By Ralph Greco, Jr.
A full refund, transportation expenses covered, credit for travel and ‘other’ reimbursements might not exactly be what the beleaguered passengers of the now infamous Carnival Triumph cruise ship might be after…though it might be all they get. The luxury liner which left Galveston on Feb 7th made a splash of news when a fire in her engine room knocked-out the boat’s propulsion system, leaving the 3,143 passengers and 1,808 (crew who by all accounts acted above and well beyond the call of duty) floating a mere 100 miles north of the Yucatan Peninsula. Luckily four tugboats had reached the Triumph by Tuesday and a week from when she put out she was coming back in to port.
According to Carnival’s CEO/President Gerry Cahill, “Passengers will receive a full refund for the cruise, transportation expenses and a future cruise credit equal to the amount paid for this trip, plus other reimbursements.”
But as attorney Hyram M. Montero, P.A., a Personal Injury attorney at Montero Law, points out Cahill is well aware that cruise lines have gotten away with quite a bit in paying liabilities to their injured passengers over the years, even when they return from what has been called a “hell cruise”.
“The government has never really regulated the cruise line industry. It’s nothing like what is done with the airlines, though cruise lines are as much transporting people across the water as an airplane does across the air. This is why cruise ships get away with murder and CEO’s can sound cavalier.”
Adding to this, Montero sights the difficulty attorneys like him face because of the usual complications trying to file cruise ship lawsuits in various locations and in specific jurisdictions.
“Cruise line companies have been able to navigate legal requirements in their favor, forcing us to file a lawsuit in the state they want.”
In this particular case the Triumph was ‘required’ to return to American shores and not Mexico, its destination, another clear example of a cruise line balancing events to their benefit.
Beyond all this though, Montero has also to consider just what it is his client is suing for and if the time and expense of hiring experts to prove pain and suffering (and everything else) would be worth it.
“People here will be claiming pain and suffering, emotional injuries and will most likely be what people sue for; in these cases there are no physical injuries. Being forced to defecate in a bag, live in that smell for a week…you lose one week vacation, but how much is all that worth? Even in those cases of some horrible injury or death it doesn’t mean you have a good case unless it is supported by facts.”
But there is the fact that this entire ordeal has received quite a bit of notoriety, a very good thing for any attorney who might file on behalf of Triumph passengers.
“Simply put, sometimes publicity is the best thing to get you more money,” Montero says. “A cruise line company doesn’t want to pick a jury in this atmosphere.”
And then of course there are these points of law any attorney on a cruise line case will come up against that simply needs to be dealt with:
“To be successful in suing, one would have to prove Carnival breached their duty –didn’t provide reasonable care under the circumstances –and this extends only to the dangers to which the cruise line has actual and constructive notice there was a problem,” Mr. Montero tells us.
“Investigators will review the maintenance log first to find out when installations, repairs – service problems – new parts – who put the new parts in, all happened? This could come down to the manufacturer who built/supplied the parts and not even the ship at all.”
In the end, even though he is making a slight pun what attorney Montero offers as a last warning truly sums up the entire idea of justice in this or any litigation against a cruise line: “You really have to navigate through turbulent waters to be successful here.”