Trial in Carnival Triumph’s ‘floating hell’ underway in Miami
A year after the Carnival Triumph cruise ship made headlines by breaking down in the Gulf of Mexico due to a fire in the engine room, the first of many civil lawsuits against the company has gone to trial in Miami.
The class-action suit, Cassie Terry et al. vs. Carnival Corporation dba Carnival Cruise Lines, alleges breach of maritime contract and fraud aboard the February 2013 cruise in which passengers "were injured as a result of the unseaworthy, unsafe, unsanitary and generally despicable conditions of the vessel."
Terry, a Brazoria County resident, is the lead plaintiff among 56 other fellow passengers, almost all of whom are from the Houston area, specifically Harris, Montgomery, Galveston and Brazoria counties.
Filed Feb. 15, 2013, the suit is being tried in U.S. District Court in Miami before Judge Donald Graham.
According to the plaintiffs' fourth amended complaint, passengers boarded the ship Feb. 7, 2013, in Galveston for a four-day vacation cruise to Mexico, expecting to return to the same port four days later.
But on Feb. 10, 2013, when the ship was about 150 miles off Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, an engine room fire knocked out its primary power source, crippling the Triumph's water and plumbing systems and leaving it adrift.
After the ship drifted northward, it was towed to Mobile, Ala., arriving on Feb. 14, 2013.
During the time the ship was without power, passengers were subjected to sweltering temperatures, lack of running water and lack of working toilets, according to the complaint.
"During the horrifying and excruciating tow back to the United States, the vessel listed sharply several times, causing human waste to spill out of non-functioning toilets, flood across the vessel's floors and halls and drip down the vessel's walls," the complaint stated.
"Plaintiffs were forced to endure unbearable and horrendous odors on the filthy and disabled vessel and walk through human feces in order to reach food lines where the wait was counted in hours, only to receive rations of spoiled food," the complaint continued. "Plaintiffs were forced to subsist for days in a floating toilet, a floating Petri dish, a floating hell."
The plaintiffs are seeking unspecified actual damages and exemplary damages as well as court costs.
In its answer to the complaint, Carnival denied that the plaintiffs are entitled to recover any damages.
Among other statements, the defendant's response to the complaint stated, "The plaintiffs' injuries and damages, if any, were caused solely by an Act of God or perils of the sea for which defendant cannot be held liable."
The bench trial before Graham, with no jury, began Feb. 12, and continued Thursday, with the plaintiffs' side still calling witnesses.
In the first two weeks of testimony, passengers have recounted mental distress over the trip, and one woman broke down sobbing on the witness stand, according to CNN.