Articles Posted in Recent Cruise Ship Passenger Claims

This past Sunday, another fire onboard a passenger ship occurred, this one off the coast of Port Richey, which is just north of Tampa, Florida. The fire broke about a half a mile from shore on a shuttle boat operated by Tropical Breeze Casino, causing all of the 50 passengers and crew members to jump overboard and swim to shore.  There were over a dozen passengers who were reported to have been injured and a 42-year-old woman who was killed.

fire1-300x225The 60-foot shuttle boat was on its way to the Tropical Breeze Casino Boat (a company also known as SunCruz at one time) when the captain noticed smoke. After noticing the smoke, the captain turned the boat back to shore.  On his way back, the boat started having engine problems, which had been reported even before the accident in question.  The captain then ordered all 50 people on board to abandon the ship and swim to shore. There was no time to even hand out life jackets. The water, which was 59-degrees at the time, combined with the Gulf breeze actually created a risk of hypothermia for the passengers, some of whom were found face down in the water and would have died had the rescue efforts not been so prompt.

The cause of the fire has not yet been learned. However, according to recent reports, the company has had safety issues for many years. There have been about 29 investigations involving boats associated with their casino boat operation. This included another fire on one of its shuttle boats in 2004, which was caused by poor maintenance and insufficient training.

I have written many times about the dangers associated with shore side excursions. The cruise ship companies continue to promote and sell excursions in foreign countries not governed by the same safety standards as the United States while sharing in the profit and then relying on the foreign company to operate the excursion.

tourboat-300x222Passengers are encouraged to purchase the shore side excursions directly from the cruise line under the false pretense that they have been vetted for safety and security.  Historically there have been many accidents as a result of dangers associated with foreign excursions and the poor safety history of the excursion companies endorsed by the cruise line.

We recently reported on the tragic bus accident in Mexico, involving Royal Caribbean, when a bus transporting passengers on a shore side excursion rolled over, killing 11 passengers. Initial reports stated the accident happened because the driver was speeding on very narrow roads, and it is believed there is a history of safety violations associated with the excursion company.

br-pic-300x224I previously wrote about the tragedy involving a Mexican tour bus that flipped over while transporting Royal Caribbean and Celebrity cruise ship passengers to the Mayan ruins, and have recently spoken on both Channel 10 and CBS news regarding the safety of shore excursions. The cruise ship passengers involved in this tragic accident were on an excursion they had purchased from Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises. Typically, as was also seen in this case, the cruise lines promote the different shore excursions, profited from its sales, and urge its passengers to purchase the excursion directly from them rather than any independent company. It is also typical that passengers believe that that the cruise lines have performed a thorough vetting process for the shore excursions, and that their safety is backed by the cruise company. The passengers reasonably believe the cruise ship company would be responsible for recovery against the cruise ship company under various maritime legal theories, depending on the facts and circumstances.

The initial report about the cause of the accident in Mexico is that the driver was speeding. I believe that was apparent based on the fact that the bus flipped over in clear daylight with good weather conditions, and that there were no other vehicles involved. The real questions are going to be the root causes, as I refer to them. It is vital to get down to the root causes as to why something like this happened, killing and injuring many cruise ship passengers. The questions then become why was the driver speeding, and what was the condition of the bus, the safety history of the company, and the history of that particular driver, among other things. It is my opinion that the root causes will lead back to actions or inactions on the part of the cruise ship company, who should be held liable for these serious injuries and deaths.

Our shore excursion accident lawyers at Rivkind and Margulies are currently working on a similar accident involving a tour bus that turned over in New Zealand during an excursion with cruise ship passengers from the same cruise ship company. The excursion company involved had a poor safety history record including a prior accident which prompted a criminal investigation, in spite of the fact that the cruise ship company had represented in its literature that they were using only the highest quality transportation services for the excursions they provided.

