Contributors

Charles R. Lipcon
Charles R. Lipcon is the firm's founding attorney and has been handling injury, cruise line sexual assault and wrongful death claims for over 40 years. Read More »
Jason R. Margulies
Jason R. Margulies is an experienced maritime lawyer and an active trial attorney handling personal injury, cruise line sexual assault and wrongful death claims. Read More »
Ricardo V. Alsina
Ricardo V. Alsina is an active trial attorney, handling personal injury, cruise line sexual assault and wrongful death claims. Read More »
Michael A. Winkleman
Mr. Winkleman is an active trial and appellate attorney handling all personal injury, cruise line sexual assault and wrongful death claims, as well as complex business disputes. Read More »

In our last blog, our cruise ship passenger law firm noted that former Carnival CEO cashed a few stocks – and by a few we mean millions upon millions of dollars. But the real question is why. Let’s take a look at Arison’s recent actions and see if we can’t figure out what would lead one of the richest people in the world to liquidate these assets.

Just last week, Arison sold over $40,000,000 in Carnival stock in one transaction, then $17,900,000 in stock in another. The week before, Arison sold nearly $38,700,000 in stock. Then back in March, Arison got rid of another $395,000,000 in stock. That’s a pretty big chunk of change, which begs the question: Why is Arison getting rid of all his shares?

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questionThe past few years haven’t exactly been smooth sailing for Carnival Corp. – no pun intended. From the February 2013 fire that disabled the Carnival Triumph to the devastating Costa Concordia capsizing tragedy, Carnival Corp. has taken a hit, both in popularity and profits. But while Carnival may be the largest cruise company, and as such, it may take a lot more than a few bad years of negative press for Carnival to really experience a company-changing loss, it’s hard to ignore the elephant in the room. You know, that big one in the middle of the room that’s called negligence, plain and simple. The vast majority of the cruise ship accidents that have befouled Carnival Corp. – and not to mention the large number of crimes – are, in our opinion, directly attributed to the cruise company’s failure to abide by the highest standards of maritime safety.

Sure, there is always a chance that an accident can occur that’s completely the result of chance alone. Perhaps it’s just an unlucky day where everything seems to go wrong aboard a cruise ship or a series of unfortunate events. Strange occurrences can – and do – happen. However, in our years of experience as maritime lawyers and all the unusual (and not so unusual) accidents we’ve seen at our firm, the fact remains that most incidents at sea are the direct result of the cruise line or a crew member’s negligent actions.

The Carnival Triumph accident, for example, was recently found a by Federal Judge in Miami to have been negligent in the operation of the cruise vessel under a legal doctrine called Res Ipsa Loquiotr. What this legal doctrine means is that the type of incident like the Triumph would not have happened without some type of negligence on the part of Carnival. As a result, nearly 4,000 people were left stranded in the Gulf of Mexico for five days amidst some of the most ghastly and unsanitary conditions ever reported on a ship.

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HandcuffsEarlier this week, we reported on an alleged sexual assault aboard a cruise ship in St. Kitts on June 6. There wasn’t much information on the supposed incident at first, aside from suggestions that the alleged assailant was a crew member, but a recent article published by a local news source has confirmed that the assault did in fact take place and the attacker was in fact a Carnival crew member.

According to the news source, the assault occurred onboard the Carnival Valor, while the vessel was berthed at Port Zante. Details are still scarce, but the source reports that cruise operators alerted local authorities of the incident and the assailant was taken into custody the same day and charged with rape. The victim was a female passenger aboard the ship, but due to privacy concerns, their identity was not revealed. Unlike a victim’s privacy rights, however, the identity of the assailant can be disclosed. Strangely, neither local authorities nor Carnival operators have yet to provide details on the crew member’s name or the circumstances surrounding the assault.

We here find it extremely odd that the details regarding this cruise ship rape – which occurred nearly a week ago – still remain so ambiguous. Though cruise lines have long failed to accurately report crimes aboard their ships, especially sexual crimes, the identity of the assailant is usually revealed a few days after the incident is initially reported. This particular incident seems to be under wraps, which leads us to believe there may be something neither local authorities nor Carnival want to reveal.

