return to their cabins.

A similar incident occurred two years ago where a passenger died and multiple passengers were injured during rough weather which struck the Royal Caribbean Brilliance of the Seas as it was heading to port in Egypt.  The cruise line denied all liability but thereafter paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in settlements and the Royal Caribbean captain was relieved of his command.    

So it was disturbing today to see the flippant and disrespectful comments to the account of the deadly storm tossed cruise ship in the popular USA TODAY cruise log by Gene Sloan.  Here are the reader comments:

Steve Clouther - Please, give me a break  . . The cruise line should sue them for attempting to tarnish their reputation.

Mona Graham - . . .  this is ridiculous.

Martin Lynn Vogel - Lawyers are vultures.

Chip Gay -· The judge better throw it out or you will see lawsuit rain. I got hurt on a passenger train, because of the thunderstorm. I was on a bus and we did some hydroplaining (sic) and it made me poop my pants .  .  . 

Hanno Phoenicia - Please put these passengers and their lawyers on a leaky boat and throw them overboard.

Corcho Ekim - Drown the crybabies.

Even the moderator of the cruise blog, Gene Sloan, got into the fun with a comment on Twitter: Says one @CruiseLog reader of lawsuit over stormy weather on cruise across Atlantic: "What a bunch of nonsense!"

Of course, there is nothing nonsensical where someone dies on a cruise ship, particularly an elderly passenger trying to navigate a flight of stairs during rough weather, apparently without assistance.

The disturbing thing about the Cruise Log comments is that there was no debate, no difference of opinion, no intelligent discourse, no understanding of the laws which govern the situation, and no interest in being informed. Only contempt for the dead and injured, seemingly egged on by its moderator.

 

Photo Credit:  Athena Cruise Ship - thisisplymouth.co.uk

NBC to Broadcast Special Report on Costa Concordia

On Thursday night at 10:00 PM, NBC will broadcast a special report on the Costa Concordia during an episode of Rock Center With Brian Williams.  The special will features a story about the survivors of Italy’s Costa Concordia shipwreck, and the rights that they unknowingly signed away when they boarded the ship. Here's the introduction to the NBC special called "Costa Concordia Survivors Battle Cruise Line for Settlements:"

Six months after the Costa Concordia shipwreck, many survivors are frustrated and angry. Only after their nightmare did they realize that cruise ships are far less accountable than airlines or railroads. In buying their cruise tickets, they signed away rights that Americans usually take for granted. Harry Smith reports on Thursday’s new episode of Rock Center on NBC:

 

Carnival Sued For Design Defects Alleged in Costa Concordia Cruise Ship

Following the Costa Concordia tragedy, there was considerable debate about where the survivors would file suit and what legal claims against the cruise line would be raised.

As we approach 6 months after the disaster, there is even more confusion. Lawsuits have been filed all over the place.  

A group of New York lawyers filed suit in state court here in Miami. Many Miami lawyers referred cases to Italian lawyers to pursue in Genoa, Italy where Costa is headquartered. Other New York lawyers filed suit in New York.  Lawyers in Illinois filed suit in Chicago. One lawyer filed suit in Galveston and Costa Concordia Cruise Ship - Design Defect Lawsuiteven took the extraordinary step of seizing a Carnival cruise ship to try and get Carnival's attention. 

The latest highly publicized court filing, announced last week, involves a case filed against Carnival Corporation for the defective design of the Costa Concordia.   

Mississippi lawyer John Arthur Eaves filed the lawsuit in California and alleges that the Concordia was designed in a manner that causes the cruise ship to "roll and list" and caused problems safely evacuating the vessel.  He intends to names the designers and architects in the lawsuit.

Mr. Eaves scheduled a press conference in Italy (see video below) and said:  

"We believe that the actions of Carnival were so calculated, to place the profits of their fleet, the ability to sell more space on each boat was so calculated a decision that they intentionally ignored safety concerns and for that we have asked the court for punitive damages in the United States which is the ability of a U.S. court to take away the profits by which Carnival gain. We thought it is not right for Carnival to make huge profits by doing the wrong thing." 

Mr. Eaves was the lawyer who filed suit in Galveston and was criticized for seizing a Carnival cruise ship "as a shot across the bow" to get the cruise line's attention.  I met Mr. Eaves in Washington D.C. during the Congressional hearings into the Concordia disaster. He seems like a bright lawyer and a good fellow who has a passionate interest into cruise ship safety issues. 

His "design defect" filing in California is another creative lawsuit seeking to hold Carnival responsible for the Concordia disaster.  His latest lawsuit has also come under criticism by the cruise industry defenders, but I think it is right on target.

Someone needs to take a look at these taller and taller cruise ships and determine whether they are safely designed.  A couple of months ago I wrote an article Are Cruise Ships Dangerously Top Heavy?  I'm not a naval architect but the cruise ships today seem to have far too much air draft, like a 17 story condominium stuck on a barge.

Cruise ships like this depend on stabilizers. But stabilizers are of no help when the cruise ship loses power.  Ships like this seem likely to tip over.   

It's the last place I would want my family to be if there is a collision, or a fire, or the engines fail in rough water. 

 

 

Photograph: News Pictures / Rex Features

Walker & O'Neill Settles Claim By Royal Caribbean Cabin Attendant

Walker & O'Neill recently settled a claim against Royal Caribbean Cruises on behalf of a seriously injured former crewmember, originally from St. Vincent in the West Indies.

The crewmember was employed as a stateroom attendant for a number of years. Stateroom attendants, also referred to as cabin attendants or cabin cleaners, are required to work long hours and are often assigned over 20 cabins to clean. They are responsible for cleaning the bathrooms, cabin interiors, and balconies on exterior cabins for all of the assigned guests, as well changing the linen and making the beds several times a day. The cruise line also presses them into carrying heavy luggage during embarkation days as well.

Royal Caribbean pays cabin attendants only $50 a month in salary.  The crewmembers are dependent on tips from passengers to make a living.Royal Caribbean Crew - Cabin Attendant - Maritime Lawyer   

The crewmember in question was injured on the Enchantment of the Seas while he was lifting a sofa to clean under it and experienced sharp pain in his lower back. He sought treatment from RCCL's on board medical team.

Unfortunately, the cruise line failed to provide prompt and adequate care and deemed him fit to continue working even though he was in immense pain.

