Carnival Triumph passenger sues cruise line

Coast Guard investigation could take 6 months

MOBILE, Ala. – The first lawsuits against Carnival Cruise Lines for its ill-fated Triumph voyage have been filed in federal court.

The news comes as a Coast Guard official says the engine-room fire on the Triumph that started the debacle was caused by a leak in a fuel oil return line.

In a teleconference Monday, Cmdr. Teresa Hatfield estimated that the investigation of the disabled ship would take six months.

A Houston woman who was aboard the ship claims she suffered "permanent bodily injury, pain and suffering, mental anguish and a loss of capacity to enjoy life."

"I expected to get some sun, I didn't expect to come home in the situation I was in and it's not fair", said Lisa Williams who endured eight days at sea while the ship was stranded in the Gulf of Mexico with no power, little food and few working toilets. Many of the 3000 passengers were forced to sleep on deck, avoid sewage flooded hallways, and endure long lines for food.

In her lawsuit, Williams claims she became dehydrated on the ship and spent the weekend in and out of urgent care centers getting IV drips.

"Nobody offered me additional water, and I was not about to drink water coming out of the ship!" Williams said.

Her lawsuit seeks $75,000 from the Miami based cruise lines and is among the first of what experts say are sure to be many more. But Miami maritime attorney James Walker said passenger really aren't entitled to anything because when it comes to suing a cruise line, the devil is in the details, that is, the fine print at the bottom of the ticket.

"They drafted these terms and conditions to really strip away all of the rights of the passenger," Walker told Local 10's Roger Lohse.

Carnival's ticket contract states the company can't be held responsible for emotional distress and mental suffering. But Walker says physical injuries are another story. In Williams lawsuit, the Houston woman claims the chaos aboard the Triumph left her battered and bruised.

"When your gut tells you you're not going to survive this event, that shouldn't be allowed to exist," Williams said.

Carnival reimbursed passengers for the cruise, gave them credit for another one and $500 cash to boot. Walker said that's more than the company was legally obligated to provide and that it will be up the judge to decide if Williams deserves even more for the injuries she says she sustained at sea.