The 10 Biggest Royal Caribbean Lawsuits in Company History
Although Royal Caribbean International is the Company’s flagship product, it also controls the luxury cruise brands Celebrity and Azamara Club. The inaugural Royal Caribbean was established in 1969, and in 1988, it combined with Celebrity Cruises to form what is now known as Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines. The massive cruise line of today operates several lines under its umbrella and a sizable fleet of cruise ships. Since the late 1960s, Royal Caribbean International has operated a fleet of 25 ships, transporting cruisers to 77 destinations across six continents. Among the first to include novelties like ice skating and rock climbing, Royal Caribbean’s ships have earned a reputation for being at the forefront of the cruise industry despite many lawsuits.
Each Royal Caribbean ship has a security team ready to deal with allegations or issues. Training employees is another way the organization strives to keep them safe on the job. All crew members, not only security personnel, receive extensive training and drills to prepare them for any emergency. That being said, some lawsuits have been filed against the Royal Caribbean that even their security cannot come to their rescue. Here are the ten biggest Royal Caribbean lawsuits in the Company’s history.
10. United States vs. Royal Caribbean ($27 Million)
In 1998 and 1999, the criminal penalties levied against Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd. (RCCL) totaled $27 million. The investigation began when the Sovereign of the Seas, the largest cruise liner in the world at the time, was caught on camera dumping oil into the water as it made its way to San Juan, Puerto Rico, sparking a preemptive Coast Guard surveillance operation. According to the Department of Justice, a covert bypass pipe was destroyed after a Coast Guard inspection, and the inquiry uncovered that all Royal Caribbean ships used identical techniques for disposing of waste oil.
In this case, the Coast Guard discovered a falsified Oil Document Book, a log that must precisely record all overboard discharges, and filed a false statement charge against the vessel. While Royal Caribbean, a corporation headquartered in the United States and listed on the New York Stock Exchange, argued that U.S. courts lacked the authority over the foreign registered ships, the U.S. government was able to secure desirable district court decisions in San Juan and Miami attempting to enforce the prosecution.
After being charged with making false statements in six different federal judicial districts (Miami, New York City, Los Angeles, Anchorage, U.S. Virgin Islands, St. Thomas, and San Juan, Puerto Rico), Royal Caribbean Cruises pleaded guilty in 1998 and paid $9 million to settle the case. The following year, an additional investigation led to an $18 million settlement. Additional violations of the CWA, OPA, and the RCRA were charged in the 1999 prosecution (RCRA). Oily pollutants and dangerous chemicals, such as dry-cleaning and photographic chemicals, were the source of these infractions in ports and coastal waterways.
9. Victims of the White Island Tragedy vs. Royal Caribbean ($30 Million)
Royal Caribbean travelers in 2019 were offered an up-close encounter with one of New Zealand’s most active volcanoes in advertising for tours to White Island. For several years before the tragic events of December 9, 2019, Royal Caribbean and its tour partners profited from selling trips to White Island. The volcano erupted rapidly around 2:11 p.m. local time, showering 38 visitors from the Royal Caribbean ship Ovation of the Seas with ash and hot gas. In Miami, where Royal Caribbean has its headquarters and flagship cruise terminal, survivors, family, and friends of those slain have filed several lawsuits seeking financial compensation from the business. There are yet to e any rulings on the lawsuits presented to the court. Sadly, this tragedy caused the death of twenty-two people, and even the survivors still suffer from the scars and injuries they sustained.
8. Lisa Sperman vs. Royal Caribbean ($20.3 Million)
While working as a staff member aboard the Voyager in August 2008, Spearman suffered crush injuries to her dominant wrist and sued Royal Caribbean in 2011. After a Royal Caribbean nurse incorrectly overrode Bridge Control during a safety drill, the victim’s fingers got trapped in the “pinch point” of a Semi-Watertight Door (“SWTD”) while the door was retracting back into the bulkhead (wall). According to Casetext, as a result, Spearman claimed she was diagnosed with PTSD and Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (“CRPS”) (“PTSD”). Sperman claimed Jones Act’s negligence and unseaworthiness against Royal Caribbean in the operative complaint, both of which were submitted to the jury and acknowledged in the verdict form. The verdict for the case won Lisa a payout of $20.3 million, which was a win for her given the circumstances and what she had to go through.
7. Crew Members/ Family vs. Royal Caribbean ($7 Million)
Numerous deaths and wrongful death claims were filed against Royal Caribbean after hundreds of instances of COVID-19 were detected aboard at least thirteen ships in the initial quarter of 2020. Meanwhile, Royal Caribbean told investors its safety processes were “aggressive” and would “ultimately contain the virus.” Despite the Company’s claims, its rules and processes were woefully inadequate in preventing the virus from spreading and safeguarding the well-being of its customers and employees. The Company’s willful disregard for aggravated the global spread of COVID-19 for reasonable safety safeguards. The Company’s reduction in bookings outside of China and its poor procedures and policies to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 on its ships were both matters that Defendants misrepresented or omitted to disclose during the Class Period.
During the Class Period, Defendants’ false statements pushed the price of Royal Caribbean shares artificially high. Lawsuits filed against Royal Caribbean soon after the Class Period revealed the Company’s subpar adherence to safety measures. One complaint was filed by the crew member’s family, who passed away after catching COVID-19, and another claim was filed on account of over a thousand crew members operating on the Company’s Celebrity Cruises line in conjunction with the Company’s failure to protect its personnel. In these cases, the plaintiffs claimed that Royal Caribbean violated their employees’ rights by not allowing them to wear face masks, allowing crews to host parties with lengthy buffet lines, and mandating continued relations in drills after operations had ended.