Our firm flew the injured crewmember to Miami where we arranged for him to be evaluated by a board certified orthopedic doctor.  We were successful in reaching a settlement of his claim to compensate him for his injury and resulting pain and suffering, and to provide funds for medical treatment in the future.

Please keep in mind when you cruise on Royal Caribbean cruise ships that the cabin attendants work well in excess of 10 hours a days, 7 days a week. That's over 280 hours a month without a day's rest.

Tip them generously! 

 

Photo credit: Jim Walker (photo used with client's consent)

$200,000,000 False Imprisonment Lawsuit Filed Against Royal Caribbean, in Wrong Courthouse

There are lots of strange things that happen on cruise ships. I've written many articles about excessive alcohol consumption and aberrant conduct during cruises.  I even created a category of "weird" cruise stories. 

This morning I read an article which fits squarely in the "weird" category.

The New York Post writes about about "two pals" who jetted from New York to Fort Lauderdale to board Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas cruise ship.  But instead of a fun cruise with stops in Jamaica and the beautiful private cruise destination of Labadee, the two men found themselves locked away in the Liberty of the Seas - False Imprisonmentcruise ship's brig, accused of raping a young woman.   

The case involves Eviatar Mor, celebrating his 22nd birthday, and his "buddy," fellow New Yorker David Amsalem, age 26.

After the two men went to bed on the first night of the cruise, Royal Caribbean's security personnel woke them up around 5:00 AM.  The two men claim that they were forced into wearing "prison garments issued by Royal Caribbean" and paraded "through public areas of the ship to a lock-up facility. The Post tells us about their allegedly "grueling" treatment in a “small, windowless cell” after they were accused of raping a passenger.  

The Post quotes Mor saying: "I was in such stress. I can't explain how scared I was."  

The men allege that the alleged victim "recanted" and the ship doctor allegedly found no evidence of a sexual assault, but they were still held in the brig. 

They hired a lawyer, Paul Batista, who filed suit in Manhattan seeking what is described as "at least $100,000,000 each" on allegations including false arrest and imprisonment, assault and battery, and “outrageous conduct causing emotional distress.”

So, what's my take on these allegations?

I don't like to hear about attorneys inserting astronomical demands for money in lawsuits. $200,000,000 for a week in the cruise ship slammer?  This isn't torture in the dungeon in Midnight Express.  The public hates to read about trial attorneys trying to make their clients overnight multi-millionaires based on dubious or overblown allegations.  It's a publicity stunt and it's a bad idea.  Just last week another lawsuit against a cruise line seeking $200,000,000 for 4 crewmembers was filed in New York.  So in one week 6 people are seeking $400,000,000 from 2 cruise lines?

Secondly, the forum selection clause in the men's ticket requires that the lawsuit be filed in Miami, not Manhattan. There is a 100% certainty that the case will be dismissed from the New York court.

Now, let's turn to the men's allegations.  They claim that they were "dressed in prison garments" and "paraded through the ship? Royal Royal Caribbean Prison - Liberty of the SeasCaribbean doesn't have "prison" attire. Even if the cruise line put the men in striped zoot suits, it was 5:00 AM and no one is up that early in the morning anyway. 

For some strange reason, the article makes a point of describing them as "both Orthodox Jews from Israel," with their lawyer accusing the cruise line of "Gestapo tactics inflicted on two innocent men." Nazi-Jew analogies are disrespectful in this context, particularly considering that Royal Caribbean hires many, many security guards from Israel.  I hardly think that cruise line president Goldstein hires Nazi's to oppress Orthodox Jews on his fleet of ships.  

The most disturbing thing about this messy case is the refusal by the two men to state whether they had sex with the woman. If you're really looking for $200,000,000 you better be prepared to talk about some embarrassing issues. Plus consider their lawyer's comments that the rape claim “came from a woman who was drunk and who was plainly goaded into making it by a group of people with whom she was traveling.”

Of course it is highly relevant whether the woman was so intoxicated that she could not consent to sex. Since when is claiming that the alleged victim was drunk a defense to a rape allegation?

The Post quotes Amsalem reminiscing on his experience saying: "The next time we go on vacation, no girls."

Meanwhile, a Royal Caribbean spokeswoman said the men had been accused of “a serious crime,” and that the company “takes all allegations of crime seriously."

Just yesterday I blogged about out-of-control drinking on the Liberty of the Seas and the correlation to sexual assault allegations.  This is the type of mess that comes out of that environment.

Cruise booze.  Allegations of rape, recanted or not?  Allegations of false imprisonment, worth $200,000,000, filed in the wrong jurisdiction?  

Whoever you believe, this is an ugly story.     

May 19, 2012 Update:  Video interview of the two men by local TV station.

Lawsuit By Panamanian Survivor Against Princess Cruises Hits The National Press

The U.S. national media has now focused on a lawsuit arising out of the notorious "sail by" where a Princess cruise ship sailed by three desperate Panamanian men lost at sea in a disabled little fishing boat.  Two young men from Panama, age 16 and 24 died.  One man, Adrian Vasquez, age 18, survived but had to endure the horror of watching his friends suffer and die at sea.

We first reported on the lawsuit in Survivor of Infamous Star Princess "Sail By" Sues Princess Cruises.

Now all of the major newspapers and media sources are on to the story.  The article Panama Fisherman Sues Cruise Line For Not Helping is on the first page of Yahoo News.  

Adrian Vasquez - Fishermen - Princess Cruises - PanamaThe facts of this case are particularly outrageous and could not come at a worst time for the cruise industry. First, the captain of the Costa Concordia cruise ship alters course to impress the residents of Giglio (not to mention his girlfriend) and wrecks the cruise ship and kills 32 people.  Now, the captain of the Star Princess refuses to alter course and kills two men in the process.  

It is always interesting to scan through the comments to news articles to get a feeling how the public reacts to stories like this about the cruise lines. The comments about Princess Cruises and the cruise industry today are brutal. Here are examples from the Yahoo article:

"Maritime law and morality was abandoned. A place in hell is reserved for anyone involved in abandoning those in need of rescue at sea . . . "

"I don't trust Cruise Lines period, I'm glad this man is suing the cruise-liner, restitution for the victims families."

"I hope the goal is not to settle but to seek punishment for this criminal act."

