Articles Tagged with “Carnival Cruise Lines”

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On CBS This Morning, Leesfield Scolaro Maritime Law Attorney Carol Finklehoffe said that if Cruise Lines have deck attendants selling drinks and employees watching over the water slides, it is reasonable to have lifeguards around the pools as well:

This latest tragedy has placed Carnival Cruise Lines back in the spotlight. The loss of Qwentyn Hunter in one of the Carnival Victory’s pools prompts many to question whether conspicuous signage that there are “no lifeguards on duty” is realistically enough to fulfill the cruise line’s duty of care to provide a safe and proper place to bathe or swim.

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Over the weekend, a 6-year-old child, who was on a 4-day cruise with his family, drowned in the swimming pool of the Carnival Cruise ship. The young child was playing with his 10-year-old brother when the incident happened at approximately 4:45 pm while the pool was open to passengers.

The Victory returned to Miami on Monday morning, and the pool was closed off to passengers with police crime scene tape. Very limited information has been made available to members of the public other than Miami-Dade Police, which is investigating the matter, has released the name of the child, Qwentyn Hunter.

Clip_20.jpgAccording to witnesses, a person yelled over a microphone to rescue a child from the pool who was seen submerged underwater. As soon as he was taken out of the pool, chest compressions and CPR was performed, but unfortunately the boy never regained consciousness.

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When a passenger sustains an injury while on a cruise ship or while on a shore excursion purchased through the cruise line, a maritime law attorney must be contacted immediately so as to maximize the recovery of a potential personal injury claim or lawsuit, and more importantly to not jeopardize the investigation and fact-gathering process that must be done as early as possible and is absolutely critical in litigating against a cruise line.

caution.jpgMost passengers feel safe at sea and are confident that, whichever activity they chose to purchase, the cruise line has done its homework and would not risk the safety and livelihood of its passengers. That misconception has led to countless incidents. Worse, it has led passengers to trusting the cruise line in rectifying their mistakes, or acts of negligence.

Contact a cruise ship injury attorney as soon as you board off the ship
Most, if not all, cruise lines have important procedural conditions that all passengers must know prior to embarking on a cruise. One of these procedural conditions is the time frame within which an injured person must act in order to file a claim against the cruise line. Cruise lines have uniformly imposed a one-year statute of limitations on any and all personal injury claims against them. If a lawsuit is not filed within one year of the incident which caused a person’s injury, that passenger’s claim will be barred forever. Not only that, Cruise Lines have also uniformly and arbitrarily imposed a six-month notification deadline.

The clock on your potential personal injury claim starts ticking the day the incident happens, and if you wait too long, your case, which could have been worthy of representation months prior, could be turned down simply because it is too late to act. You must protect yourself and do your due diligence by contacting a reputable maritime law attorney as soon as possible after you return home from the cruise.

Do not trust the Cruise Line’s claims management process
Many passengers will elect to resolve their injury claim on their own. They will contact the claims management department several weeks after the incident and attempt to obtain a recovery without any professional help. That is the second biggest mistake you can make.

Like any insurance company, the claims management department’s objective is to avoid compensating injured passengers. To achieve their mean, several tactics are employed in almost every single claim:

waiting.gifFirst, the person assigned to your case will ask to obtain a statement from you about the incident. They will only ask questions that may put the blame on the injured person and not ask or inquire about any facts that may or may not show the cruise line’s negligence.

Second, they will stall the claim’s process. By now, the incident occurred several weeks, if not a couple of months ago. They will ask that you provide a copy of all of your medical records, and medical bills, so the claims department can “evaluate” your damages. Some passengers are quick to obtain medical records, but most are not knowledgeable enough and several months will go by before the claims person will be in possession of your medical records and bills.

The next step is full denial. At that point, the cruise line has all of your records, it has an idea of the damages you have sustained in the incident, and it also knows how the incident happened. They will invariably tell you that the statement you have given to the ship’s doctor or the ship’s security staff is inconsistent with the statement you gave over the phone. Or they will tell you that the damages you are seeking are unrelated to the injury you claim you sustained in the incident. Or they will dispute the charges you claim you have incurred, or stress the fact that your health insurance paid for your bills and therefore your medical bills are irrelevant. Or they will insist on telling you that they need more time to make sure their investigation is concluded before they can either deny the claim, or make your an offer.
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In the last 3 years, the cruise line industry has been dealt blows that would have knocked out any other business. Starting in 2010 with the fire aboard the Carnival Splendor, followed over a year ago with the deadly incident of the Costa Concordia. This month, another fire broke out aboard the Carnival Triumph, causing over 3,000 people to be stranded at sea for several days, forced to live in unsanitary conditions reminiscent of a third-world country slum.

