Cruise Ship CameraTonight ABC’s 20/20 will take a look at the case of a cruise passenger who fell from her balcony, struck a lifeboat below her, and then plunged into the water.

Although her fall was captured on the cruise ship’s surveillance cameras, the ship sailed on. That’s because Carnival did not have an automatic man overboard system in place to notify the bridge that a person went overboard.

The camera which recorded the passenger going overboard was not monitored by a cruise ship employee, nor was it tied to an alarm system of any type.

It took an hour and one-half for the cruise line to figure out what happened and turn around and rescue the young woman.  The fact that she was still alive is a miracle.

I do not represent this woman although I was interviewed during the program, which you can see a portion of from this morning’s Good Morning America program.

Some people may say that it was the woman’s fault for drinking too much and she’s to blame for falling overboard. A jury can apportion fault to both the passenger and the cruise line. Cruise lines in our jurisdiction have legal liability when they over-serve alcohol to passengers. Selling booze is a major money maker for cruise lines. Cruise lines don’t make money selling cruise tickets. The big money comes from “onboard purchases,” like excursions, gift shop purchases, casino gambling and, number one profit center, pushing alcohol sales.

But the story is not just about who’s to blame for the alcohol and the fall overboard.

Jim Walker Cruise Ship Man OverboardIn 2010, Congress passed a law requiring that cruise lines install man overboard technology. The cruise lines have come up with a boat load of excuses why they have not complied with the law, like the technology doesn’t exist, or it’s inaccurate and unreliable, or its just too expensive.

But there is no question the technology exists. My belief is that the cruise lines simply don’t want to spend the money.

The systems are required irrespective of why a person goes overboard.  If they are drunk, or acting irresponsibly, or they fall by accident, or they want to commit suicide, or they are thrown overboard, it doesn’t matter. The cruise lines must have the systems in place.

The vast majority of cruise ships don’t.

They would rather keep the money and accuse the passengers of being drunk on the alcohol the cruise ship sold.

Delays in promptly reporting overboard passengers to the U.S. Coast Guard causes the rescue to encompass massive areas of the ocean. This costs the Coast Guard a lot of money, sometimes $1,000,000 in unnecessary costs for helicopters, aircraft and cutters. Who pays for that? Not the cruise lines. They don’t even pay any U.S. taxes. U.S. taxpayers do!

The 20/20 program airs tonight at 10:00 PM EST.

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

  • deborah williard

    I have cruised close to a total of 30 times and i usually have balcony stateroom.You can not fall over those balconys unless you are drunk or goofing around on the balcony.I have been on Carnival 23 times and this is bull.When my husband had a horrible stroke back in 2003 Carnival was great they took things under control very quickly.These people are big party people on these ships and security does try to control it but they can not do this in someones stateroom

  • Bob Philpot

    This is BS. If she had fallen off of the balcony of her hotel room would she then sue the hotel? I have cruised several times with Carnival. The balconies and rails are all so high that she would have to physically climb over the railing. Unless she was eight feet tall, simply looking over the railing would not cause her to fall.

  • Thanks for your comments. But, cruise lines are legally obligated to install automatic man overboard systems. They don’t. They are violating the law. It doesn’t matter how high the railings are.

    Jim Walker

  • Debra

    Why is everyone responsible for some idiot drunk. How old is this moron … Grow up. She should be sued for interrupting the cruise…

  • Debra

    Why is everyone responsible for some idiot drunk. How old is this moron … Grow up. She should be sued for interrupting the cruise…

  • Kristoffer

    Judging by the video, there was nothing accidental about her going overboard. She clearly crossed over the railing herself.

  • Captain Jack

    I notice the camera footage is from FLIR which is a company the produces thermal imaging cameras. I have used these cameras in the past and know there is software for intrusion protection. This camera could have easily been set up to alarm if it detected movement. The software isn’t anything new, for I was using it about 3 or 4 years ago. They say the solutions haven’t proven themselves for they receive many false positives. I would rather have about a dozen false positives than to have one that ends in a fatality. I think the lady has a case if her lawyer can show that the onboard equipment was capable of alerting security that something or someone has fallen overboard.