"It's called manslaughter. The captain should be charged. He knows the maritime law. - and he's just as bad as that Italian captain who was the 1st one off the sinking ship."

"I hope he wins the case, although Princess will probably try to crush him with lawyers and legal stall tactics."

This is a case which Cruise Law News will be watching closely.  Cruises lines like Princess will not try and reach a reasonable settlement with the young Panamanian man.  Princess Cruises' first step will be to try and dismiss the case from Florida and prevent the case from reaching a jury.

Stay tuned.

 

Read our other articles on this story:

Duty of Cruise Lines to Assist Persons In Distress: Moral, Legal & Practical Considerations On The High Seas

Two Dead Fishermen: Did Star Princess Cruise Ship Ignore Mariners In Distress?

 

Art Credit: Hung, Drawn and Cultured

Was a Passenger Sexually Assaulted on the Carnival Victory?

Carnival Victory Cruise Ship Rape  Several people have informed us that Carnival is investigating an incident where a cruise passenger awoke on the Carnival Victory cruise ship in a crewmember's cabin with bruises and little recollection of events.

The issue of cruise ship rape is one the cruise industry nastiest secrets.

Was a passenger raped on the Carnival Victory?

We have reason to believe that two crewmembers are under scrutiny.

There are online reports that a Maitre'd from Macedonia and a waiter from Croatia were arrested for the alleged rape of an underage girl.

Our Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has a spotty history of investigating shipboard rapes.  Was the alleged incident timely and accurately reported by Carnival to the FBI?  Has there been an arrest?

Crewmembers were arrested recently for engaging in sexual abuse of a 16 year old girl on the NCL Norwegian Star, a child on a Cunard cruise ship by a child activities supervisor, a 14 year old girl on Royal Caribbean's Adventure of the Seas, a 15 year old girl (by another passenger) on Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas, and a 14 year old girl aboard the Carnival Freedom.    All of this in just three months.

A rape is the last thing that Carnival wants to deal with after the Costa Concordia disaster and the Costa Allegra ship fire.      

The Carnival Victory is sailing a 7 Night Southern Caribbean itinerary and departed San Juan today.

You can read about cruise ships rapes here.  Rapes of children on cruises here.

We have represented over 75 women and children raped on cruise ships including Carnival, Celebrity, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean cruise lines, among others. 

The last time the Carnival Victory was in the news was following the murder of a 14 year old passenger ashore in St. Thomas last year.  We are representing the victim's family in a case we reported on here

Were you on the cruise last week?  If you have information to share, please leave a comment below.  

January 23, 2013 Update: Bad Times Aboard the Fun Ships: Passenger Alleges Rape Aboard Carnival Victory Cruise Ship 

Cruise Law News Round Up: February 19, 2012

A rather ordinary couple of weeks in the world of cruising: 1,000 passengers or so sick with diarrhea and vomiting caused by gastrointestinal outbreaks on five cruise ships, 16 brawling passengers kicked off a cruise, a crewmember (a child activities supervisor no less) arrested on charges of molesting a child, a cruise passenger acquitted of rape due to jurisdictional loopholes, two passengers sentenced to 6 years in prison for smuggling pot, 3 passengers arrested for smuggling 13 kilos of coke, 1 dead and 9 sickened with flu on a cruise in Brazil, and another dead cruise passenger found face down in the water in the Cayman Islands.

All of this is in addition to the continued bad press caused by the Costa Concordia disaster.  The latest bad news out of the Concordia mess is that cocaine was found on a hair sample of Captain Schettino. The news is confusing because the captain's drug tests were reportedly negative.  The cocaine was allegedly found on the hair rather than in the hair - meaning that Schettino apparently did not ingest the drug.  These fine points will undoubtedly be lost on the public who now will associate the word "cocaine," along with "coward" and "womanizer," with the infamous captain.

Last week also saw the filing of an amended lawsuit against Costa and its parent company Carnival in the Miami-Dade courthouse in Miami.  You will recall that non-maritime lawyers from New York announced that they would be filing a "class action" lawsuit, which turned out to be be a dud. They finally filed suit on behalf of just 6 passengers, 2 from New York, Florida and Italy each.  The amended complaint adds an additional 33 passengers for a total of 39 plaintiffs.  The lawyers said that the media mis-characterized the lawsuit as a class action, even though their website advertised the case as a class action.

The lawyers filed suit in Miami, even though the passenger ticket requires the lawsuit to be filed in Genoa, Italy, because Carnival and its deep pockets are located here.  

The lawsuit now seeks $528,000,000, for just the 39 passengers.   

Good luck with that. 

Costa Concordia Cruise Ship  - Lawsuit 

Photo credit:  Reddit

39 Costa Concordia Passengers File $528 Million Lawsuit in Miami - Weird Press Conference Follows

Yesterday, New York lawyers for Costa Concordia cruise survivors filed an amended lawsuit in Miami, adding 33 additional passengers as plaintiffs.  The lawyers are seeking $78 million in compensatory damages and $450 in punitive damages for a total amount of $528 million on behalf of 39 passengers.

Although the lawyers called the original filing a "class action" lawsuit, the case was first filed by only 6 passengers, two from New York, two from Florida and two from Italy.  The amended filing does not seek class action status.

The prospects of this lawsuit filed in state court in Miami surviving a motion to dismiss is slim, Oceanos Sinkingnotwithstanding the ordeal suffered by the completely innocent passengers.  Seeking $528 million dollars for just 39 of the over 3,000 passengers seems like a publicity stunt. 

The lawyers held a press conference yesterday afternoon, which was one of the weirder developments in the Costa Concordia saga.

New York lawyer Marc Bern, of the law firm Napoli Bern Ripka Shkolnik and Associates said "Only one cruise ship has gone down in over 100 years, the Titanic.  Now the Costa Concordia will live in infamy with it." 

Of course, this is not true. Over the years there has been numerous sinkings of cruise ships.

Just five years ago, the Sea Diamond sank after the captain hit a charted reef in Greek water, resulting in the loss of passengers' lives. 

Then there is the infamous sinking of the Oceanos cruise ship (photo above left), where the captain abandoned ship leaving women, children and elderly passengers to die (they miraculously survived). 

The sinking of the Oceanos is featured on my list of top 5 cruise ship disasters - watch the video here

Other spectacular sinkings of cruise ships include the loss of the Sun Vista (photo below right) which burned and sank.

