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First lawsuit filed in Carnival cruise debacle

February 15, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
The first lawsuit has been filed in the wake of the crippled Carnival Triumph cruise ship that left thousands of passengers in miserable conditions for days.

Texas resident Cassie Terry sued Carnival Corp. on Friday in Miami federal court. The suit seeks unspecified damages, saying Terry feared for her life or that she might suffer serious injury or illness because of the presence of raw sewage and spoiled food.

Carnival cruise ship tickets require that all lawsuits be filed in Miami. Maritime attorneys say it's difficult but not impossible to win a case unless the plaintiff can show actual injury or illness.

Carnival spokesman Vance Gulliksen said the company hadn't seen the suit and was not in position to comment. The Triumph was disabled Sunday by an engine fire.

The disabled Carnival cruise ship Triumph docked Thursday night in Mobile, Alabama. Cheers went up as passengers disembarked the ship. It took about four hours for all onboard to get off the ship.

The Triumph sustained an engine fire at sea about 150 miles off Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula.

The vacation ship carrying some 4,200 people docked late Thursday in Mobile to raucous cheers from passengers weary of overflowing toilets, food shortages and foul odors. The nearly 900-foot long ship is the largest ship ever to dock at Mobile.

The National Transportation Safety Board sent a team of six investigators to examine the ship in Mobile.

Carnival spokesman Vance Gulliksen said passengers had three options: take a bus straight to Galveston, Texas, to retrieve cars parked at the ship's departure port, take a bus to New Orleans to stay at a hotel before a charter flight home or have family or friends pick them up in Mobile.

As if the passengers hadn't endured enough, one of the buses broke down during the two-hour ride to New Orleans. Carnival spokesman Vance Gulliksen said the passengers got on another bus and made it safely to New Orleans. Passengers aboard another bus also said their luggage was somehow lost.

As ship conditions deteriorated, travelers formed Bible study groups, shared or traded precious supplies and even welcomed strangers into their private cabins. Long after they've returned to the everyday luxuries of hot showers and cold drinks, passengers said, they will remember the crew and the personal bonds formed during a cruel week at sea.

The ship left Galveston, Texas, on Feb. 7 for a four-day jaunt to Cozumel, Mexico. An engine-room fire early Sunday paralyzed ship, leaving it adrift in the Gulf of Mexico until tugboats towed the massive 14-story vessel to Mobile. It arrived late Thursday to cheers and flashing cameras.

Passengers described water-logged carpet, sewage seeping through the walls, overflowing toilets and a stench so bad people choked when they tried to endure it.

But by most accounts, the crew did as much as they could, using disinfectant and picking up plastic bags of feces after toilets stopped working.

NTSB spokesman Keith Holloway said the agency was working with the Coast Guard and the Bahamas Maritime Authority, which will serve as the primary investigative agency.

The Bahamian government was taking the lead because the Triumph is a Bahamian-flagged vessel, and it was in international waters at the time of the fire, Holloway said.

Passengers described a horrifying scene after the fire. Some said they smelled smoke and received conflicting instructions about every 15 minutes over the PA system. Others ran for lifeboats.

No one was hurt in the fire, and just two people were taken off the ship for medical conditions as a precaution.

Carnival CEO Gerry Cahill apologized at a news conference and again on the PA system as people disembarked.

"I appreciate the patience of our guests and their ability to cope with the situation. ... I know the conditions on board were very poor," he said. "We pride ourselves on providing our guests with a great vacation experience, and clearly we failed in this particular case."

The first lawsuit has been filed in the wake of the crippled Carnival Triumph cruise ship that left thousands of passengers in miserable conditions for days.

Texas resident Cassie Terry sued Carnival Corp. on Friday in Miami federal court. The suit seeks unspecified damages, saying Terry feared for her life or that she might suffer serious injury or illness because of the presence of raw sewage and spoiled food.

Carnival cruise ship tickets require that all lawsuits be filed in Miami. Maritime attorneys say it's difficult but not impossible to win a case unless the plaintiff can show actual injury or illness.

More lawsuits are expected from some of the 4,200 people aboard the Triumph. It was disabled Sunday by an engine fire and finally towed to shore Thursday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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