Yet, Carnival Cruise Lines, and the rest of the cruise industry continues to strive and attract more passengers than ever. Translation: the cruise industry is bringing record revenues and earnings despite tragedies blames on cruise employees (Concordia) and business decisions made by some of the richest executives who working in the leisure business.

In a recent op-ed piece published in The Globe, the writer discusses the role of the media in manufacturing horror stories, mainly stemming from the Carnival Triumph fire, while disputing that there even was an incident worth reporting about. Kyle writes: “The Carnival Triumph cruise was supposed to last four days, and go to Cozumel, Mexico. That was before the engine fire, which crippled the ship and knocked out its propeller system, as well as sewage and air conditioning, according to the New York Times. The worst part of the incident was the sewage that leaked and soaked the carpets throughout the ship. Other than that, the patrons of the ship were simply inconvenienced.” The author makes several comparisons between the Costa Concordia and the Carnival Triumph calling one a tragedy and the other a mere inconvenience. Kyle concludes: “I think that some of the passengers of the ship need to suck it up; it’s not like it was the Titanic.”

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In 2010, a fire broke out in the engine room of the Carnival Splendor, disabling the large cruise ship, leaving thousands of passengers and crew-members stranded at sea for days. In early 2012, the Costa Concordia ran aground after its captain committed the unthinkable, which caused the death of 32 people. Despite these avoidable tragedies, and the public relations storm it found itself in at the time, Carnival Cruise Lines is reporting steady revenues and earnings.

carnival-triumph rip.jpgFor 2010, Carnival reported revenues of $14.4 billions. In 2011 and 2012, revenues increased to $15.7B and $15.3B respectively. While posting very strong revenues, the company’s earnings are just as strong, posting earnings of $2.42B in 2011, followed by $1.88B in 2012.

Tragedies and public relations disasters affect Carnival, and the entire cruise industry, relatively mildly compared to other businesses. Empirical data shows that the public at large, and cruise line customers have a very short collective memory when it comes to vacationing on a luxurious cruise ship. Since 2006, North American cruise passengers have steadily increased from 9.13 to 9.72 million in 2011. Worldwide in 2010, it is estimated that cruise ships were visited by 14.3 million passengers.

The question begging to be answered is, even if the public’s collective memory fades so rapidly that it does not affect traffic and consumption, why aren’t cruise lines taking a financial hit for their serious miscues? Answer is simple: Cruise lines do not respond to anyone or anything.

Let’s look at the thousands of passengers who were stranded aboard the Carnival Triumph for 5 days in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico. The only thing Carnival can reasonably fear is that they lost 3,143 customers for life. That is a drop in their books. The cruise line industry responds to nobody because cruise companies have handcuffed their passengers in disclaiming the cruise line’s responsibility for everything that happens on their ship, except their own negligence (46 U.S.C.A. § 30509 expressly invalidates any contract provision aiming to limit a ship’s liability for its own negligence to its passengers, but is limited to cruises visiting a U.S. port.)

Cruise lines know that their ticket-contract provisions are essentially “almighty” and have been interpreted and declared legal and binding by competent courts. Prior to embarking on the Carnival Triumph, all passengers received a ticket which contains the following:

“Carnival shall not be liable to the passenger for damages for emotional distress, mental suffering/anguish or psychological injury of any kind under any circumstances, except when such damages were caused by the negligence of Carnival and resulted from the same passenger sustaining actual physical injury, or having been at risk of actual physical injury, or when such damages are held to be intentionally inflicted by Carnival.”

Carnival also disclaims that the ship is not responsible for, and entitled to do anything its Captain decides in the event of a “breakdown of the vessel”. The ticket also contains a “Class Action Waiver” which provides that passengers waive the right to form a class action to seek recovery. In cases where the passengers only claim is a ruined vacation, class actions may be the only form of effective remedy. The legal validity of the clauses is still an open question.

Under what circumstances could a Carnival Triumph passenger sue Carnival?
Carnival can be sued if its ship committed an act of negligence that resulted in a passenger’s physical injury. For instance, if a passenger slips on urine in the middle of a hallway, and ends up fracturing a hip, Carnival can be held responsible. A passenger, who becomes physically ill from the poor conditions or contracts an illness, will also likely have a valid claim against Carnival. But the hundreds of passengers, who were “merely” subjected to sleeping on the floor with hundreds of other people in hallways flooded with urine smells and worse, will have a much more difficult time asserting claims. Although claims for so-called negligent infliction of emotional distress are allowed in certain circumstances, they are generally limited to situations where the passenger was within the “zone of danger” of physical harm and suffered an emotional injury with some physical manifestation or psychological diagnosis.