6. Puchalski Family vs. Royal Caribbean ($3.38 Million)
Cliff Puchalski and Laura Goodloe wanted to get off the Royal Caribbean ship Explorer of the Seas as soon as possible so they could accompany their father on his medical evacuation to a facility in Juneau, Alaska. Richard, their father, passed out after receiving the incorrect medication from the ship’s doctor. The outcome was that the 70-year-old man passed out in his bunk and had to be awakened after his heart stopped beating for over 20 minutes. According to CBC news, the crew could not wait to get Puchalski off the boat. However, he was in such a vegetative state after initially refusing to transfer him to the hospital in Juneau when he first began to exhibit signs of congestive cardiac failure earlier in the day.
Crewmembers prevented Puchalski’s kids from following him off the boat. To get their check and go, they had to pay the bill. Sadly, the Company has such little acknowledgment of human life, and it is a predicament that most cruise companies are facing today.
5. Michael Winkleman with Lipcon, Margulies & Winkleman, P.A vs. Royal Caribbean ($10 Million)
More than 300 participants in a class action lawsuit resulting from the hurricane disaster on the Anthem of the Seas in February 2016 were successfully represented by Lipcon, Margulies & Winkleman, P.A. Even though there had been multiple weather alerts sent before the Anthem of the Seas set sail, all of which emphasized the coming extreme weather conditions, the ship nonetheless sailed. In reality, four days before the ship’s departure, the National Weather Service’s Ocean Prediction Center had issued a notice mentioning the likelihood of severe storms. According to the Maritime injury center, still, the ship sailed right into hurricane-force winds rather than delaying or changing the course of the voyage.
This resulted in hours of pure anxiety and concern for everyone aboard that ship, including Royal Caribbean employees and their families. On February 25, 2016, Florida-based maritime lawyer Michael Winkleman on behalf of Florida citizen Frank DeLuca and all other passengers in a comparable situation, issued the proposed class-action lawsuit. Winkleman said that the cruise company “knowingly and willfully cruised toward what was effectively a hurricane” at a media briefing conducted that day. Additionally, in the days preceding Hurricane Harvey in August 2017, we represented a class of passengers who were left stranded in Texas.
The Company steadfastly asserted that it was departing on time and that any customers who opted not to board would forfeit their whole capital commitment to the trip rather than providing reimbursements or vouchers so that customers might take the necessary safety precautions. Royal Caribbean’s decision forced passengers to spend days stuck in Houston hotels at their own expense while traveling through one of the greatest storms in recorded history. Cruise passengers were trapped in leaky rooms, surrounded by floodwaters, and extremely worried about food shortages.
4. Crew Member vs. Royal Caribbean ($970,230)
Some situations are unpredictable, as you never know when emergencies will arise and ruin everything. This was the case with this lawsuit. Because Royal Caribbean would not offer therapy for chronic kidney illness, a cabin attendant on one of their ships was hurt. The cruise company was ordered by arbitration to give treatment, including dialysis, and the court awarded $970,230 in damages.
3. Royal Caribbean vs. Crewmember Injury Settlement ($560,000)
When it comes to ensuring the well-being of their employees, maritime companies, in general, have a significant responsibility; however, cruise lines have the added obligation of safeguarding the safety of thousands of guests. According to the Insurance journal, cruising, like any other marine activity, can result in mishaps, serious injuries, or even fatalities. When a cruise ship heads out to sea, the travelers and crew members on board put themselves in danger of various mishaps, including falling overboard, tripping and falling, fires, crimes, power outages, and infections.
Unfortunately, safety was not guaranteed when a waiter working aboard the Royal Caribbean ship Legend of the Seas had a wrist injury that required emergency surgery. The cruise company declined to treat the plaintiff in Miami but required him to seek care in the Philippines, where he was subjected to surgical blunders that left him unable to work and in constant pain.
2. Casey Holladay vs. Royal Caribbean ($75,000)
On the vessel’s “Sky Pad,” a bouncing trampoline activity, Casey Holladay, 26, claimed he shattered his pelvis in a twenty-foot tumble in February when the strap failed while he was thrown into the air. This is as per the lawsuit. The suit claimed that Holladay, a resident of Washington, was anticipating using the “Sky Pad” while on a weekend voyage to the Bahamas. Holladay has been disabled, has screws and plates in his pelvic region, and has sustained major orthopedic complications due to the significant injuries and surgery. He is fighting the Miami-based cruise for compensatory damages totaling more than $75,000. Additionally, he is requesting substantial compensatory damages.
1. Royal Caribbean vs. Capital Jazz ($4 Million)
Capital Jazz Inc. is being defended by Neil Quartaro and Robert Hayes in an ongoing case for contract breach brought by Royal Caribbean Cruises. The lawsuit was filed on January 13 in Florida Southern District Court and asks for compensation for Capital Jazz’s cancellation of a cruise ship contract in January 2022 due to the COVID-19 Omicron surge. Sanchez Fischer Levine is entrusted with representing Royal Caribbean.
Royal Caribbean is careless, and passengers on all ships risk being injured. According to Royal Caribbean’s statistics, sexual assault is just one of the numerous serious risks that could harm passengers and crew. Suppose it can be shown that Royal Caribbean International fails to take due care. In that case, the cruise line may be liable for overboard incidents, passenger disappearances, injuries sustained during shore excursions, and other potential harms. Some of these lawsuits would be avoided if the Company was extra keen on providing travelers with the best care.
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