Sinking of the Sun VistaNo one can forget the sinking of the Andrea Doria, which ironically enough was home ported in Genoa, Italy where Costa is based.  It sank in the Atlantic after a collision with another cruise ship (my great aunt was a passenger and was rescued). 

The fire and sinking of the Yarmouth Castle resulted in nearly one hundred dead passengers and crew.

Add to this list, the sinking of the SeaBreeze I, the Majestic Explorer, the Al-Salaam Boccaccio, Explorer, M/V Saurav, Queen Of The North, Senopati Nusantara, M/V Bulgaria and the Mikhail Lermontov (which sank in 100 feet of water off the northern tip of New Zealand’s South Island after hitting a reef).  

One of the goals of the highly publicized $528 million lawsuit is supposedly to make cruising safer.  It's painful to watch non-maritime lawyers seek over one-half billion dollars for 39 survivors without acknowledging the numerous passenger and crew deaths caused by cruise ship sinkings over the years, from the Andrea Doria to the Sea Diamond

February 15, 2012 Update:  A friend emailed me and brought to my attention that I forgot to mention the fire and sinking of the famous Achille Lauro, which sank in 1994 in the Indian Ocean.  

Do you know of additional cruise ship sinkings?   Please leave a comment below.

Costa Concordia Survivors Face February 12th Deadline!

There is a lot of talk in the media about so-called "class action" lawsuits, arising out of the Costa Concordia cruise disaster, seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation and other far fetched claims.  Most of these exaggerated claims are being made by lawyers who have absolutely no experience handling maritime claims.

What is not being discussed in the media is that the Costa Concordia survivors are facing a deadline as early as the end of this week. The deadline pertains to the passenger's claim for their lost luggage, clothing, electronics, jewelry and other personal effects.

According to the terms of the Costa Cruises passenger ticket, passengers must provide written notice to the company identified in the ticket for all claims other than physical or emotional injury, Costa Concordia Cruise Lawsuit Deadlinesillness or death within thirty (30) days of the incident.  Here is the pertinent language: 

" . . . The Carrier shall not be liable for any claims whatsoever, other than for physical or emotional injury, illness or death of the Passenger, unless written notice of the claim with full particulars is delivered to the Carrier or its duly authorized agent within thirty (30) days after the Passenger shall be landed from the Vessel, or in the case the voyage is abandoned within thirty (30) days thereafter.  No legal proceeding whatsoever, other than for personal injury, illness or death, shall be maintainable in any event unless filed within six (6) months after the Passenger shall be landed from the Vessel, or in the case the voyage is abandoned within six (6) months thereafter, and unless valid notice or service is effected upon the Carrier within 120 days after commencement of the proceeding."  (emphasis added) 

Thirty days from the January 13th incident is next Sunday, February 12th.  All passenger intending to make a claim for their personal belonging must send a  "written notice of the claim with full particulars" and deliver it to the carrier identified in the passenger ticket, or its duly authorized agent, within the next week.

If you don't send the notice in timely and to the correct company, the passengers risk not satisfying one of the "conditions precedent" necessary before a lawsuit can be filed.

The fact that Costa has offered 11,000 Euros (around $14,600) for a settlement does not extend a passenger's obligation to provide the required notice within 30 days.

The deadline again is Sunday, February 12, 2012. 

If you need assistance in sending the notice to the correct company and correct address, do not delay.  We will be pleased to assist you free of charge in sending the property damage notice in.

Our firm and our co-counsel, Glenn Holzberg, are also assisting about two dozen passengers who suffered physical and / or psychological injuries during the Costa Concordia disaster.

Unlike many non-maritime lawyers rushing to file suit in the U.S. (and are probably filing suit in the wrong jurisdiction), we are recommending patience to our client once they send in the necessary notices to the cruise line.  We will be negotiating directly with the cruise line to obtain fair compensation for those who have suffering emotional or physical injuries.  We are not charging a fee on any portion of the first $14,600 obtained by our clients.  All passengers are offered this amount and it would not be fair to obtain a percentage of what is already offered. 

Claims for emotional anguish and personal injury and death must be filed within one year, and require a notice letter being sent within 6 months.  

Claims for property losses must be filed in six (6) month for the date of the incident, after the aforementioned notice letter sent within 30 days.

If you are confused about whether to accept the Costa $14,600 offer, or need assistance preparing the correct forms, please send me an email jwalker@cruiselaw.com or give us a call.     

Are Lawyers Taking Costa Cruise Survivors Into Dangerous Legal Waters?

As rescue and recovery attempts continue to try and locate the bodies of passengers missing from the Costa Concordia disaster, law firms in the United States are moving forward to file class action lawsuits against Costa Cruises and its parent company, Carnival Corporation, in Miami, Florida.

One of the firms advertising for such cases and taking a high profile position is the New York firm of Proner & Proner.  On its page "Costa Concordia Passengers: We Are Here for You," the Proner firm states that it intends to seek "at least $160,000 on behalf of each of the passengers aboard Costa Concordia Class Action Lawsuit - Miaimithe ship at the time of the wreck. Those who were injured, as well as those with wrongful death claims, may be able to collect multiple times that amount." 

In a telephone interview with a local reporter in Miami, the Proner firm said it intends to represent passengers of "all nations" from "Peru to Shanghai."  It will be seeking to recover "millions" on behalf of the dead or missing passengers.  During the interview, the New York lawyer said a lawyer was flying to Miami to file the class action lawsuit and would include Carnival as a defendant.

Whoa Nellie!  Lets slow down and collect our thoughts for a second. 

Cases against cruise lines are governed by a specialized area of maritime law which is different than land based law.

The courts have applied maritime law to uphold certain contractual limitations set forth in the passenger ticket issued by the cruise lines.  These terms and conditions of the cruise passenger ticket are quite draconian in nature.  Take a minute and read one of our articles about this issue: Top 10 Shocking Clauses In Your Cruise Contract.

One of the most important contractual terms includes what is called a "forum selection clause."  This clause specifies where the lawsuit must be filed.  The cruise lines identify a location that it convenient for them and inconvenient for the passenger.  The location is usually where the cruise line is located, which gives the cruise line a home court advantage so to speak.  It is inconvenient, time consuming, and expensive for passengers injured during a cruise to travel to the location chosen by the cruise line to file suit.

