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More Harassing the Cruise industry

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Carnival Triumph was seized by order of a federal magistrate on Saturday citing a lawsuit filed by the family of Siglinde Stumpf, a German tourist who died aboard the Costa Concordia in January when the ship ran aground in Italy.

The order was signed by U.S. Magistrate Judge John Froeschner of Galveston who wrote “The court finds that the conditions for an attachment of defendants’ joint and collective property within this district, mainly the MS Carnival Triumph, appear to exist upon an admiralty and maritime claim,” in the warrant.

The ship will be allowed to load and unload passengers and cargo and move between berths within the port until a “prompt hearing” can be scheduled, at which “the plaintiff shall be required to show why the attachment and garnishment should not be vacated,” according to the order. It is scheduled to sail today for a five-day cruise to Yucatan and Cozumel.

Oddly, the ship is being seized while the plaintiff (the person asking for the ship to be seized) has to show why the attachment and garnishment should not be vacated,” in a court hearing.

Meanwhile – the bond for the ship is $10-million, which it appears Carnival is putting together today and expects to have ready by the time the ship due to set sail for its next cruise.

The attorney for the Stumpf family, John Eaves Jr., a Jackson, Mississippi-based lawyer, said that although the Triumph “is currently seized” and must remain in port until the magistrate issues an order releasing the ship, “If Carnival posts a $10 million security bond, then everything can be done by agreement on the phone today.”

Eaves says he is part of an international consumer movement lobbying for increased oversight and safety standards in the global cruise industry. A more accurate way to describe him would be another attorney looking for any way possible to harass the cruise industry to force them into higher settlement agreements.

The cruise industry is the safest form of travel by far, with far fewer deaths and injuries per capita, than any other form of travel by far. But a large group of lawyers who have witnessed the boom in the cruise industry in the last 20 years have helped regular citizens create organizations with claims that the cruise industry is unregulated and not trustworthy, despite its exemplary safety record.

For the most part, these people refer to themselves as “cruise victims” regardless of the nature of the incident in which they were involved, the idea being to place the blame for everything that happens during a cruise on the shoulders of the cruise lines operating the vessels.

It is hard to say whether or not this order will stand, but the logic seems very convoluted in the case. The vessel was seized based upon the plaintiff’s complaint. But the judge said it will only remain seized if the plaintiff can show why the order to seize it should not be vacated. If that has not already been shown – why was the vessel seized?

The sad truth appears to be that the cruise industry is being attacked by government – looking for anything it can find to make life difficult for the successful cruise industry, which makes me wonder “what is happening in this nation?”

When companies fail we give them money to bail themselves out – generally with no restrictions on what they can do with that money, and much of it (billions) is now unaccounted for – but when you have a fully independent, successful industry that has never needed a bail out, the government decides to harass them – for being too successful. This is similar to the way Christine Duffy was treated in the recent Senate hearing led by Jay Rockefeller last month.

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Comment from Dave Beers
Time March 31, 2012 at 3:26 pm

I was stunned when I read the reports earlier today. How can you seize assets when the lawsuit has not been adjudicated? Is it any different than if I sued my neighbor and the moment my lawsuit hit the court docket they placed a lien on my neighbor’s house ‘just in case’ I win?

I read further and found the actual lawsuit documents on Google. If appears the magistrate was acting on some arcane rule having to do with neither Carnival plc or the Panamanian company the Triumph is flagged through being registered corporations in Texas, and hence he was required to ‘arrest’ their property that was within his jurisdiction since they had no legal protections as a registered corporation there.

The whole exercise is nothing but a stunt by the attorneys for the plaintiff, and all it did was annoy a lot of innocent passengers and probably the U.S. Marshals who had to enforce the order and miss a Saturday with their families.

Most people think lawyers get 25% to 30% of these type of actions. I can tell you from personal experience the law firms cut of any settlement or verdict will be at least 40% and perhaps 50%. They did this in order to push Carnival plc to settle out of court so they can walk away with several million dollars for not too much effort.

Comment from Kenneth Eden
Time April 1, 2012 at 6:07 am

I respect Pauls report and agree with David, both hitting this subject as it is, I will say it, sham and scam, on the part of US Magistrate. Ambulance chasers, er- cruise ship chasers.

The tragedy that befell the Costa Concordia is something so new, and so astounding in our modern times, we can expect to see more advantage taking from many corners, that will be mind boggling.

Comment from firsttimecruising
Time April 17, 2012 at 8:06 pm

This is so wrong. I understand the fright that the people on the Concordia had and deaths were totally uncalled for but going after individual ships in the US is terrible. Hopefully Carnival will research the other states and make sure this does not happen there. I am cruising in 2 weeks and will be real upset if the ground my ship.

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