Testimony has wrapped up in the trial of a lawsuit brought by about three dozen passengers from the Carnival Triumph cruise ship that drifted at sea for days in February 2013. The passengers sued over medical and mental health problems they say were caused by conditions on the disabled ship.
The cruise ship left Galveston, Texas on February 7, 2013, for a four-day cruise. On February 10, around 5 a.m., a fire broke out in the ship’s engine room, and the ship was left drifting without engine power and largely without most electricity. Ventilation systems and toilets did not function and water supplies were limited. Passengers reported human waste running in the hallways, noxious odors, and extreme heat, according to the Associated Press (AP). The ship was towed to Mobile, Alabama, where passengers disembarked on February 14. Carnival Corp. offered every passenger a $500 check, a voucher for a future cruise, refunds of most on-board expenses, and reimbursement for transportation back to Galveston.
This lawsuit, which is being heard by U.S. District Judge Donald Graham, is the first to go to trial, according to the AP. Passengers have testified about emotional issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression, and physical ailments including diarrhea, leg pain, upper respiratory problems, and aggravated hemorrhoids, which they attribute to the squalid conditions that developed aboard the ship. Carnival Corp. contends that the passengers cannot show that certain problems – kidney stones, post-traumatic stress disorder, and scratchy throats, for example – are linked to unsanitary conditions or to the fire. But an important precedent was set in the judge’s ruling that Carnival was negligent simply because the fire occurred, regardless of the cause, the AP reports.
Closing arguments will be presented in writing and Judge Graham will issue a decision as to whether the passengers deserve damages. He has already ruled that passengers cannot collect punitive damages, but only damages for medical costs conclusively linked to what happened on the ship. Most of the passengers involved in the suit are seeking $5,000 a year for life from Carnival, claiming they will need continuous medical monitoring. They have requested that the money be paid in lump sums based on government life expectancy tables, the AP reports.
According to Carnival Corp., at least nine other Triumph lawsuits are pending in South Florida federal court. This includes a proposed class action that would represent all of the approximately 3,000 passengers who were on the cruise, according to the AP.