The cruise lines have been successful in enforcing these type of clauses.  In the case of Shute v. Carnival, the United States Supreme Court required a passenger who lived in Oregon, and injured during a cruise from California to Mexico, to file suit here in Miami.  No the passenger terms and conditions are not fair, but they are routinely enforced.  

For the Concordia disaster, the Costa passenger ticket contains a clause specifying Genoa, Italy as the location for the lawsuit.  Most tickests issued by cruise lines based in Miami like Carnival and Royal Caribbean select Miami as the place where the lawsuit must be filed.  But Costa's ticket is different.  For Costa cruises which call on an U.S. port, the lawsuit has to be filed in Broward County in South Florida.  If the cruise itinerary does not include a U.S. port, the lawsuit must be filed in Italy.

Last year, we wrote about a similar situation.  In Seung v. Regent Seven Seas Cruises, a passenger was injured while cruising on the Paul Gauguin cruise ship, operated by Regent Seven Seas Cruises, in the Pacific Ocean.  After Ms. Seung filed suit in South Florida where the cruise line is based, the defense lawyers moved to dismiss the case arguing that the forum selection claim required the lawsuit to be brought in France.  The federal court here dismissed her case.  The 11th Circuit Court of Appeal affirmed the dismissal and held that the passenger, from California, had to travel to Paris to pursue her remedies.  Our article is entitled Cruise Forum Selection Clauses: Do You Speak French?

As soon as lawsuits are filed against Costa in this jurisdiction, the cruise line will move to dismiss the cases and will cite the Shute and Seung cases discussed above. 

The cruise line defense lawyers will argue that the lawsuits cannot be filed here.  The Costa company is incorporated in Italy and based in Genoa.  The cruise ship is flagged in Italy.  The disaster occurred in Italian waters.  The Italian Coast Guard responded.  The Italian authorities are investigating the cause of the crash and the casualties. The criminal proceedings are taking place in Italy.  The lawyers for the passengers will be hard pressed to explain why the cases should not be filed in Italy. 

The Costa cruise ticket has another curious twist.  It specifies that Italian law should apply.  For death cases, Italian law may actually provide for a more equitable remedy that the U.S. General Maritime Law and statutory law - particularly where the deceased passengers are retired. 

In the U.S., wrongful deaths on the "high seas" (non U.S, territorial waters, including territorial waters of other countries) are governed by a federal statute called the Death On The High Seas Act ("DOHSA").  There is no recovery under DOSHA for pre-death pain and suffering or emotional losses of the surviving family members such as grief and bereavement.  The only recovery is for financial losses such as lost wages of the decedent.   If the decedents are retired or children, then there are no recoverable damages except for burial and funeral expenses assuming the bodies are located. 

So if the wrongful death cases are filed in the U.S., and the court applies U.S. law, there may be no recovery in certain death cases.  Yet if the cases were filed in Italy, there could be recovery under Italian law.  A passenger could conceivably file suit in a more convenient forum in the U.S. yet receive no recovery; whereas if the passenger filed suit in a less convenient location in Italy there may be greater recovery in some cases.

Then there is the matter of Carnival.  Yes it is the parent company of Costa.  And yes, as the Proner lawyers mention to the news reporter, it collects over 14 and 1/2 billion dollars a year.  But  that does not automatically give anyone a basis to sue it in Miami every time one of its subsidiary company's cruise ships around the world suffer a casualty.  

There are often severe consequences of filing suit in the wrong location or against the wrong party, including the assessment of costs and in some circumstances attorney fees. 

We hope that the lawyers who are working faster than the recovery teams in Italy to file suit here in Miami know what they are doing and are not navigating their clients into dangerous legal waters. 

How to Hire a Miami Maritime Lawyer to Sue a Cruise Line

Each year 14,000,000 people (yes 14 million) will go on a cruise.  There are literally hundreds of passengers, as well as crewmembers, who will suffer a serious back injury or break their ankle, leg or hip after slipping and falling while cruising.  Once back home after the cruise, they find it difficult to think of hiring a lawyer who they have never met in order to sue a large corporation in a far-off location like Miami.

But the process of hiring a Miami maritime lawyer to bring a claim against a cruise line like Carnival or Royal Caribbean is simple.

Jim Walker - Miami Maritime LawyerOver 95 percent of our firm's clients live out side of Florida.  If you have a question about an accident on a cruise ship, send us an email.  You can reach me directly: jwalker@cruiselaw.com  

You will receive an answer to your email right away.  We will need answers to four issues: 

When did the accident occur?  Remember that you have only one year to file a lawsuit against a cruise line!  This is a much shorter period of time than most land based injuries.

Which cruise line and which cruise ship were involved?  The majority of the cases we handle are against Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Carnival and Norwegian cruise lines.  These cases have to be filed here in Miami.  Other cruise lines like Princess Cruises have to be filed in California.  Holland America Line, for example, has to be sued in Seattle.  If we can't help you, we will find someone who can.

What happened and why is the cruise line responsible?  Be prepared to tell us not only how the accident occurred but why you think that the cruise line is liable.     

What injuries did you sustain?   The nature and extent of your injuries are important issues in your case.  Have you undergone surgery?   What type of medical treatment will you need in the future?  Once you retain us, we will quickly obtain copies of all relevant medical records and reports. 

If you prefer to call us, we look forward to speaking with you. We have a toll free number (800) 256-1518.  You will probably initially speak with one of our assistants, like Jan or Betsy (photo right, with client), who will ask you a few questions about the basic information listed above.  I will be pleased to answer any questions you may have.

If you decide to hire us, we work on a contingency fee.  This means that we do not bill you or ask for a retainer.  We are paid only if we are successful and obtain a settlement or a verdict.  You have nothing to lose. 

Miami Florida Maritime Law Firm We will send you four documents.

The first is the contingency fees agreement.  All lawyers who handle these type of cases must have a written contract with the client where everything is spelled out.  The second document is a statement of your rights as a client.  We will also send you a short questionnaire about your cruise accident.  The last document is a medical authorization so that we can obtain copies of your medical records.

We will email these items to you shortly after you email us or speak with us on the telephone.  Just fill out the forms and return them to us.  There is no need to travel to Miami to start your case.

One of the main reasons why cruise lines like Carnival and Royal Caribbean require that all claims be filed in Miami is that they know that it is inconvenient for injured passengers to do so.  That's why we make it easy for our clients to retain us.  Simply send us an email or make a single call.