Recently, Leesfield Scolaro very successfully resolved a cruise passenger claim after our client fell due to conditions caused by a fire on board a different ship that had left the vessel stranded in the middle of the ocean, thereby creating an unstable platform for walking.
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Several days ago, the Carnival Triumph, operated by Carnival Cruise Lines, became inoperative after a fire broke out in one of the engine rooms. On board, 3,143 passengers and 1,086 crew members are stranded with limited food, no air conditioning, only a few working toilets.

stranded carnival triumph.jpgAccording to a CNN report, passengers who are now enduring their third day adrift at sea are commonly seeing “sewage running down the walls and floors.” Carnival has asked all people on board to defecate in bags and urinate in showers. If hungry, passengers have to mustard waiting in line for over three and half hours to eat cold meals. Due to the lack of air conditioning and gaining bad smells throughout the ship, more and more people are sleeping out on the decks.

Photograph courtesy of NBC News – The Today Show

This latest event on a Carnival cruise ship should not come as a surprise. Back on November 8, 2010, the Carnival Splendor endured the same fate. A 7-day cruise to Mexico turned nightmarish for its 3,299 passengers and 1,167 crew members after a fire broke out in the engine room. The ship was approximately 150 miles south of San Diego, CA. It took hours for Carnival crew members to extinguish the fire, and several people were injured in the panic.

Carnival Splendor Tug Boat.jpgMuch like passengers aboard the Carnival Triumph are experiencing now, passengers of the Carnival Splendor had very little to eat for days, and suffered through 96 hours of extremely poor hygienic conditions.

Several months after the Splendor fire, it was finally determined that the fire emerged from the aft engine room, and that second engine room of the ship failed to start, which should have allowed to maintain power throughout the ship.

The Carnival Triumph is scheduled to be towed back to the United States and arrive in Mobile, AL on Thursday. The Carnival Splendor was also towed by a tug boat, back to San Diego, CA.

Carnival so far is reporting that all passengers are safe and no injuries were sustained as a result of the fire. Carnival’s statement is eerily similar to the statement made in the aftermath of the Carnival Splendor fire, yet it was inaccurate. Carnival Cruise, like any other cruise line, is held to the same standard of providing a safe environment for its passengers at all times, whether an emergency occurs during the cruise or not.

Could stranded passengers hold Carnival accountable for this preventable mess?
The answer is probably not. the fire aboard the Splendor gave Carnival the opportunity to find out what to do if such circumstances were to happen again. Carnival has jumped in front of the problem this time around. Carnival will refund all passengers aboard the Triumph, and will refund the cruise tickets of all passengers scheduled to sail aboard the Triumph for weeks to come. Accepting a refund does not waive a passenger’s rights to file a lawsuit against Carnival, but it certainly hinders the perception that passengers were not taken care of by the cruise line.

Secondly, and most importantly, the emergency aboard the Triumph does not change the existing thresholds in order to sue any cruise line. For one, a passenger will have to show that they have sustained a personal injury. Without provable and legitimate damages, a lawsuit will be dismissed within weeks of being filed. Second, even if a passenger sustains legitimate injuries, they must prove that their injuries were caused by Carnival’s negligence. Alleging that passengers have a claim for damages against the cruise line simply because their cruise/vacation were ruined by the fire is not enough.
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The District Court for the Southern District of Florida just issued an Order granting Carnival Corporation’s motion to dismiss a personal injury claim stemming from the Costa Concordia tragedy of January 2012.

costa concordia 100.jpgThis decision marks the first of its kind pertaining to a personal injury claim brought in Florida against the cruise line. In this case, several plaintiffs from Massachusetts filed a lawsuit in the Souther District of Florida against the operator and owner of the Costa Concordia (Costa Crociere, Costa Cruise Lines, Carnival Corporation, and Carnival Plc).

Judge Dimitrouleas rendered a 23-page decision which dismissed the plaintiffs’ personal injury claims, asserting in no uncertain terms that the Court was “thoroughly convinced that dismissal in favor of an Talian forum is proper.” The Court motivated its decision after “having carefully considered the balance of the factors against the strong pesumption in favor of Plaintiffs’ choice of forum.” In the end, every single factor weighed in by the Court tilted in favor of the Defendant.

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Untditled.jpgCruise Ship Lawyers Blog reported last month that Casey Dickerson was arrested on rape charges. Dickerson was accused of having organized, initiated, and participated in the gang rape of a minor child while on a Carnival cruise, sailing on the Carnival Sensation.

The terrifying detail of the attack were disclosed here after Cruise Ship Lawyers Blog obtained a copy of the criminal complaint filed against the 31-year-old married man.

