|Carnival Cruise Ship Hit With Lawsuit|
|By MATT GUTMAN (@mattgutmanABC) , CHRISTINA NG (@ChristinaNg27) and ANTHONY CASTELLANO (@AntCastellano)||Feb 15, 2013, 2:25 AM|
The first lawsuit against Carnival Cruise Lines has been filed and it is expected to be the beginning of a wave of lawsuits against the ship's owners.
Cassie Terry, 25, of Brazoria County, Texas, filed a lawsuit today in Miami federal court, calling the disabled Triumph cruise ship "a floating hell."
"Plaintiff was forced to endure unbearable and horrendous odors on the filthy and disabled vessel, and wade through human feces in order to reach food lines where the wait was counted in hours, only to receive rations of spoiled food," according to the lawsuit, obtained by ABCNews.com. "Plaintiff was forced to subsist for days in a floating toilet, a floating Petri dish, a floating hell."
The filing also said that during the "horrifying and excruciating tow back to the United States," the ship tilted several times "causing human waste to spill out of non-functioning toilets, flood across the vessel's floors and halls, and drip down the vessel's walls."
Terry's attorney Brent Allison told ABCNews.com that Terry knew she wanted to sue before she even got off the boat. When she was able to reach her husband, she told her husband and he contacted the attorneys.
Allison said Terry is thankful to be home with her husband, but is not feeling well and is going to a doctor.
"She's nauseated and actually has a fever," Allison said.
Terry is suing for breach of maritime contract, negligence, negligent misrepresentation and fraud as a result of the "unseaworthy, unsafe, unsanitary, and generally despicable conditions" on the crippled cruise ship.
"Plaintiff feared for her life and safety, under constant threat of contracting serious illness by the raw sewage filling the vessel, and suffering actual or some bodily injury," the lawsuit says.
Despite having their feet back on solid ground and making their way home, many passengers from the cruise ship are still fuming over their five days of squalor on the stricken ship and the cruise ship company is likely to be hit with a wave of lawsuits.
"I think people are going to file suits and rightly so," maritime trial attorney John Hickey told ABCNews.com. "I think, frankly, that the conduct of Carnival has been outrageous from the get-go."
Hickey, a Miami-based attorney, said his firm has already received "quite a few" inquiries from passengers who just got off the ship early this morning.
"What you have here is a) negligence on the part of Carnival and b) you have them, the passengers, being exposed to the risk of actual physical injury," Hickey said.
The attorney said that whether passengers can recover monetary compensation will depend on maritime law and the 15-pages of legal "gobbledygook," as Hickey described it, that passengers signed before boarding, but "nobody really agrees to."
One of the ticket conditions is that class action lawsuits are not allowed, but Hickey said there is a possibility that could be voided when all the conditions of the situation are taken into account.
One of the passengers already thinking about legal action is Tammy Hilley, a mother of two, who was on a girl's getaway with her two friends when a fire in the ship's engine room disabled the vessel's propulsion system and knocked out most of its power.
"I think that's a direction that our families will talk about, consider and see what's right for us," Hilley told "Good Morning America" when asked if she would be seeking legal action.
Carnival Cruise Passengers Consider Suing
While she said that she does not want to be greedy or exploit the situation, she does not feel that Carnival's $500 compensation is enough for the trauma passengers suffered.
"You talk about the emotional trauma and just last night, feeling what we went through last night while we were on land with our families and our insides just trembling," she said. "I don't think it begins to even say what is needed here."
In addition to the money, passengers will receive a full refund for the cruise, transportation expenses and vouchers for another cruise.
"We made our own nest [on deck] because we were just too terrified to go inside because of the smells and the germs, so we just banded together and made our own little nest and just survived," Hilley's friend Ann Barlow said.
Her friend Carolyn Klam said she got a stomach virus from drinking bad water once the power went out and friend Tammy Hilley said her cell phone was stolen this morning as the boat came into port.
