A lawsuit filed in Miami-Dade County Circuit Court alleges that Celebrity Cruises passengers went on a cruise without knowledge that the cruise line had been experiencing problems with the ship’s propulsion system. Apparently, the problems were ongoing and the passengers were not told the problems could affect their cruise. The lawsuit also alleges had the passengers been fully informed, they would have cancelled their voyage.
The cruise ship involved is the Celebrity ship called the Summit, which was a 13-day cruise along the West Coast and to Alaska. The ship carries approximately 2000 passengers.
The lawsuit alleges there were several prior problems of breakdowns which resulted in cancellations and interruptions in other cruises. The lawsuit also alleges the ship had to be sent to dry dock for emergency/unscheduled repairs on several other occasions.
The issues will be whether the cruise line breached their maritime duties to the passengers by sailing with these ongoing problems and at the same time advertising that the cruise was a “premium” cruise. The passenger’s expectations were that they were sailing on a ship that did not have any issues at all with any of its mechanical systems. To the contrary, the expectations are that everything was working properly and that the cruise would be a totally enjoyable and memorable, as the cruise lines advertise.
Since passenger claims against the cruise lines are governed by the maritime law and passenger contracts, the cruise line has asserted affirmative defenses to the lawsuit which include provisions contained in the passenger ticket. As our firm has reported, the cruise lines often times will escape liability by affirmative defenses such as the claims are barred by the time limitations contained in the ticket or waiver of liability found in the passenger tickets. An experienced maritime lawyer will immediately refer to the ticket when considering any potential claims against a cruise ship company.
The cruise lines are also arguing that they already provided a 30 percent discount to the passengers for future cruises and onboard credits and therefore have already satisfied any claims. This is an affirmative defense where the cruise line claims the passengers have released their rights by acceptance of benefits already given to them.
Another interesting defense is that the travel agents were aware of the facts the passengers claim were concealed from them. The cruise line claims the travel agents acted as agents for the passengers and thus any information they had would be imputed to the passengers.
Our personal injury and wrongful death firm has handled many other types of cases where the allegations are the cruise line has withheld information from the public in order not to damage their public image. We were actually successful in obtaining documentation from a major cruise line showing there is an entire department designed to handle adverse publicity, and to continue to promote the image the cruise lines pride themselves on, which is that the ship is a care free, fun atmosphere, with no needs for any worries or concerns. We know from public hearings and recent legislation, this is not totally true. There are reported disappearances, and criminal activity, including sexual assaults, that occur aboard cruise ships. In addition we have handled cases where the cruise line fails to properly inform and warn about known adverse weather conditions that can be reasonably expected during a cruise.
We will keep you posted on this ongoing issue regarding the duty to warn passengers of issues that can affect their decisions to cruise or not, and what effect the provisions in the passenger tickets have on these issues.