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parasailingIn Part 1 of our two-part blog, we discussed the story of two teen girls who overcame all odds to graduate high school following a very serious parasailing accident in Panama City Beach , FL last July. The girls, Alexis Fairchild and Sidney Good, donned their caps and gowns and obtained their diplomas last Friday after miraculously surviving the accident that left both with critical injuries – injuries they are still suffering from to this day.

The tow connecting their parasail to the boat broke, causing the girls to crash into a condominium, power line and a parked SUV. And after traumatic brain and back injuries, the girls are happy to put the accident behind them. But unfortunately, the physical and mental damages they suffered as a result of the accident will follow them for years to come – if not the rest of their lives.

Fairchild and Good are just two of many parasailing accident victims who have been injured (or killed) due to the negligence of both parasailing operators to maintain gear in safe and working condition, as well as state legislators in failing to impose safety laws to govern parasailing operations. To this day, there has yet to be any state in the U.S. that actually has an effective law regulating parasailing practices, despite the number of victims who have been critically injured or who have lost their lives in parasailing accidents.

The Parasail Safety Council reports that in the past 30 years, over 1,200 parasailing accidents have occurred across the United States, leading to 400 victims suffering serious injuries and over 70 deaths. More than half of these accidents have occurred in Florida, where water sports like parasailing are extremely common. The vast majority of parasailing accidents can be avoided if operators actually maintain their equipment in working condition, but they don’t. Largely because there are no laws to regulate the safety of parasailing equipment. What’s worse, there aren’t any basic requirements for parasailing equipment maintenance to begin with! This means that operators are not obligated to abide by strict safety laws, which makes it that much harder to hold them accountable if there are no standards by which to judge them by..

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teens injured in Florida parasailing accident graduateWe’ve handled a number of parasailing accident cases and so we know full well of the hidden dangers of the popular water sport. I remember going parasailing as a boy and thinking what great fun it was. Little did I know that I was taking part in a water sport that was essentially unregulated.

No one knows the dangers of parasailing better than two young girls who are lucky to be alive.

High school graduation is a memorable moment for all. It’s a time of goodbyes, but it’s also a time of new beginnings. And a new beginning is exactly what graduation holds for two teenage girls in Indiana, who at this point last year, were not even sure if they’d be able to don their cap and gown for the ceremony.

Alexis Fairchild and Sidney Good graduated Huntington North High School last Friday, fully clad in their ceremonial garb. The girls were all smiles for the pivotal moment, but aside from getting their diplomas, the girls had something much bigger to celebrate – their lives. Fairchild and Good were involved in a devastating parasailing accident last summer in Florida, which left both girls in critical condition. The accident, which was caught on tape, occurred in Panama City Beach last July. Following strong winds, the parasail tow detached from the boat, leading the girls to crash into a condominium, then into a power line before plummeting roughly 13 stories into an SUV in a nearby parking lot.

Against all odds, the girls have recovered, but their injuries still haunt them to this day. Fairchild, who doctors were skeptical would even regain the ability to walk after the accident, is still receiving physical therapy treatments for her back injuries, while Good continues to suffer from vision problems.

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Cruise ship inspectionOur firm has reported on numerous sexual assault incidents aboard cruise lines over the years. In some cases, the incidents have involved other cruise passengers as the assailants, while in other cases, crew members themselves have been the suspects. Just last February, we reported on a horrific incident involving a female passenger who was brutally assaulted and raped by a Holland America crew member in her own stateroom. But while the idea of a crew member breaking into a passenger cabin seems to many a farfetched concept, sadly, the rate of sexual crimes on the high seas is more common than anyone might imagine. In fact, comprising 55 percent of all crimes reported to the FBI, sexual assault is the most frequently occurring offense on the high seas, and one of the most covered up.

We’ve previously discussed how cruise lines have underreported crimes over the years, mostly due to the fact that most ships are registered in foreign countries. By doing so, cruise lines are able to avoid stricter U.S. laws and are not as bound to disclose crime data as they would were ships to be registered in the United States. Also, with full disclosure of all criminal incidents onboard ships, cruise lines risk the negative press associated with these crimes and a drop in bookings. After all, who would feel safe traveling with a cruise line that held a high rate of sexual assault crimes?