On Tuesday, at least 12 people died and 18 were injured when a tour bus carrying Royal Caribbean and Celebrity passengers crashed on an excursion to the Mayan ruins in Mexico. It was one of the deadliest cruise ship shore excursion accidents to have taken place. Ironically, I was interviewed by NBC news last Thursday about the dangers present when going on cruise ships and the obstacles to legal recovery when harm befalls a passenger traveling on a cruise.

cancun-300x226One of the cases we discussed is the case I am currently handling against Celebrity Cruises involving a horrible tour bus crash that occurred during a cruise-sponsored shore excursion in New Zealand. Celebrity promoted, marketed and sold tickets for this shore excursion, and even represented to the passengers that the cruise ship company only used the highest quality transportation services during the excursion. Our lawsuit claims that the bus driver was speeding and changing lanes frequently, and that the bus was poorly maintained and in bad condition, resulting in a horrible accident where the bus plummeted 100 ft. down a steep bank, severely injuring its passengers. Fortunately, no one was killed. After the accident, it was discovered that the transportation company employed by Celebrity had a poor safety record- a very similar prior accident resulting in a criminal prosecution due to an incompetent mechanic and faulty brakes.

In my interview, I discussed how shore excursions pose a potential danger to the millions of passengers who sail on cruise ships operating out of Miami, as the shore excursions take place in foreign countries where the passengers have no knowledge as to the safety record of the particular shore excursion company the cruise ship company is promoting and selling tickets for. I also discussed how the cruise ship company attempts to avoid liability for any of the incidents that happened during a shore excursion, typically arguing that the shore excursion companies are independent contractors. The lawsuit I filed on behalf of the injured passengers alleges various claims under several legal theories to defeat this argument and legally hold Celebrity Cruises responsible for such an incident. It is one of the intricate aspects of maritime law that an experienced maritime attorney needs to navigate carefully in order to obtain recovery for the passengers.

In a very sad story, it has been reported that this past Saturday, an 8-year -old girl traveling with her family onboard the Carnival Glory cruise ship fell to her death from the atrium aboard the ship. The ship was docked at the Port of Miami at the time, as it had just arrived back from a week-long cruise.  According to reports, the young girl was waiting with her family to disembark from the fifth floor when she fell over the railings, which was about “two stories” high. Despite efforts of passengers and emergency medical personnel, the young girl died.

miami-300x225Why she fell was not reported. However, there will be video footage of the incident as there are surveillance cameras onboard the ship in this area. This will hopefully provide us with an answer as to why this happened, and of course the important question of how this tragic accident could have been prevented.

The beautiful designs on these mega cruise ships do pose safety hazards for passengers on cruises, such as the hazard or danger of falling from the landings or railings. Since this was the day of disembarkation, with thousands of passengers in a hurry to disembark, there may have been issues of crowd control, which allowed the girl to escape her parents and somehow fall over. Right now, it is purely speculation. However, an investigation must be done to determine the cause, and if there was anything that could have prevented such an incident, including an analysis of the design of the area, any warnings, and how the crowd was managed during disembarkation.

In a bizarre situation, two cruise ship passengers onboard the luxury cruise ship the Reflection, operated by Celebrity Cruises, claimed that they were robbed of their winnings they accrued over two nights in the casino aboard the ship. Their winnings were actually quite astounding, totaling $1,030,000.00. The passengers stated they took the money to their staterooms after cashing in, and approximately an hour after they left, one of the passengers alleged he was attacked and robbed by two of the ship’s officers aboard the cruise ship, and $430,000.00 in cash was taken from the passenger who had put this money in the cabin safe. The other passenger became aware that his friend had been allegedly robbed and he was able to escape his cabin with the remaining $600,000.00 in profits earned at the casino.

Port authorities were summoned as the ship docked in Piraeus, Greece, and the two ship officers were arrested. The police found $430,000.00 in their possession.

casino-300x200Was this simply a case of two crew members deciding to rob these passengers who seemed to have hit the lottery in the cruise ship casino? Not so fast! The officers allege that they were acting in accordance with instructions and procedures from the company on the grounds that they were retrieving the money because it had been acquired fraudulently. The cruise ship passengers claim the money was won in a legitimate way. However, the officers claim the money was won by these two passengers utilizing illegal techniques, thus fraudulently acquired. According to the officers, the cruise ship company was taking back the money fraudulently acquired, which was their basis for going into the cabin and taking the money from the passenger.

