Anthem of the Seas Lawsuit References El Faro
Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd faces at least two lawsuits by passengers accusing the company of negligently endangering their lives by letting its Anthem of the Seas cruise ship sail into a fierce Atlantic storm this month.
The lawsuits filed in the U.S. District Court in Miami claim that Royal Caribbean knew, or should have known, that a coastal storm carrying hurricane-force winds had been forecast before the ship set sail from Cape Liberty, New Jersey on February 6 for a scheduled seven-night cruise to the Bahamas.
Nonetheless, Royal Caribbean chose to sail the ship into the storm, motivated by a desire to profit at the expense of the safety, the lawsuits claim.
Reference was also made to El Faro in one of the suits which states: “More than 4,000 passengers were subjected to hours of sheer terror as the gigantic cruise ship was battered by hurricane force winds and more than 30 foot waves. This terror was amplified by the recent El Faro tragedy, wherein a cargo ship knowingly sailed into a hurricane and 33 crewmembers all perished.”
Cynthia Martinez, a Royal Caribbean spokeswoman, said the Miami-based company does not discuss pending litigation, and has taken steps to minimize the risk of another similar incident.
Royal Caribbean has said the storm was more severe than expected.
Passengers hunkered in their rooms as the Anthem of the Seas encountered high winds and 30-foot waves off the North Carolina coast, a day after its departure.
Royal Caribbean later turned the ship around, and it returned to New Jersey on February 10. The company offered passengers full refunds, and discounts on a future cruise.
One of the lawsuits seeks class-action status for passengers, and both lawsuits seek unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.
The first lawsuit was filed on February 18 by Bruce Simpson, a Delaware resident who claimed to suffer a concussion and other injuries after being thrown 18 feet into a door when the ship pitched violently.
The second lawsuit, the proposed class action, was filed on Thursday by Frank DeLuca, of Cinnaminson, New Jersey, who suffered back injuries during the voyage, and whose wife has suffered from panic attacks and sleeplessness, their lawyer Michael Winkleman said.
"Royal Caribbean showed an absolute lack of respect for the lives of its passengers," Winkleman said in a phone interview. A refund and a future cruise credit is insulting for what the passengers went through."
The suit states: “As the vessel was leaving Port, Captain Claus Andersen informed the passengers that there was a weather system building along the east coast and he intended to outrun the growing storm. In other words, RCCL was knowingly sailing directly towards a quickly intensifying hurricane.”
It goes on to describe the situation on board during the storm: “While confined to their staterooms for approximately twelve hours, passengers were holding onto their beds and/or whatever they could find in order to keep from falling due to the severe crashing of waves and listing of the vessel. Furniture was overturned and tossed throughout the vessel; broken glass littered all levels of the vessel; a portion of the ceiling collapsed; elevators became inoperable; waves crashed through open and/or shattered balcony doors; and water rushed in through numerous other areas of the vessel.
“Waves were crashing over the top of the lifeboats tethered along the side of the Anthem of the Seas as the ship listed heavily to either side. At times the vessel listed (tilted) as far as 45 degrees and the passengers were violently thrown across their cabins.
“Passengers scrambled to search for life jackets or floatation devices but were unable to do so. There were numerous families with small children aboard the vessel and parents did their best to protect themselves and their young children who were crying uncontrollably and screaming in sheer terror.”
The cases are Simpson v. Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida, No. 16-20595; and DeLuca v. Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd in the same court, No. 16-20689.
Details on the DeLuca suit are available here.
Captain Andersen explains his actions.