Cruise Line Faces Multiple Lawsuits, but May Not Face Liability Due to Contractual Terms

 

file000728465303.jpgA cruise ought to provide the opportunity for a relaxing vacation, and while most do just that, some cruises may lead to nightmarish situations. Multiple recent lawsuits for injuries sustained on cruises allege negligence for various failures to protect passengers from injury. These cases provide an important illustration of how contracts entered into as part of a ticket purchase may limit passengers’ rights of recovery, preventing them from recovering damages through litigation.

The most well-known recent case of a cruise gone wrong involves Carnival Cruise Lines’ ship Triumph. The ship left Galveston, Texas on February 7, 2013 for a four-day cruise to Mexico. On February 10, 2013, according to the U.S. Coast Guard, a fire caused by a fuel-oil leak stopped the ship dead in the water. It remained stranded until tug boats could pull it into a harbor in Mobile, Alabama, leaving the more than 4,200 occupants of the ship, about 3,100 of whom were passengers, stuck on board for five days without effective plumbing or sanitation.

Lawsuits related to the cruise allege that Carnival was negligent in failing to maintain the ship’s systems properly. The ship allegedly had mechanical problems on a prior voyage, as recently as January 28, but the cruise line sent the ship out anyway, according to some lawsuits. A lawsuit filed in a Florida federal court, Williams v. Carnival Corp., No. 1:13-cv-20588, complaint for damages (S.D. Fl., Feb. 18, 2013), alleges that the cruise line breached various duties to passengers, including the duties to “maintain or remedy hazardous conditions,” id. at 4, and to warn of such hazards. A putative class action lawsuit, Crusan, et al v. Carnival Corp., No. 1:13-cv-20591 (S.D. Fl., Feb. 18, 2013) also alleged various claims for negligence against the cruise line.