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Stricken cruise passengers bring class action against Carnival

The Carnival Triumph cruise ship is towed towards the dock at the port of Mobile, Alabama, February 14, 2013. REUTERS/ Lyle Ratliff
The Carnival Triumph cruise ship is towed towards the dock at the port of Mobile, Alabama, February 14, 2013. REUTERS/ Lyle Ratliff

By Tom Hals

(Reuters) - The owner of the stricken Carnival Triumph cruise ship was hit by a lawsuit seeking class action status for stranding more than 3,000 passengers for five days on a ship without electricity or adequate sanitation.

Carnival Corp should be held liable for physical and emotional anguish inflicted on the passengers as well as punitive damages, according to the lawsuit by Matt and Melissa Crusan. The lawsuit was filed on Monday in U.S. federal court in Miami.

The Triumph was towed into Mobile, Alabama, on Thursday, four days after a fire knocked out the ship's power while it was off the coast of Mexico.

The lawsuit alleged the world's largest cruise company failed to provide a seaworthy ship. In addition, "motivated solely by financial gain" Carnival negligently brought the Triumph to Mobile, where it would be repaired, rather than a closer Mexican port. That decision extended the trip by 350 miles, the plaintiffs said.

Passengers were exposed to disease as sewage and "human waste sloshed around the vessel as the vessel listed while drifting and/or while under tow," according to the lawsuit.

Carnival does not comment on pending litigation, said company spokesman Vance Gulliksen.

The lawsuit seeks to represent all of the passengers on the stricken cruise.

The complaint said that the Triumph ticket limits passengers' rights to bring a class action, but that provision should be voided by Carnival's negligence in using an unseaworthy vessel and not towing the ship to the nearest port.

Carnival has offered Triumph passengers $500, reimbursement for their transportation and many onboard costs, and given them a credit toward a future cruise equal to the amount they paid for the Triumph vacation.

Attorney Charles Lipcon, of Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman in Miami, which filed the lawsuit, said in an email that if the compensation was offered with no strings attached, passengers should accept it and still consider suing.

Jim Walker, who specializes in representing cruise ship passengers, told Reuters last week that the compensation offer was probably more than Triumph passengers would likely win in court. Walker is not involved in this suit and said he is unlikely to bring a case.

"We have a different opinion and think that passengers can do much better than the Carnival offer," said Lipcon.

The class action lawsuit is at least the second by a Triumph passenger. On Friday, Cassie Terry of Brazoria County, Texas, sued Carnival.

Like the Crusans, Terry sued for the conditions aboard the ship, which lacked working toilets and proper ventilation.

The case is Matt Crusan and Melissa Crusan v Carnival Corp, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida, No. 13-20592.

(Reporting by Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware; Editing by Carol Bishopric and Lisa Shumaker)

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