Skip to main content

Lawsuit filed over 'floating hell' cruise

By Tom Watkins, CNN
February 16, 2013 -- Updated 1453 GMT (2253 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: "This is not the kind of thing where people are paralyzed, people died," CNN's Jeffrey Toobin says
  • "It's too early to put any type of number on it," lawyer says of possible damages
  • Passenger endured "deplorable, unsafe and unsanitary conditions," suit says
  • Carnival says it has not seen the lawsuit

(CNN) -- "A floating toilet, a floating Petri dish, a floating hell." That was how a Texas woman described the Triumph in a lawsuit filed Friday against Carnival Cruise Lines.

In the nine-page complaint, Cassie Terry, of Lake Jackson, south of Houston, seeks unspecified damages for what she says she endured on a vacation cruise aboard the Triumph to Mexico.

The cruise departed Galveston on February 7. Three days later, when the ship was 150 miles off Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, "an engine room fire knocked out its primary power source, crippling its water and plumbing systems and leaving it adrift," the complaint says.

Tears and big hugs as passengers reunite with families

For the following nearly five days, Terry, 25, "was forced to endure deplorable, unsafe and unsanitary conditions, including but not limited to, sweltering temperatures, lack of power and air conditioning, lack of hot or running water, and lack of working toilets," it says.

During the 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," it says.

"Plaintiff was forced to endure unbearable and horrendous odors on the filthy and disabled Vessel, and wade through human feces in order to reach food lines where the wait was counted in hours, only to receive rations of spoiled food. Plaintiff was forced to subsist for days in a floating toilet, a floating Petri dish, a floating hell."

See sewage run down walls inside ship
'Everyone will need psychological help'

According to the complaint, "Defendant knew the vessel was not seaworthy, either at the time it contracted with Plaintiff, or at the point of departure, but did not advise Plainttiff the Vessel had and was experiencing problems with its propulsion and/or engine room fire suppression equipment."

As a result of relying on Carnival's representations, "Plaintiff has been injured in mind and body," it says.

Passengers credit crew's work

Lawyer Brent Allison, a partner in Gilman & Allison of Pearland, Texas, said Terry "was feeling nauseated and running a fever."

Asked what his client was seeking, he said, "It's too early to put any type of number" on it.

"We have not yet seen the suit and are not in a position to comment," Carnival said in a statement.

Investigation under way

Carnival has said it would give each passenger $500, a free flight home, a full refund for their trip and for most expenses on board, as well as a credit for another cruise.

CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin said the gestures by Carnival are likely a starting point for negotiations. Most litigation, he said, will not go to trial.

"You can be sure Carnival wants to avoid reliving this experience in court, because it has, of course, been a public relations disaster," Toobin said Friday.

"Yes, this was very inconvenient, it was very unpleasant, but this is not the kind of thing where people are paralyzed, people died," Toobin said. "That's where the big money tends to be in lawsuits. This is mostly, I think, a public relations problem for Carnival. Who is going to want to go on one of these cruises? That's the issue they will really have to think about."

The towed Triumph arrived in Mobile, Alabama, late Thursday.

Cruising into court

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
Carnival cruise ship problems
March 16, 2013 -- Updated 1437 GMT (2237 HKT)
First, it was Triumph. Then, Elation. Then, Dream. And now, Legend.
March 18, 2013 -- Updated 1217 GMT (2017 HKT)
Jebb Graff isn't turned off -- yet -- by Carnival Cruise Lines' recent troubles.
March 16, 2013 -- Updated 1437 GMT (2237 HKT)
Within the span of a month, four Carnival ships have reported problems.
March 15, 2013 -- Updated 0022 GMT (0822 HKT)
Carnival will fly all passengers on the Carnival Dream back to Florida after the ship suffered a generator failure while docked in the Caribbean.
February 18, 2013 -- Updated 0210 GMT (1010 HKT)
The crew aboard Carnival Triumph didn't hesitate when a fire broke out and power was lost, an emergency that turned the cruise liner into a bobbing Porta-Potty.
February 16, 2013 -- Updated 1453 GMT (2253 HKT)
"A floating toilet, a floating Petri dish, a floating hell." That was how a Texas woman described the Triumph in a lawsuit filed Friday against Carnival Cruise Lines.
February 15, 2013 -- Updated 1646 GMT (0046 HKT)
Click through our gallery to see the docking of the Carnival Triumph.
February 16, 2013 -- Updated 1456 GMT (2256 HKT)
Before the thousands of passengers and crew of the snakebit Carnival Triumph debarked Friday, an investigation into what went wrong had already begun.
February 15, 2013 -- Updated 1244 GMT (2044 HKT)
Parisa Safarzadeh shares her account of the hellish trip on the Carnival Triumph.
February 15, 2013 -- Updated 1240 GMT (2040 HKT)
Brianna Adkins stepped off the Carnival Triumph early Friday and into the arms of her anxious parents.
February 15, 2013 -- Updated 0257 GMT (1057 HKT)
CNN's Erin Burnett takes a look at the events in the Carnival cruise ship Triumph's attempts to return to port.
February 15, 2013 -- Updated 1249 GMT (2049 HKT)
It was Sunday that a fire broke out in the engine room on the Carnival Triumph, leaving it adrift in the Gulf of Mexico.
February 14, 2013 -- Updated 2200 GMT (0600 HKT)
Passengers aboard the cruise ship Triumph spell out "help" with their bodies.
February 15, 2013 -- Updated 1252 GMT (2052 HKT)
The last few years have seen a rash of engine fires aboard cruise ships -- many of which have led to an almost total loss of electrical power.
February 15, 2013 -- Updated 2218 GMT (0618 HKT)
As three tugboats towed the disabled Carnival cruise ship Triumph back to port in Mobile, Alabama, things went from bad to worse.
February 15, 2013 -- Updated 1316 GMT (2116 HKT)
People on ship and shore take to social media to complain.
February 15, 2013 -- Updated 1352 GMT (2152 HKT)
Days of sipping umbrella drinks have given way to the stench of backed-up sewage, stuffy cabins without power and limited food. The Carnival Triumph engine fire shows that the best-laid cruise plans can veer terribly off course.
February 15, 2013 -- Updated 1249 GMT (2049 HKT)
Some passengers may be in the mood to sue over their Carnival cruise experience.
February 14, 2013 -- Updated 2021 GMT (0421 HKT)
A lot goes on behind the scenes and below decks, and the industry would rather you not know about it.
ADVERTISEMENT