  • Lois

    The woman has no personal responsibility for her drunken actions and should be ashamed of herself. In the news story I saw on TV, she stated she can’t even bear to go near the water anymore, but she was standing right next to the ocean in the story and did not look the least bit upset. She’s full of crap and I hope the judge sees the stupidity in this and the obvious attempt to make an easy buck and throws the case out immediately. If anything, the cruise line should counter sue for all of the expense incurred in having to interrupt the cruise to go back and get her stupid ass.

  • Kathy Moose

    Been on many cruises,all with Carnival. Seen many drunks! It is IMPOSSIBLE to “fall overboard” from cruise ships. Think of how many people would fall overboard if railings weren’t high? This moron CLIMBED the railing and fell into the sea. They always go after cruise ships for one reason or another. The cruise line should sue her!!!!

  • Gl Greene

    Many more people are killed and injured each year falling out of golf carts than are falling off cruise ships. Maybe the Feds should require golf carts to have doors and seat belts. No…wait, that would require too much personal responsibility for people to actually use the seat belt. This woman is a leech on society. She apparently has absolutely no sense of personal responsibility. Either that or her lawyer brainwashed her into thinking she’ll make a fortune in this case. This case has noting to do with MOB systems or whether they work or not. This case is all about whether this woman can shirk her personal responsibility in return for easy money. She should count her blessings and just be thankful she’s alive after doing something so stupid.

  • Greg

    The funny thing to me is that she’s suing the cruise line because they allowed her to become that intoxicated, but she was bar hopping at the port. She should lose all rights because she can’t drink responsibly. The system didn’t matter, as they rescued her. She should be grateful that Carnival saved her life after she acted like a 3 year old. She’s biting the hand that fed her, not literally, but figuratively.

  • Greg

    I hope that all cruise lines have blacklisted you from ever taking a cruise, since you “make a living suing cruise lines”. It’s the best and safest vacation you can go on and you’re trying to take down those companies because people don’t know how to vacation responsibly.

  • It’s a rather amazing phenomenon to see a non-tax paying foreign corporation which collects over $15 billion a year, from tax-paying U.S. citizens, and makes hundreds of millions of dollars of profits pushing alcohol sales, blatantly ignore the U.S. law requiring overboard systems, and then shift 100% of the blame on to the passenger who got drunk on the Carnival booze.

    Carnival Chairman Micky Arison is worth $6,000,000,000 (billion) because his cruise lines don’t pay U.S. taxes, ignore U.S. safety, labor, and wage laws, and are not willing to comply with this U.S. law requiring automatic man overboard systems.

    But we have the mob above giving Carnival a free pass and viciously attacking the injured woman.

    Debra calls her an “idiot” and a “moron.” Peter calls her a “fool.” Greg and Lois call her “stupid” or a “stupid ass.” Kathy calls her a “moron” and GI Greene calls her a “leach.”

    This is exactly what Carnival and its CEO want – billions and billions of tax free dollars from the America public, who don’t know any better and are quick to insult passengers injured or killed on the law-breaking cruise ships.

  • tinikini


    You are all so hateful. I guess all of you are perfect and you have never done anything stupid in your life. GEEEZE!!! Get over yourselves. Hope I never sail on a ship with any of you because I’m thinking you wouldn’t throw me a floatation device if I needed one, because you all would be too busy being perfect and judging everyone.

  • Gl Greene

    Jim, I think the “mob” is irked by people in our society not taking responsibility for the stupid things they do. The points you make about the other issues are quite valid to a great extent. I agree with you on many. But if the cruise industry is in fact doing all things we read to shirk their own corporate responsibility, then you shouldn’t be wasting your time promoting MOB systems or getting them to reimburse the USCG for rescues; you should be working to shut this industry down completely. Can’t you tell congress to ban foreign flag cruise ships from taking passengers at U.S. ports? If only U.S. flag ships could operate from these ports we could better control them and they would have to pay their taxes. That would solve almost every issue you list. Would cruises cost more? Probably. Would it kill the cruise industry? Maybe, maybe not. But at least we’d get our share of taxes from whatever profit they do earn.

