Passengers who were onboard Carnival Corp.’s Triumph cruise expected a relaxing vacation. Instead, they found themselves stranded at sea for five days on a dysfunctional ship.
Last week, the Triumph was cruising along in the Gulf of Mexico when an engine fire caused the ship’s propulsion system and power to go out—meaning the ship’s lights, kitchens, air conditioning and toilets were out of order. The Triumph’s 3,143 passengers and 1,086 crew members found themselves fighting for food and sleeping space in a veritable petri dish of germs and stench.
The ship was finally towed back to port on Valentine’s Day. And some angry passengers immediately contacted their lawyers.
“We’ve been contacted by several passengers and their family members about the possibility of legal action,” Marc Bern, a personal injury attorney in New York City, told the Wall Street Journal’s Law Blog.
Even though passengers are angry about their hellish experience, pursuing litigation against Carnival might be futile. Maritime law experts say that absent any physical injuries or illness, passengers can’t sue the cruise line because they had a bad experience. To pursue emotional distress claims, passengers would have to prove that Carnival intentionally inflicted harm. Additionally, passengers’ tickets contain a forum-selection clause that requires plaintiffs to bring suit in Florida, where Carnival is based; traveling to Florida for a court date could be inconvenient for plaintiffs who don’t live nearby.
Meanwhile, Carnival is offering Triumph passengers a full refund for the cruise and travel expenses, reimbursement for any onboard purchases, a credit for a future cruise trip and $500 in cash.
The Triumph disaster comes just more than one year after Carnival’s Costa Concordia shipwreck, in which the ship’s captain steered too close to shore. The accident killed 32 passengers and crew members.
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