Many times, there are dangers associated with the shore excursions unknown to the passengers, which could include dangers created by the shore excursion company due to poor safety practices, or dangers created by the areas the shore side excursion companies take their passengers to. In a recent case in the Southern District of Florida, a passenger was injured while participating in a zip-line shore excursion in the Dominica. During the zip-line activity, the passenger was seriously injured when she crashed into padding attached to a tree.

zip-line-222x300The passenger filed suit in the Southern District of Florida and alleged the various theories of liability in an attempt to hold the cruise ship company liable, including the argument that the company was negligent in failing to keep the zip-line in a safe condition, and that the dangerous condition that caused the accident established that it was a company that did not comply with safety regulations that applied to the type of activity involved. The argument being that the cruise ship company knew or should have known of this fact, and therefore should not have sold the ticket for this particular excursion, and that the cruise line should have warned the passengers about the unsafe operation of the zip-line activity.

In the decision, the court quoted testimony from the cruise line which discussed the reasons for selecting this particular company. The cruise line stated that the company worked with other cruise ship companies, it had been in business for some time, and that they were unaware of any prior accidents similar to what happened to the passenger in this particular case. The court concluded, based on the evidence, that there was no reason for the cruise ship company to have known of any dangers associated with the zip-line operation, and that the cruise ship company reasonably relied upon the history of this company operating the zip-line activity and the lack of prior accidents. The court rejected the argument that there was a known danger that the cruise ship companies should have warned about. The court also rejected all the other theories of apparent agency, joint venture, negligent hiring and negligent retention.

It has been reported that a 3-year-old girl on board a Carnival Cruise Line cruise ship fell from a stateroom balcony to the deck below, suffering injuries which required her to be airlifted to a hospital in Tampa, Florida. The incident took place this past Friday aboard the Carnival Breeze. The ship was on its way back to Galveston, Texas, after cruising to the Bahamas.

carnival-300x186The nature and extent of the injuries were not known at the time, other than it was reported that there was severe bruising to the facial area, and a Coast Guard officer commented that he did not believe the injuries to be more serious injuries than facial fractures, although that remains to be seen. It is also unclear why the 3-year-old fell from the balcony in her stateroom.

It is concerning that only one day earlier a similar incident was reported aboard the Carnival Valor, another Carnival Cruise Line ship, Carnival Valor, where a 30-year-old passenger fell and injured her head requiring evacuation by the United States Coast Guard. The ship was just ten miles from Galveston, Texas, when she was medevacs from the ship. Details from her fall are unknown at this time.

This past Thursday, a fire broke out in the engine room of the MS Nordnorge, a passenger/ ro-ro cargo ship, while the ship was docked in Norway. City firefighters and crew members helped extinguish the fire. Although the ship did not suffer any serious damage, three of the crew members on board had to be treated for smoke inhalation.

norway-port-300x225I have reported many times on fires at sea and the dangers it creates to both the passengers and crew, as well as the damages it causes to the vessel itself, and the dangers it creates for those who come to the rescue or otherwise are in the vicinity of the fire, depending on how quickly the fire is detected and put out. Obviously, the number one goal is fire prevention, and then fire detection if prevention does not work,

There have been several fires at sea involving major passenger cruise ships, most of which have started in the engine rooms as well. The focus of fire detection must zero in on engine room fires as well as all other areas of the vessel. Many lives have been lost at sea due to fires. A fire at sea poses unique difficulties because you must rely on the crew on board the ship to respond to the fire and extinguish it. Unlike fires on land, you do not have fire rescue coming to the scene within minutes to put out a fire. Therefore, the crew must be properly trained in firefighting. In this situation, the MS Nordnorge was docked when the fire broke out, so city firefighters were able to quickly help to extinguish the fire.

There is a report of yet again another passenger on a cruise ship reported to have gone overboard, and not found. The latest involves a 32-year-old male from Georgia, a passenger on the Carnival Liberty cruise ship, a Carnival Cruise Line ship, who reportedly went overboard in the early morning hours of Friday, April 7, while the vessel was in Bahamian territorial waters after having left Cape Canaveral, Florida.

carnival-liberty-300x225At this time, the reports are that the United States Coast Guard was participating in the search and rescue efforts, as it does involve a United States citizen, and the ship did depart from the United States port. The Bahamian maritime authority will also get involved since the incident did happen in Bahamian waters.

Statistics that are available indicate there have been a number of passengers who have been reported to have gone overboard on a cruise ship this year alone. Just two weeks ago, we reported on another carnival passenger who fell overboard from the Carnival Victory ship.

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