  • Kristoffer

    Jim, thank you for not condemning me simply because I pointed out what was evident to me. We still need these detection systems soon. I wonder how fast cruise lines would implement them if they were given a year to do so or be indefinitely banned from US waters?

  • Gradsity

    This reminds me of people who smoke and then sue the tobacco company. This woman is looking for money for her irresponsible actions.

  • john

    This woman is a idiot to the complete extend of the word. I been on cruise the ships railing on balcony are high I’m 6 foot and they are halfway up my stomach, unless this woman is Shaq long lost twin sister you just don’t “fall out” of a balcony she was clearly doing something she wasnt suppose to. The barman was handing me too many drinks how about you say no real simple.Not only that but they are extremely well at their jobs and they know when to cut people off. She is an idiot and anyone who side with her should jump off the balcony next time they cruise.

  • Julie Barrett

    I cruise every year with Carnival, I agree, she was probably standing on the chair acting stupid. They are only two ways to go over the balcony, either u are drunk and doing stuff u should not be doing, r u get thrown over. The passengers should sue her. I hate people who do not take responsibility for there action’s. She is a party gurl looking for a free ride.

  • T

    I agree that a MOB system would have been nice to have here. She went overboard and was still rescued. Also, if the majority of passengers on the boat are U.S. citizens then the USCG is justified in going out there. Why would people who never go on a boat need coast guard rescue services?

  • mike

    The cruise line should sue this woman for the fuel and time it took to rescue her stupid ass as well as the inconvenience she caused the other guest.

  • Helen

    The news article on the video states that Disney Cruise Line have MOB technology? Is this a recent phenomenom? If not, why do they claim Rebecca Coriam went over board? Surely, the installed technology should have detected such an incident.

  • Amy

    I know someone on this ship. The woman and her traveling companion has a fight and he threw her overboard. She is fine and he has been detained for the duration of the cruise.

  • Amy

    Never mind this was an earlier cruise. What I’m speaking of just happened yesterday.

  • Danielle Smith

    I find it completely irresponsible of this young lady. Her action clearly lead to her own mishap. As I watched the story I was waiting for some evidence that the rail was broken or some proof that the Carnival failed maintenance which is a direct cause of her falling.
    This girl was hammered and jumped off the boat. I strongly do not believe Carnival is at fault. The technology that was eluded to is not necessary.
    The goal with any risk is to minimize the risk as it can not be eliminated. The ships have man overboard, rescue ships and these are in place to minimize these events. As the statistics have shown it is working as this event does happen infrequently.
    I was in the Navy and served onboard several ships of different classes not one has the technology that was mentioned.
    As the Navy too has taken steps to minimize its sailors from death from man overboard.
    The only suggestion from a sailor perspective is to conduct a man overboard drill once everyone is onboard. But as civilians who are not trained and time would still be an issue opposed to Navy who has these drills in less than 10 minutes from the largest vessels with crews over 50000. Navy does not utilize cameras as Carnival does but is very effective on accounting for all personnel.
    Personal responsibility must be realized. The only logical conclusions is this drunk girl cannot handle her alcohol intake and jump from a moving vessel. What made her do it that is the million dollar questions. We all need to be responsible when we decide to drink alcohol.
    Attempting to blame Carnival is just another poor lack of character and judgement on this irresponsible girl(clearly not a woman).
    She needs not to drink and consult a psychologist to get answers on why she did it. Suicidal is my opinion but she will definitely be in a similar situation in the near future.
    Accountability she clearly was not taught.
    Good job Carnival! As a sailor does appreciate the rescuing the drunk girl within a reasonable time frame.

  • Madison

    It’s way too high. A fall from a balcony higher than 2nd floor is fatal so how responsible is it to put anything that high especially with a railing as opposed to a wall? You who haven’t fallen in 23 trips are lucky. as are most people, but we don’t want to build things based on that experience but rather on the possibility that someone might get disturbed by a high wind, a loud noise, alcohol or sleep, even a rambunctious child must be taken into consideration. It shouldn’t take a death to jolt us into being as safe as possible.