Miami, Fla. – The first lawsuit was filed against Royal Caribbean over the decision to sail the Anthem of the Seas cruise ship despite a predicted winter storm earlier this month, according to court documents provided to CNN.
Passenger Bruce Simpson says that once the storm worsened, the ship began to rock and tilt violently; while in his cabin, Simpson was flung nearly 18 feet against his cabin door and knocked unconscious, he alleges.
Simpson describes the chaos onboard as he sought medical treatment, saying there were insufficient emergency services available for passengers. After coming to, he was told to wait in his room until the storm calmed before seeking further medical attention, the lawsuit claims.
The lawsuit, filed last week in federal court in Miami, alleges that despite knowledge of a well-forecast storm, Royal Caribbean acted in negligence when it let the Anthem of the Seas sail off the East Coast with 6,000 passengers and 1,500 crew members. Simpson asks for compensatory and punitive damages.
“They took a calculated risk when they sent their passengers into the storm, and we don’t think the passengers should be the ones that pay for Royal Caribbean’s lack of judgment,” attorney Jason Itkin said in a written statement.
Simpson says that he suffered injuries to his face, torso and hands.
As of Wednesday, the cruise line says it has not seen the lawsuit.
“Until our legal department has an opportunity to review the filing, we will be unable to provide you with a response,” spokeswoman Cynthia Martinez told CNN.
Previously, the cruise line said there were four minor injuries during the voyage, which was cut short after four days of a planned seven-day excursion from New Jersey to the Bahamas.
The cruise line has said the storm the ship encountered was much worse than predicted.
“If we knew that we were going to have those kinds of winds, the winds that we actually experienced with the ship, we would not have sailed into that. No. Absolutely we wouldn’t have (left port),” Bill Baumgartner, the senior vice president of global marine operations, told CNN.
Passengers Justin Scerbo and his wife Allison Musante, told CNN that the ship was leaning so much — Scerbo estimates 45 degrees — that water from a faucet hit the wall instead of going down the drain. Glasses were tumbling off the counter. “After a vacation from hell, we’re good to just be at home,” Scerbo said.
Royal Caribbean said the ship suffered “superficial damage” to some public areas and cabins but has since been repaired and returned to the sea and as a result of the incident, it will be “strengthening its storm avoidance policy.”
How are passengers being compensated?
Royal Caribbean issued an apology to passengers for “what they went through” and will refund their fares. Those who were aboard will also get a voucher for 50% of what they paid for use on a future cruise, the company said in a news release.
Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida previously called for the National Transportation Safety Board to examine why the ship set sail.
“The thing about this storm was that it was forecast for days. So why in the world would a cruise ship with thousands of passengers go sailing right into it?” Nelson asked earlier this month. “I want the (NTSB) to come up with answers very quickly and make an admonition to mariners: When the storm is brewing, you don’t go out of port.”