(MIAMI) — The first class-action lawsuit has been filed against Carnival Cruise Lines for the way it handled last week’s voyage aboard the Triumph. The ship lost power at sea after a fire, leaving more than 4,000 passengers and crew stranded at sea for several days. Now more than 100 incensed passengers are taking legal action against Carnival in Miami.
The suit, filed by Miami-based law firm Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, alleges that from Feb. 10 to 15, passengers “were forced to sleep on deck and/or in other communal areas on the vessel, relieve themselves into buckets, bags, showers, sinks, were given spoiled or rotting food that was unfit for reasonable safe human consumption, and were generally forced to live in squalid conditions that created a severe risk of injury, illness and/or disease.”
At issue, says attorney Michael Winkleman, is the “intentionality” of towing the ship to Mobile, Ala., instead of Mexico, which possibly added another 36 hours of misery to the already wretched trip. The lawsuit claims that Carnival put dollars over human suffering when it decided to pull the ship to Mobile and put passengers on buses from there, instead of docking sooner in Mexico and flying passengers on chartered jets to the U.S.
“In the race for the bottom line, I think they put profits over passenger safety and over passenger happiness,” said Winkleman, whose firm is also representing passengers from Carnival’s deadly Concordia shipwreck off the coast of Italy last year.
Carnival, however, claims it’s being generous, reimbursing passengers for the trip, plus offering them a voucher for a future cruise. The cruise line also added a $500 check for each passenger’s travel expenses. But passengers say that’s not enough for what they had to live through.
Interestingly, none of the upper-level passengers from the disaster cruise are taking part in the suit yet. But Winkleman says it’s still early.
“It was the lower two floors where all the sewage was really all backed up, and all the floors were laden with sewage and coming down the walls and things of that nature,” Winkleman said. “I haven’t heard a single account of anyone from an upper level room having a problem at this point — yet. Keep in mind, it may be early.”
He added, “It’s my guess that by the end of the week, we’ll probably have somewhere between 500 and a thousand passengers that want to be onboard with the class action.”
In order for the class action to be certified, a federal judge in Miami will have to decide that the welfare of the passengers supersedes the waiver they signed when they purchased their tickets, according to Winkleman.
For now, Carnival has declined to comment on the suit.
Whatever happens, Winkleman says he’s confident he can get his clients more than the $500 offered by the cruise line.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Kathryn Vasel, CNN
Holly Yan and AnneClaire Stapleton, CNN
Elise Labott, Kevin Liptak and Patrick Oppmann, CNN