When Carnival Cruise Line’s Triumph lost power on February 10 in the Gulf of Mexico, its passengers immediately experienced a devastating loss. Their dream vacations were immediately altered into a “cruise from hell,” with food shortages, overflowing sewage, and no air conditioning. But can those passengers recover any compensation for their losses?
The outcome of any legal claims against Carnival will be primarily determined by two factors. First, any passengers filing claims for compensation will have to overcome the contractual waivers and other terms and conditions set forth in Carnival’s cruise tickets. Cruise tickets are drafted by the cruise lines, and they are designed to protect the cruise line from liability. While we haven’t been asked to examine the tickets issued for this specific cruise, Carnival’s tickets in the past have had provisions allowing Carnival to cancel all or part of a cruise “without liability to refund passage money or fares” in the event that “the performance of the proposed voyage is hindered or prevented by . . . breakdown of the vessel.” Overcoming these types of waivers, even when passengers have no ability to negotiate the terms, can be difficult.
Second, the outcome of any legal claim is affected by the type of damages that are suffered. All passengers undoubtedly lost the enjoyment value that they had bargained for when they paid for their cruise, and most passengers likely suffered some degree of mental anguish, worrying about their personal safety or the safety of their loved ones. Other passengers may have also suffered a physical injury, if they became physically ill because of the unsanitary conditions, or if they suffered a fall because of overflowing sewage or fell down a flight of unlit stairs. The type of damages is important because both the governing law and the cruise ticket’s contractual terms will limit the types of damages that can be recovered.
Even if the passengers have a claim that can survive Carnival’s contractual defenses, the lawsuits will not be convenient. It is likely that the cruise ticket requires that any lawsuits be filed in Miami, making it impossible to pursue a lawsuit without the time and expense of one or more trips to a Florida courthouse.
But if Carnival’s legal defenses are so daunting, why is Carnival offering travel expenses, rebates, and/or future cruise tickets? Because Carnival has learned that most important court for these types of losses is the court of public opinion. Carnival knows that making an offer of some sort may help minimize the public relations impact of this near-disaster.
If you have questions about your rights in any situation like the Carnival Triumph debacle, you need to consult with an experienced lawyer who can evaluate contractual waivers and personal injury lawsuits. The Dallas lawyers at Powers Taylor LLP are ready to help Cruise Ship Passenger’s May Face Difficulties Getting Fair Compensation.