In the wake of a recent public relations nightmare, it’s perhaps not surprising that some very disgruntled passengers have now filed suit against Carnival Cruise Lines. The first suit, by a passenger who said she was sickened by the truly horrifying conditions on board the ship, including being forced to wade through hallways covered in human feces, was filed in federal court in Miami. The suit claimed that Carnival failed to provide a seaworthy ship and that as a result of the company’s failures, the woman suffered physical and emotional harm.
The second case was filed by a woman who claims she suffered dehydration and bruising from the overly aggressive food lines set up on the damaged vessel. The woman in this case says she needed IV fluids and was admitted to the emergency room after returning home last week.
Despite these two pending lawsuits, some are saying that furious passengers should carefully consider the matter before racing off to court. In fact, one legal expert said that unless a passenger suffered serious injuries or financial loss due to the cruise misadventure, most would be better off taking the money offered by Carnival.
One lawyer says that while stories about raw sewage might be disgusting, it’s not always enough to mount a successful personal injury lawsuit. The problem is that the cruise industry has wised up to the danger that such lawsuits pose and got good at limiting their liability by using tickets as contracts. The tickets stipulate how passengers are allowed to sue the company and make launching successful suits in the absence of serious harm very difficult.
One of the best examples of this is the recent Costa Concordia crash (another Carnival ship) which took place a year ago and resulted in the death of 32 passengers. The tickets issued prior to the cruise contained a forum selection clause that said all lawsuits would have to be filed in Italy, a detail that makes it exponentially more difficult for ordinary people to sue the cruise line. Several suits were filed in Miami by Costa Concordia passengers and were promptly dismissed due to lack of jurisdiction.
Other liability limiting tricks include outsourcing the performance of shore excursions to other companies. That means that the cruise company does not usually employ the people helping you parasail, even if they are wearing the company’s shirts. You then have to sue them, not the cruise operator, in the event of a problem. Same thing with staff doctors or masseuses, which are almost always foreign independent contractors.
So far Carnival has done relatively little to compensate the stranded passengers. The company has said that it intends to offer $500 to each passenger, in addition to reimbursing the costs of their original trip. Though it’s better than nothing, it seems like a pittance given the incredible discomfort hundreds of passengers were forced to endure. The moral of the story for those thinking about booking their next cruise is clear: passenger beware.
If you have been injured and think you may have a personal injury claim, please contact the Mississippi injury lawyers at Kilpatrick & Philley at (601) 856-7800.
Source: “Carnival Cruise Ship Passengers Have Little Cause to Sue,” by Reuters, published at InsuranceJournal.com.
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