I'm sure that you may have other questions, and I will be happy to spend as much time as necessary to provide answers for you.  I have been handling maritime injury cases since 1983.  Over ten years ago I was interviewed about the process of filing a claim against a cruise line. 

You can obtain additional basic information by reading the article here - Cruise Passenger Rights and Wrongs - Interview With Maritime Lawyer Jim Walker

Royal Caribbean Stock Fraud Lawsuits - What Did the Cruise Line Executives Know and When Did They Know It?

Two stock fraud lawsuits recently filed against Royal Caribbean Cruises have placed the cruise line's corporate ethics under the microscope.

In the case of Todd Roth v. Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd, Richard D. Fain, Brian J. Rice, and Henry L. Pujol, United States District Court, Southern District of Florida, Case No. 22783 - MSC, a stockholder alleges that the cruise lines withheld disclosing certain accounting errors dating back to 2009, misrepresented the company's financial status, and misled investors about the cruise line's financial future. The case was filed by the New York and Louisiana law firm of Kahn, Swick & Foti and the Florida firm of Vianale & Vianale.   

Richard D. Fain - Stock Fraud?The lawsuit alleges that on January 27, 2011, Royal Caribbean issued a press release where it made false and misleading statements that its fourth quarter results for 2010 were better than expected and it anticipated certain positive developments regarding its operations, expenses, costs, ratios and net income for 2010.  

On April 28, 2011, after the first quarter, Royal Caribbean again made misleading statements regarding its financial status.  The lawsuit alleges that CEO Richard Fain (photo left) falsely stated that "the year started off with a roar - strong bookings, low costs and solid profits - and in the first quarter every one of our brands exceeded its forecast . . . " 

However, on July 28, 2011,  Royal Caribbean suddenly and dramatically departed from its rosy projections regarding the company's financial operations.  The cruise line published a release revealing for the first time that it was performing well below expectations and that certain accounting errors (regarding treatment of interest income relating to amortization of certain financing fees) resulted in a drastic downward revision of the company's financial statements.

This news "shocked and alarmed" investors.  Royal Caribbean's stock price then fell precipitously in two days, from $35.75 to $30.50.  This development had a disastrous effect on the investments of individual shareholders.  The stockholder who filed suit, Todd Roth, had purchased 5,000 shares on July 26, 2011 at a price of $36.65 a share.  Three days later, with the stock trading at $30.50, he lost over $30,000. 

Included as defendants in the lawsuit are the CEO (Richard Fain), the Chief Financial Officer (Brian Rice) and the Corporate Financial Controller (Henry Pujol).  On January 28, 2011, the day after touting the financial strength of the cruise line, CEO Fain sold 200,000 shares at a price of $46.63 for a what the lawsuit alleges are total illicit proceeds of $9,326,000.  CFO Rice (photo right, below) quickly followed suit, selling 88,872 shares in the $46 to $47 range from February 1 - 14, 2011 for over Brian C. Rice - Stock Fraud$4,100,000 in illicit proceeds. 

Although not named personally in the lawsuit, Royal Caribbean President Adam Goldstein sold over 40,000 shares between February 1 - 16, 2011 - for a total of over $1,900,000.  Six other executives sold stock between January 28 and February 16, 2011, which combined with the stock sold by the named defendants totaled over $20,000,000.  

The lawsuit alleges that these individual defendants knew that the negative financial information had not been disclosed to the public and was being concealed, and they were participants in a "fraudulent scheme and course of business that operated as a fraud or deceit on purchasers of Royal Caribbean securities . . . "      

Earlier this year, in an article entitled Royal Caribbean Executives Get Richer While Crew Members Get Poorer, I reported that  Royal Caribbean increased its 2010 compensation paid to CEO Richard Fain almost 60% to $8,600,000.  Royal Caribbean increased the compensation paid to the company's four other named executives from 18.5% to almost 50%.  The largest compensation increase of the four executives went to President Adam Goldstein whose total compensation increased to over $4,000,000. 

These increases were primarily incentive based, meaning that the executives claimed that they met or exceeded certain financial goals for the corporation.  With this recent revelation that the company's financial performance was overstated and that the executives allegedly committed fraud or recklessly misrepresented the cruise line's financial data, the question arises whether the incentive based millions of dollars in compensation should be returned voluntarily to the corporation or disgorged in the pending lawsuits.    

The Roth lawsuit seeks class action status for what is referred to as either hundreds or thousands of other shareholders who were defrauded by the cruise line between January 27, 2011 and July 28, 2011. 

A second lawsuit seeking class action status was reportedly filed yesterday by the Pomerantz law firm with offices in New York, Chicago and Washington D.C.  It is on behalf of stockholder Stanley Wolfe and was filed in the United States District Court, Southern District of Florida, Case No. 22855.  This lawsuit seeks class certification for stockholders who purchased securities between April 23, 2009 and July 27, 2011.

Royal Caribbean Stock Chart

It will be interesting to see how these lawsuits turn out.  What did the cruise line executives know about the accounting errors?  When did they learn of the irregularities?  What did they do once they learned that the cruise line was performing substantially under expectations?  Did they dump their stock realizing that the price was artificially high?  Or did they act prudently and responsibly once the accounting mistakes were brought to their attention? 

 

Photo credits:  www.azamaraclubcruises.com

Chart credit:  Rick + Rick law firm

M/V Clipper Adventurer Sues Canada After Running Aground in Northwest Passage

CBC News in Canada is reporting that the owners of the M/V Clipper Adventurer, which ran aground last summer in the Nothwest Passage, is suing the Canadian government. 

Adventurer Owner Ltd. of Nassau, Bahamas, is seeking at least $15 million from Canada, including $12 million in repair and salvage costs for damage to the vessel's hull, $2.6 million for loss of business, and $350,000 in other costs.

Clipper Adventurer Sues CanadaThe ship's owners blame Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans for failing to inform the vessel owners and other mariners about an underwater rock shelf.

The nautical charts on board the Clipper Adventurer at the time of the grounding indicated there were 29 meters of water when in fact there there were only three meters of water at the location of the grounding. 

