Our Firm in the News
Carnival Cruise Ship Passenger Goes Overboard and Ship Refuses to StopMarch 14, 2013
Carnival Cruise Line continues to make headlines following yet another cruise ship accident on the high seas. But while the “Fun Ship” company has been receiving negative press after the Carnival Triumph cruise ship debacle, it appears as though the most recent incident has surpassed the others in terms of gross negligence and disregard for passenger safety.
A cruise ship passenger who went overboard last year has sued Carnival Corp. after claiming she was encouraged to get alarmingly drunk, sustained severe injuries after falling into the ocean and was not offered immediate assistance, leaving her to float in the ocean for hours before being rescued.
The victim, Sarah Alexandra Badley Kirby has filed a suit against Carnival Corp., the parent company of Carnival Cruise Line, and four others, including two doctors. Kirby claims a bartender got her so drunk that she fell overboard, and while eyewitnesses reported the incident immediately after it occurred, it took the vessel about two hours to rescue her because the captain refused to immediately turn the ship around after being notified of the accident.
Kirby explained she was a passenger on the Carnival Destiny on a cruise from Miami to Jamaica with her fiancé and her friend Rebecca when she went overboard on Oct. 21, 2012. She claims a bartender “kept pushing” Long Island iced teas on her and encouraged her and her friends to keep drinking.
According to the complaint, the bartender “offered them free $5 coupons for the ship’s casino. The more drinks they purchased, the more free coupons the Carnival bartender offered the plaintiff and her companions.”
After becoming what she describes as “extremely intoxicated,” Kirby returned to her stateroom with Rebecca. Kirby later went out to the cabin’s balcony to get some fresh air, but as she was holding the balcony’s wooden banister, she lost her grip and balance and fell overboard.
However, Kirby didn’t just fall straight into the ocean. She first fell two stories, hitting a life raft, then plummeted five more stories into the water. Kirby suffered severe injuries, including several fractures, blood clots, lung contusions, hypothermia, and many other wounds.
Hurt and in pain, Kirby tried to swim and stay afloat, but kept swallowing water, which she said “would crash into her face.” She believed she was going to die out in the water.
Meanwhile on the vessel, her friend Rebecca immediately notified authorities that Kirby had fallen overboard and others who were onboard also corroborated the story after either seeing the incident themselves or hearing Kirby fall into the water. Rebecca and Kirby’s fiancé demanded the cruise ship staff to stop the vessel, but the request was denied and they were allegedly told that the vessel would not be stopped until crewmembers first searched the ship.
Despite the eyewitness accounts of the cruise ship accident, and the many cruise ship disappearances that have taken place over the years, leading to what we would hope would be improved safety protocols, the vessel’s authorities refused to help, claiming they were merely “following standard procedure.”
For the next 90 minutes, Rebecca and Kirby’s fiancé were interrogated regarding the incident, finding themselves repeating the same story over and over, until finally, the vessel turned around to help Kirby.
After spending two hours in the ocean with serious injuries, it was a miracle Kirby was found and survived. But the nightmare doesn’t stop there. After Kirby was brought back onboard, instead of being treated for her injures, she claims ship’s doctor merely gave her some pain medication. Kirby also alleged Carnival refused to airlift her to a hospital, and instead, diverted the ship to Key West, where “doctors explained that they did not have the equipment to handle the severe trauma that plaintiff had suffered” and told her she should have been airlifted from the ship directly to Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, which would have been the closest hospital to treat her trauma wounds.
About 16 hours passed from the time Kirby fell overboard to the time she actually began receiving the medical treatment she needed. Her injuries were so severe that she had to remain hospitalized for three weeks.
Carnival claims it was trying to “follow protocol” but the several eyewitnesses who reported actually seeing Kirby fall into the water should have been enough proof to have the ship turned back around to offer her immediate assistance. When a cruise ship’s authorities refuse to do everything within reasonable power to help victims, they can be held accountable – at least in part – for the victim’s injuries. Once recovered, Kirby decided to seek legal help for the incident with our law firm, and is being represented by our cruise ship passenger attorneys Michael Winkleman and Carlos Llinas Negret.
Our attorneys are helping Kirby seek punitive damages for negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress for refusing to help her once notified of the incident.
The complaint states that “Carnival’s conduct was so outrageous in character, and so extreme in degree, as to go beyond all possible bounds decency, and to be regarded as atrocious, and utterly intolerable in a civilized community.”
Although Kirby was a victim of negligence, it is a wonder she even survived the traumatizing cruise ship accident. Many cruise passengers who fall overboard are killed or go missing and their bodies are never recovered.
Statistics show that between 1995 and 2013, 198 cruise and ferry passengers and crewmembers have fallen overboard. A whopping 91 overboard victims were passengers or crewmembers onboard Carnival Corp.-owned ships, and 48 incidents were onboard Carnival Cruise Line vessels alone.
Many times, missing cruise victims are never heard from again, and their loved ones are left to deal with the incident alone and without the help of the cruise lines. Because most cruise ships fly foreign flags and are registered in foreign countries, any accident, including an overboard or missing persons’ incident, is subject to be investigated by that particular country. This means that information takes a long time to reach the United States – if ever – and in the meantime, cruise companies are able to wash their hands of the task of conducting their own investigation, providing victims’ loved ones with an explanation of what happened and do not have to worry about giving updates on the case.
Anytime an incident occurs that leads to a missing cruise ship passenger or crewmember, victims’ loved ones have the right to turn to an attorney for assistance in filing a claim and protecting their rights. Cruise lines have a duty to provide a safe environment onboard all vessels, and when they fail to do so, they may be responsible for providing damages to surviving victims or the loved ones of those who have perished at sea.