This week, a federal grand jury heard evidence and testimony surrounding the events that took place on August 19, 2012, in the ship’s cabin U-212. The grand jury rendered its decision and indicted Dickerson on multiple sex charges. The defendant has been held in a Central Florida jail since his arrest on August 20, despite Dickerson claiming he did not have sex with the young child and that he was drunk at the time with limited recollection of the events.

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Florida Injury Lawyer Blawg obtained the complaint filed in Federal Court against Casey Dickerson on August 20, 2012. The investigation and interviews conducted by Federal Special Agent, Christopher Williams, describe a savage attack on a defenseless and inebriated minor child. The complaint is available below for download.

According to the complaint filed in the Middle District of Florida, Casey Dickerson, 31, was a passenger on the Carnival Sensation that left Port Canaveral on August 16, scheduled to return at the same port on August 19. Dickerson and his wife were originally assigned to stay in cabin E-153. Due to Dickerson’s spouse complaints about noise, Carnival reassigned the couple to cabin U-212. Somehow Casey Dickerson retained possession of the key card of the first cabin and right to use both cabins.

200600006506.jpgOn August 19, Carnival contacted the FBI to report an alleged sexual assault on a minor female passenger that occurred during the early morning hours of August 19, 2012. Special Agent Williams met with the victim immediately after the ship docked in Port Canaveral. The young girl provided gruesome details on what she went through that night. The victim, along with a female friend of hers, who is also 15, and four other male minors that she knew, went to Dickerson’s cabin U-212.

Once inside the cabin, the victim said that she was held down by Dickerson and some of the other males, and all took turns raping her. While the attack was going on, the victim’s female friend was being held by one of boys in the cabin’s bathroom. At one point, the victim said that Dickerson was having vaginal sex with her, stopped, and walked to the bathroom door to make sure the friend would not come out and tell the boy who was inside the bathroom with her to “get it on” and to “show her a good time”. While at the door, Dickerson also encouraged the two other boys who were holding the victim down to “switch” and take turn raping the victim.
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We began reporting on the Costa Concordia as soon as the tragedy occurred on Friday, January 13th, 2012. That night, thousands of passengers lived through a collective nightmare which ended in the most blatant mishandling of an emergency aboard a large cruise ship since the Titanic. Every single passenger aboard the Costa Cruise thought they were going to die at sea. Ultimately thirty-two passengers perished that night.

Four passengers currently in litigation provided a unique insight into what passengers aboard a stranded and sinking cruise ship were thinking and experiencing. What became crystal clear is the breakdown in communication and level of negligence displayed by Costa Cruise Lines employees of all rank.

Our four passengers were traveling together as a group and thankfully escaped the sinking ship. All four owe their luck to self-reliance and the common-sense of ignoring what Costa Cruise crew members were ordering passengers to do.

At approximately 9:00 p.m., all four friends met for dinner in the fourth floor dining room, where they were seated at the lower level. Shortly after they sat down, the ship suddenly tilted to one side, knocking over some glasses and plates. Everyone, passengers and crew-members alike, was stunned, however, within a couple of minutes, the restaurant patrons were assured by the dining staff that there was no problem.

Only minutes later, the ship sharply tilted to an extreme angle, sending all of the dishes and food on their table to the floor. This scene was replayed across the entire dining room as dishes and plates went flying everywhere. The angle of the ship was so severe that even tables were sliding across the floor, bringing to their minds the movie scenes of the sinking Titanic, which was the only cruising experience three of them had at the time.

Massive panic in the dining room broke out as families and friends attempted to protect children and loved ones and to make their way to safety through the chaos without any help from the staff.

After receiving no assistance or instruction from the staff, our group of friends quickly determined that they could not rely upon the ship’s personnel and would have to take the appropriate steps to save themselves. Remembering having seen life jackets in their closets, they fought their way through the flying china, furniture and panicking passengers out of the dining room, further impaired by the severe angle of the ship, which had also caused water to flood out of the galley on to the floor. After escaping from the dining room, one of the four friends became separated in the madness from the other three, who managed to stay together until the end.

The now smaller group fought its way through the maddening crowd of screaming, running and panicked passengers. One of them, a female passenger, slid in water which flooded out of the galley, turning the polished floor in the foyer outside of the dining room into an ice rink. As she slid across the tilted foyer, she only came to a stop after bashing into a metal column in the center. After someone helped her up, she continued to run through the chaos in an effort to catch up with her two other friends.

As they continued to run toward their cabins, they were all terrified and feared that the ship was going to sink. Since none of them were good swimmers, they all were afraid that if they had to jump overboard without a life jacket, their chances of survival were poor.
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