We blogged about this last year:

Clipper Adventurer Cruise Ship Runs Aground in the Arctic

"Uncharted Rocks" and Other Tall Tales - Clipper Adventurer Ran Into A Charted Hazard

Although Canada has an obligation to update maps and charts for its waters, this seems to be a difficult case for the vessel owners.  They were in the rugged waters of the Northwest Passage and apparently were not using a local pilot who was familiar with the waters.  Were they using a depth sounder?  Sounds like they were not exercising diligence sailing in these waters without a pilot or correct charts.

Some observers are suggesting that Canada should counter sue the vessel owners for the expenses of the Canadian Coast Guard for rescuing the passengers.

 

Photo: Canadian Coast Guard/Canadian Press via CBC News

Charleston Groups to Sue Carnival Cruise Lines

A local Charleston South Carolina television station (WCIV  ABC-4) is reporting that the Southern Environmental Law Center in Charleston is preparing to file a lawsuit against Carnival Cruise Lines to make the cruise line subject to city and state regulations.

The lawsuit is the latest development in the debate about the suitability of cruise ships in this quaint old southern city.  Many citizens are concerned with the scale of the cruise industry's presence in Charleston, as well as air emissions, waste discharge, noise and passenger congestion.  

Carnival - Charleston South Carolina LawsuitThe Coastal Conservation League and the Historic Ansonborough Neighborhood are named as plaintiffs in the proposed lawsuit.

These groups in Charleston are wise to hold Carnival accountable to laws and regulations. Other than the states of Alaska and California, few places have taken steps to hold cruise lines accountable to public health and community standards.  In March, we reported on a landmark legal decision from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals which ruled that the state of California can regulate the shipping and cruise industries and require vessels that call on the state’s ports to use cleaner  fuel.

One of the problems with the cruise industry is that cruise ship use diesel and nasty bunker fuels which spew toxic particulate matter into the air.  Unlike most states, California requires that ships use cleaner fuel starting 24 nautical miles from California’s shore.  The cruise industry unsuccessfully tried to avoid the public health law by arguing that it was not subject to state law.  

Last year, Charleston went through quite an ordeal with the cruise industry when four consecutive sailings of the Celebrity Mercury cruise ship from its port were plagued by massive norovirus outbreaks until the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued a rare "no sail" order for the cruise line to clean up its cruise ship. 

The South Carolina Post and Courier ran an interesting article "Norovirus Confirmed Aboard Mercury" which reported on the concern that the Celebrity Mercury cruise ship - with over 400 norovirus infected passengers - could infect people living in Charleston.  

The newspaper reports that Katie Zimmerman, a project manager with the Coastal Conservation League, received frantic calls and e-mails from residents concerned not only about infected passengers entering the city but also about trash from the ship entering local waters.

Cruise ships like the Mercury can dump completely untreated sewage 12 miles offshore.  Although the article concludes that waste from the Mercury poses no risk to marine life or people who eat local seafood, there is a risk of contaminated water infecting shellfish which filter-feed. 

In this day and age, it is barbaric to think that hundreds of cruise ships routinely dump human waste into the sea.  Cruise lines dump waste because they register their cruise ships outside of U.S. jurisdiction in places like Liberia and Panama which don't care what the cruise lines do. 

The thought of a cruise ship like the Mercury dumping hundreds of thousands of gallons of norovirus infected feces just 12 miles offshore South Carolina is particularly disgusting. 

Cruise lines like Carnival and Royal Caribbean are corporate felons for environmental crimes and lying to the U.S. Coast Guard.  Trusting them to act responsibly is foolish.  That's why South Carolina is smart to protect its waters and its people by holding the cruise ships accountable to local regulations and ordinances.  

 

Royal Caribbean Sued for Passenger Death on Storm Tossed Brilliance of the Seas

The Scottish and British press are reporting on a lawsuit filed (or to be filed) against Royal Caribbean following the death passenger who was thrown about her cabin during the December 14, 2010 storm and lapsed into a coma.  Barbara Davey, age 56, was cruising on Royal Caribbean's Brilliance of the Seas when the cruise ship failed to make port in Alexandria before a storm hit the ship.

One article: "Passenger Dies after Cruise Ship Sails into 80mph Storm" mentions that the passenger died from what is described as a "brain ­hemorrhage" after the cruise ship was hit by a ­Brilliance of the Seas - Royal Caribbean - Cruise ship"horrific 80 mph storm."

In another article, the passenger's husband, John Davey, describes the ordeal as follows: "Barbara was tossed around like a ragdoll and was seriously hurt. When the storm calmed, the ship's interior was smashed to pieces . . .  Three days later, she lapsed into unconsciousness before my eyes, fell into a coma, and never woke up."  Her husband recently made the difficult decision to remove his wife from life support.

We have written a number of article about the poor seamanship and the cruise line's effort to down play the incident:

Ferocious Storm Batters Royal Caribbean's Brilliance of the Seas

Royal Caribbean Calls on "Captain Hollywood" to the Rescue Following the Latest Brilliance of the Seas Debacle

Will Royal Caribbean Release CCTV Video of the Brilliance of the Seas During the Storm?

 

January 31, 2011 Update:  Royal Caribbean plays hardball:  Royal Caribbean Releases Private Medical Information About Dead Passenger

 

Photo credit:  anspics Flickr page

The Splendor Cruise Ship Fire - Three Reasons Why You Will Lose If You Sue Carnival

Carnival Splendor Cruise Ship Fire - Lawsuit?Now that the disabled Carnival Splendor is back in a U.S. port, some lawyers are advertising that the passengers should consider filing a lawsuit.  One cruise site, offering "cruise insider expert advice," is shilling for a Miami lawyer: "Now is the time to join the November 7, 2010 passengers in a joint effort for compensation. Contact us if you were on this cruise."

Such desperate solicitation like this never ceases to amaze me. 

