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Carnival’s Litigation Battle

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From ABC News
We’ve all been reading the news about Triumph and the engine room fire, which subsequently shut down the vessel in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico as it was toting 4,200 passengers along for what should have been a relaxing vacation. The situation on board Triumph was undoubtedly a nightmare for passengers, but whether their lawsuits against Carnival will hold up in court still poses a question due to the fine print in passenger contracts.

Passengers who choose to sue may end up incurring more expenses in legal fees, spending more than what Carnival offered as compensation. The only legitimate lawsuits that have a probability of holding up in court will be if a passenger has permanent personal injury or illness caused as a result of Carnival’s conduct. Suing over psychological distress, fear or emotional scarring will be difficult to litigate and may not be worth it for passengers.

Miami is the cruise capital of the world and by contract most cruise lines require that any case brought against them be brought to Miami within one year. This will play a huge roll in the lawsuits against Carnival. Many maritime lawyers have taken on these lawsuits but a local Miami law firm has filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of all passengers, highlighting the fact that Carnival chose to tow the ship to Alabama, instead of a closer port in Mexico, which caused passengers to endure more time onboard the ship.

With over 27 years experience, much of it in maritime law, I believe the fundamental issue that still needs to be addressed is that the cruise ship industry still needs more regulation. The first passenger to file suit against Carnival has alleged this, claiming the cruise ship was negligent. Carnival ignored the fact that the Triumph was not seaworthy and had been experiencing problems with the engine room fire suppression equipment before departing from Galveston, Texas. Cruise ships have lax safety policies, dated laws and contractual language that limit passenger rights and remedies. How many more travelers need to put at risk, and how much more aggressive litigation will take place, before much-needed regulations are put in place to avoid these situations?