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Triumph passengers could take legal action against cruise line

By BY JESSICA PRIEST - JPRIEST@VICAD.COM
Feb. 14, 2013 at 9:04 p.m.
Updated Feb. 14, 2013 at 8:15 p.m.


A Victoria attorney expects some of the thousands of people aboard the Triumph cruise ship to file lawsuits after what was supposed to be a pleasurable and relaxing experience became anything but.

Longtime Texas civil and criminal lawyer G.P. "Geep" Hardy III said the vessel - similar to others in the Carnival Cruise Line fleet - was flying under a Bahamian flag, which allows the company to avoid U.S. taxation and regulation.

He said the 13-deck ship was likely inspected for things, such as whether it had the appropriate number of life vests and the proper emergency plans in place.

He said that inspection wouldn't have been as rigorous as one performed on an airplane by the Federal Aviation Administration.

The cases could be heard in federal courtrooms in Galveston; Mobile, Ala.; or anywhere Carnival docks. The amount of recovery or damages claimants could seek might be limited if Carnival proactively files a document that stipulates it shouldn't be responsible for anything more than the cost of the ship, Hardy said.

He said calling Carnival's offer made Wednesday to pay each passenger an additional $500 "fair" might be too simplistic.

"It's not a question of whether I think it's fair because you take these on a case-by-case basis," Hardy said, noting his sister was onboard the Triumph for a school reunion. "If someone is going to have their health compromised for life by this, I certainly don't think it's fair."

Margie Swannack, who took the Caribbean trip with her husband, Victoria dentist John Swannack, along with five other families from Meyersville, said she thought Carnival's offer wasn't enough for what she endured.

Thursday afternoon, as the boat crept slowly toward the Alabama coast, she didn't know whether they'd pursue legal action.

"It depends. ... We want to make sure we're safe before we make any decision," she said.

Lois Cano said Thursday that it was probably the last thing on her mind.

"If you go through a class action suit, by the time they pay the lawyers and divide it amongst 3,200 people," there would be little left, Cano said. "Right now, all we're concentrating on is getting off of this boat."

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