Last year, Senator John “Jay” Rockefeller introduced a bill that would require cruise lines to increase transparency in their crime data reporting. The legislation was proposed after it became increasingly clear that the cruise industry was withholding information about their crime stats, especially when it came to sexual crimes. According to FBI data, cruise lines only reported 29 sexual assault or rape incidents to the organization in 2012 and only 11 of these incidents to the public. Who knows how many more incidents occurred that were withheld from both the FBI and civilians?

Which leads us to our next point. A news source in St. Kitts recently published a story on an alleged sexual assault incident onboard a cruise ship. The attack supposedly occurred on June 6 while the vessel was docked at Porte Zante. Oddly enough, no details regarding which cruise ship the supposed incident occurred on or information about the actual incident were provided. Is someone trying to conceal information?

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Cruise ship accidents on the riseIn our last blog, our cruise ship lawyers discussed a recent report that was published by the U.S. government regarding escalating crime rates in the Bahamas. As we’ve previously noted, crime in the Bahamas, and several other foreign ports frequented by cruise lines, is reaching an all-time high. Though there have been a number of ships that have either temporarily ceased calling on foreign destinations, or have at least issued warnings to passengers venturing to these dangerous locations, the fact still remains that cruise travelers are constantly at risk of getting injured or even killed due to the increasing criminal activity in some of the more popular Caribbean cruise destinations, the Bahamas being one of the most perilous.

Cruise lines can only do so much to help keep passengers and crew members out of harm’s way. Sure, stopping port visits would be the ideal situation, but let’s face it, if all of these dangerous locations are taken out of a Caribbean itinerary, the Caribbean itinerary would basically consist of an extended sail around the ocean without any actual stops. Cruise lines have no authority to implement crime-reduction tactics in the foreign ports they visit, but even when a cruise line tries to do the right thing, such as educate passengers of the potential dangers associated with a particular port, that nation’s government will fire back and complain.

After Carnival Cruise Line issued a warning to its passengers regarding crime in the Bahamas, and which places should be avoided the most, Nassau’s most popular resort, Atlantis, retaliated and demanded Carnival stop issuing the guest warnings because it would diminish their revenue. As usual, the providers of travel often favor money over a traveler’s safety. Atlantis officials said they were concerned about Carnival’s informative warnings, especially the warning of increased gun violence. Carnival also warned guests not to carry cash while in Nassau, over which Atlantis officials expressed their concern. Since Atlantis boasts one of the largest casinos in the world, of course a lack of cash would be an issue for them. Cash is much easier to spend than a traveler’s check or a credit card.

But then given the escalating number of attacks against travelers in the Bahamas, what exactly is the Bahamian government doing to minimize the risk for cruise passengers and crew members?

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HandcuffsCruise crime is an issue our maritime lawyers here at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A. have long been discussing. We’ve talked extensively about how some of the most popular cruise destinations, including the Bahamas, Honduras and Belize, are among the most dangerous locations in the world. Yet, while the number of crimes against tourists at these foreign ports continues to increase, little has been done to improve passenger and crew member safety when venturing to these nations. One approach is to completely avoid these ports – at least for the time being until crime rates start to decrease. This would be the ideal approach, since avoiding a dangerous place entirely assures that no one will be placed in harm’s way. Realistically speaking, we understand that cruise lines can’t completely eliminate certain port calls, because Caribbean itineraries would fall apart.

Another approach, which would at least provide some sort of alert regarding a particular port’s crime level, is for cruise lines to start educating passengers and crew members as to the truth about these destinations and the fact that there is a very high chance of armed robbery and sexual assault. A few months back, Carnival Cruise Line issued warning notifications to its passengers taking Bahamian itineraries, informing them of the crime rate and instructing them on which areas were deemed “safe” and which should be avoided. This was, in our opinion, a great idea. While the port wasn’t entirely avoided, at least Carnival recognized the possibility of passengers and crew members encountering a potentially dangerous situation, and wanted to ensure everyone was fully aware of which areas were more prone to criminal attacks so as to plan a visit accordingly.