Any time there is a cruise disaster, the issue of lawsuits arises.  Sometimes there is a basis to file a lawsuit, and sometimes - like this time - there is clearly not.  Many passengers from the Carnival Splendor have contacted our office seeking a maritime lawyer to sue the cruise line for damages.  We have told them that there is no basis to consider suing Carnival under these circumstances.  They are wasting their time and money if they file a lawsuit, for these three reasons:

  • In order to have a legitimate case for compensation, a cruise passenger has to suffer a personal injury.  Experiencing inconvenience and unpleasant circumstances does not constitute a personal injury unless there is a physical injury.  If you fall down a flight of stairs in the dark and break your hip, that's a personal injury.  But taking cold showers, smelling toilets that can't be flushed, eating Spam sandwiches in the dark or other similar "cruise from hell" stories are not compensable. 
  • The cruise ticket drafted by Carnival protects the cruise line:  “If the performance of the proposed voyage is hindered or prevented by . . . breakdown of the vessel . . . Carnival may cancel the proposed voyage without liability to refund passage money or fares paid in advance.”  The passenger ticket also requires passengers to file suit in Miami, which the United States Supreme Court has upheld.      
  • Carnival has already offered to refund the passengers' fare and travel expenses and a free cruise of equal value in the future.  So if you are foolish enough to file suit (in Miami), you simply will not do any better than what is already being offered now.  Plus you will incur legal expenses and travel expenses pursuing a case in Miami which you are certain to lose.

Carnival's offer after this fire should be compared to its response to the fire aboard the Carnival Tropicale cruise ship in 1999.  Like the Splendor, the Tropicale was disabled by an engine room fire and the cruise ship bobbed around in the Gulf of Mexico.  Carnival offered the passengers only a 25% discount - which the passengers felt was a slap in the face and created a public relations nightmare.   

Carnival Splendor Cruise Ship Fire - Lawsuit?Carnival has handled this fire knowing that its response will be scrutinized in the court of public opinion.  Its CEO traveled from Miami to San Diego and held a press conference where he apologized and offered a full refund, reimbursement of travel expenses and a free future cruise. 

Most Americans think that Carnival's offer is fair.  MSNBC ran a story yesterday "Free Cruise Should Be Enough for Splendor Passengers."  In a poll of over 10,000 readers, MSNBC asked should the passengers stuck on the Carnival Splendor consider legal action?  88% said: "No - Carnival's compensation package is more than generous."  Only 8% said: "Yes - Days at sea in miserable conditions is worth more than money back and a future cruise."  (The remaining 4% said: "Unsure - Passengers may have a tough time since they signed an air-tight contract.") 

Although the passengers on the Splendor were inconvenienced by the fire and the elderly undoubtedly suffered the most, sometimes a cruise line will step up to the plate and make a fair offer.  But if you decide to reject it, please don't call us.  Most jurors will not have much patience for vacationers complaining about eating Pop Tarts on a cruise ship, when some of the jurors cannot afford a cruise in the first place and our U.S. troops have been eating MRE meals in the middle of the desert in Iraq and Afghanistan.    

November 14, 2010 Update:

A reader of Senior Cruise Director John Heald's blog sums up Canival's compensations as follows: 

  • Full refund
  • Future credit equal to total of what was paid to be applied to a future cruise and must be used within 2 years.
  • Refund of transportation costs to the pier and from San Diego back home. One person said they took a bus from Las Vegas to the pier and Carnival (besides putting them up in San Diego is flying them home.)
  • Overnight stay in San Diego for those who requested it AND a daily stipend.
  • For those who had flights Carnival made the changes for them.
  • Any charges made on Sunday on the guests “Sign and Sail card were forgiven!!!  (This included spa treatments, alcohol, purchases in the gift shop AND even gambling losses in the casino slots!!!)
  • All photos taken by Carnival of the guests were put out in the photo shop and guests were invited to come get their pictures at no charge!
  • On Tuesday and Wednesday Carnival opened some bars. Alcohol, wine and beer was given to the guests.
  • Carnival advised the guests that everything in their mini bars was free! (My minibar had 6 sodas, 6 beers, and 10 or 12 shot bottles of alcohol.)
     

Update:

This blog article went  viral and was discussed by:

The Wall Street Journal Blog: "Plaintiffs’ Lawyer to Splendor Passengers: Don’t Bother Suing."

USA Today: "Sue Carnival over Splendor incident? Don't bother, says top cruise lawyer."

Fox News: "Cruise Line Crisis and Compensation."

American Bar Association Journal: "Cruise Ship Lawyer: Smelly Toilets and Cold Showers Won’t Support a Lawsuit."

Gadling: "Should Splendor Passengers Sue Carnival after their Ship Broke Down?"

U.K. Mirror: "Splendor Passengers Back Carnival."

 

Slate Magazine: "Lawyers to Carnival Passengers: Don't Come Crying to Me."

Photo credit:

Top - CBS News video

Bottom - Washington Post video

Carnival Cruise Line Settlement Keeps Getting Publicity

Yesterday I reported on a settlement which a passenger from Texas reached after she was seriously injured while trying to step off a tender boat onto the dock in Grand Cayman.  The case illustrates the liability of cruise lines when they fail to safely transfer their passengers from the cruise ship to shore during ports of call.     

The passenger was seriously injured and underwent surgery with the insertion of plates and screw.  This type of injury is painful, the surgery and recovery are painful, and the medical expenses are substantial.  After fling suit, the Carnival passenger reached a $125,000 settlement with Carnival cruise line.  

The settlement was picked up by a local news station, CBS News 4 in Miami, and then I blogged about it, and then it was discussed by the very popular USA Today cruise blog called "CruiseLog" this morning, and by the afternoon a news station Cayman 27 in Grand Cayman was reporting about the settlement.    

The CruiseLog readers, who are usually conservative, pro-cruise and anti-lawuit minded, concluded that the settlement was too much, which is strange because it seems to be a rather modest settlement.  But the interesting thing is that such a modest settlement received so much attention - from a local news station in Miami - to a national newspaper - to a news station in the Caribbean.

Settlements like this are usually confidential because the cruise lines require secrecy.  Cruise lines hate publicity like this.  It is inconsistent with the image cruise lines try and project, and the cruise lines think that it encourages others to file suit.  But the truth is that cruise lines like Carnival make billions upon billions of dollars each year and pay no taxes by incorporating in foreign countries like Panama and flying foreign flags on their cruise ships.  Carnival also has literally billions of dollars in insurance.   

Anytime a passenger falls between a tender boat and a dock, it is going to be a case of liability.  Cruise lines have a duty of "high care" for getting passengers, particularly elderly passengers, safely to shore.  So a settlement like this is almost a certainty. 

Although this case has received alot of interest in the media, a $125,000 settlement is pocket change for a corporation like Carnival when it lets a passenger fall between a tender and a dock.  

  

 

 

Video credit:      Cayman 27 News