Jackson law firm sues on behalf of Carnival Triumph passenger

February 20, 2013

Tourism

carnival_triumph

Tugboats tow Carnival Triumph into Mobile after a Feb. 10 engine room fire crippled the ocean liner’s propulsion and electrical systems leaving its more than 3,000 passengers stranded in the Gulf of Mexico.

The law offices of John Arthur Eaves filed a lawsuit today in Galveston, Texas, on behalf of a Texas woman who traveled aboard the Carnival Triumph.

In a released statement, Eaves says, “Texans who watched Carnival’s million-dollar ad campaign in Texas and bought their tickets in Texas and who boarded the ship in Texas deserve to have their case heard in Texas by a Texas judge.”

Carnival Triumph departed from the Port of Galveston before experiencing a fire on Feb. 10 off the coast of Mexico, leaving the vessel stranded at sea. The Carnival cruise ship was then towed to Mobile, Alabama, where it finally docked on Feb. 14.

According to the Jackson law firm, district court in Galveston ordered the seizing of the Triumph on March 29, 2012, based on Carnival Cruise Lines’ “lack of compliance to standards regarding on-board safety and procedures aimed at preserving the lives of passengers and crew.”

Eaves also represents passengers and family members of the January 2012, Costa Concordia tragedy. The Carnival-subsidiary owned vessel ran aground on the Italian coastline killing 32 passengers including two Americans.

“Once again, Carnival’s desire to increase profits at the risk of passenger safety has resulted in putting passengers at risk,” he said. “The same inadequate standards that caused the sinking of the Costa Concordia are the same problems on every Carnival cruise vessel. Carnival has had billion-dollar profits yet consistently cuts costs in hiring and training of its crew, in the discipline of its officers, in the design of its vessels and, as we know now, in the maintenance in its mechanical operations.”

Eaves spoke with MBJ on the phone last week on his way to Mobile to meet with Carnival Triumph families.

Tell us about your work last year representing victims of the Carnival ship Costa Concordia?

We represent about 150 of those passengers and we have a case now that’s filed in California with a trial date of July 23 so we’re in the discovery process of finding out all the systems that went wrong on Costa Concordia. Everybody has heard about the captain: the captain was trying to communicate with the wheelman to turn to avoid the rocks and the wheelman couldn’t speak English sufficient or Italian to understand the captain’s instructions.

It was a masterful job on the part of Carnival to avoid responsibility itself because they allowed the captain to go off course many times before with no consequences or rebuke. The other problem is the crew wasn’t trained properly, they didn’t know how to get people off the ship. The third thing is the design of these vessels is unstable, they’re top heavy- very easy to turn over.

Have you talked with anyone from Carnival Triumph since they got back?

I’ve talked with family members and they have called me and found out all the information they need. The families mostly were just ready to get off that boat. They’re very upset, shocked. We as an American public have begun to expect accountability and responsibility and a certain level of safety. It’s just shocking whenever they got out there and realized how uncontrollable the situation actually was.

Do the passengers have any damages case at all?

You can’t sue for any kind of mental anguish all you can do is sue for physical injury and some lost economic damages. They also have no class-action provision. Strangely enough, they also have a provision that you can’t have a jury trial which is guaranteed by the Constitution. A court will have to sort this all out.

The cruise industry is the only industry that has been allowed special rights that no other industry in the U.S. enjoys. They’ve enjoyed some ability to contract away the responsibility. In this case some of these contracts between the shipping companies and the passengers have been upheld on where you can file the case and some other provisions. It does not allow that in the airline industry which we think is a good example. This is a window of opportunity to prevent the next Titanic or Costa Concordia.

What will you do over the next weeks relating to the Triumph case?

Over the next week we will be working over the lawsuit part of it. We know that Carnival is responsible but there are other folks who may be responsible so we will be investigating that and filing this claim. The other thing we have done is I wrote a letter to Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano begging her to require that all Carnival ships that are currently in U.S. ports be required to undergo an in-depth inspection by the appropriate government agency to make sure they aren’t at risk. This accident could have been so much worse. If the winds had been intense, if the sea had been rough then this ship would have been in real danger of capsizing. Capsizing in deep water would have been another Titanic.

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About Stephen McDill

Stephen McDill joined the Mississippi Business Journal in 2008 after working in radio and television. He is a graduate of Belhaven University and has won awards for his writing and photojournalism from the Associated Press and Mississippi Press Association.

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