Unfortunately, it’s been over a year since this warning was issued, and the Bahamas, among other foreign ports, continues to be a volatile destination for cruise travel. In fact, the situation is so dire, the U.S. Department of State addressed the issue in a recent publication, the Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) crime report for the Bahamas for 2014.

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Costa CruisesAre cruise ships safe? That’s a question each maritime injury lawyer at our firm is often asked. As a general rule, the answer is yes, cruises are safe! Cruising is one of the most popular – and convenient – ways to travel for a host of reasons. But unfortunately people have come to have false expectations regarding cruise safety. Most people think: Not only do you have everything you could possibly need at your fingertips, including food, alcohol and entertainment, but you also don’t have to worry about transportation to and from a hotel to a site or driving intoxicated, or any kind of accident… right? WRONG.

Though many would like to believe cruise travel is safe, in many ways, it can be dangerous. Though crime rates in popular cruise destination ports like Roatan Island, the Bahamas and Belize are increasing at alarming rates, the lack of safety is most often a result of the cruise industry’s failure to incorporate innovative equipment and policies that would prevent accidents and crimes from happening in the first place.

In Part 1 of our blog, we discussed two of the world’s most highly publicized cruise accidents: the Costa Concordia tragedy in 2012 and the Carnival Triumph fire of 2013. Though not the first two cruise accidents in history, these two incidents received so much media attention, it lead to the stark realization that there’s a whole world of safety violations and seemingly negligent practices within the cruise industry that the public rarely gets to see.

Not only have cruise lines failed to adopt state-of-the-art technology that would aid in the detection of accidents and crimes, but lines have also failed to properly train crew members on how to effectively handle emergency situations. Moreover, when an accident or crime does occur, cruise lines literally do everything they can to avoid compensating passengers for their pain and suffering and financial hardships.

A new cruise accident has once again highlighted this consistent lack of shipboard safety and lack of passenger rights consideration across the industry. A few days ago, another Costa ship, the Costa Deliziosa, suffered a power failure and blackout in Valencia, Spain, which caused the vessel’s electrical systems to shut down. Though power and main services were restored after a few hours, we have to admit, we were on the edges of our seats for quite a while. Given Costa’s accident history – and Carnival Corp.’s in general – we were a bit skeptical about the ship being repaired within a prudent amount of time. However, we were not only pleasantly surprised to learn that ship was quickly repaired, but that Costa made the decision to keep the ship in Spain until the repairs were made, instead of attempting to sail back and risk further damage to the vessel, which could potentially leaving passengers stranded at sea, similar to the Triumph incident.

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Costa CruisesIt’s been over two years since the Costa Concordia capsized near the coast of Giglio, Italy, leaving 32 people dead and hundreds injured. The Concordia tragedy will forever go down in history as one of the pivotal moments in cruise industry history because it brought to light a very real, but once very concealed reality – the fact that cruise lines don’t always follow maritime safety regulations.

The Concordia capsized because of one man’s decision (and his company allowing the decision to occur) to go against the ship’s planned itinerary, Capt. Francesco Schettino. Schettino made a last minute decision to bring the vessel close to shore in a maneuver known as a salute (which had similarly been performed in the past and the cruise line was aware of the manuever). This, in turn, caused the Concordia to crash into a large rock and become damaged. What happened next was even more shocking. Survivors recount how crew members were entirely unprepared to handle an emergency situation. Instead of helping passengers remain calm and evacuate in as much of an orderly manner as possible, victims explained crew members were scrambling around, unable to communicate with one another and making the evacuation procedure nothing short of a nightmare.

In the wake of the Costa Concordia accident, another cruise ship debacle caught the world’s attention, the Carnival Triumph fire. The Triumph made headlines not just because of the fire, but because the ship had no emergency backup generators, which caused over 3,000 passengers to suffer amidst deplorable shipboard conditions, including overflowing sewage, meager food provisions and non-working toilets. In this day and age, when cruise ships are built with the most innovative features and fully loaded with every entertainment option under the sun, it’s hard to believe that of all things a cruise company would fail to equip its ships with, it would be backup generators. Cruise ships these days are practically expected to fly, let alone do something as basic as, say, keep running after a mechanical issue. Many people have backup generators at home in case of an emergency.

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