"I think going back to our room was kind of traumatic and seeing that from day one we had no home, we were homeless," Hilley said. "We would go downstairs below deck and your feet could feel the sludge that you were walking through. The smells and the liquids draining from the ceiling and the stories of people sleeping in the hallways and the sanitary bags in the hallway, that was traumatic to just watch it start piling up."
The more than 4,000 passengers and crew began to disembark from the damaged ship around 10:15 p.m. CT Thursday in Mobile, Ala., amid cheers and tears. The last passenger left the ship at 1 a.m. CT, according to Carnival's Twitter handle.
Passenger Brandi Dorsett was thankful to be home, especially for her mother who was with her on the ship. Dorsett said she wasn't pleased with the doctor on staff.
"My mother is a diabetic, and they would not even come to the room because she cannot walk the stairs to help her with insulin. She hasn't had insulin in three days," Dorsett said.
The Carnival Triumph departed Galveston, Texas, last Thursday and lost power Sunday.
After power went out, passengers texted ABC News that sewage was seeping down the walls from burst plumbing pipes, carpets were wet with urine, and food was in short supply. Reports surfaced of elderly passengers running out of critical heart medicine and others on board squabbling over scarce food.
"It's degrading. Demoralizing, and then they want to insult us by giving us $500," Veronica Arriaga said after disembarking the ship.
As the ship docked, passengers lined the decks of the Triumph, waving and whistling to those on shore. "Happy V-Day" read a homemade sign made for the Valentine's Day arrival, while another sent a starker message: "The ship's afloat, so is the sewage."
Some still aboard chanted, "Let me off, let me off!" and "Sweet Home Alabama."
Kendall Jenkins was one of many passengers who were photographed kissing the ground when they exited the ship. Jenkins, like many passengers, created makeshift beds out of lounge chairs on the ship's deck after the raw sewage smell became too much to contend with.
"We kind of camped out by our lifeboat. We would have nightmares about Titanic basically happening," passenger Kendall Jenkins told ABC News Radio.
"I am just so blessed to be back home," she added.
First Law Suit Filed for Carnival Cruise Ship
Approximately 100 buses were waiting to take passengers on the next stage of their journey. Passengers had the option to take a bus ride to New Orleans or Galveston, Texas, where the ill-fated ship's voyage began. From there, passengers will take flights home, which Carnival said it would pay for.
Inside the buses, Carnival handed out bags of food that included French fries, chicken nuggets, honey mustard barbecue sauce and apples.
Deborah Knight, 56, decided to stay in Mobile after the arduous journey was over rather than board a bus for a long ride. Her husband Seth drove in from Houston, and they checked in at a downtown Mobile hotel.
"I want a hot shower and a daggum Whataburger," said Knight.
She said she was afraid to eat the food on board and had gotten sick while on the ship.
Carnival president and CEO Gerry Cahill praised the ship's crew and told reporters that he was headed on board to apologize directly to its passengers shortly before the Carnival Triumph arrived in Mobile.
"I know the conditions on board were very poor," Cahill said Thursday night. "I know it was very difficult, and I want to apologize again for subjecting our guests for that. ... Clearly, we failed in this particular case."
Luckily no one was hurt in the fire that triggered the power outage, but many passengers aboard the 900-foot colossus said they smelled smoke and were living in fear.
"You didn't know if the ship was going to explode, catch back on fire. You know, for a day or so, we didn't see any kind of sign of life. And so that's pretty scary when you're out there on the water," Robyn Burgess said.
Carnival's original plan was to tow the damaged ship to Progreso, Mexico, because it was the closest port, but by the time tugboats arrived, the ship had drifted about 90 miles north due to strong currents, putting it nearly equidistant to Mobile, Ala.
Carnival added that it has canceled a dozen planned voyages for the Triumph and acknowledged that the crippled ship had been plagued by other mechanical problems in the weeks before an engine-room fire left it powerless in the Gulf of Mexico.
ABC News' Michael S. James, ABC News Radio and The Associated Press contributed to this report.