Carnival Cruise Ship Ordered Held in Texas in Shipwreck Suit

A Carnival Corp. cruise ship was ordered held in a Texas port by a U.S. judge in a $10 million lawsuit filed by the family of a German tourist who died aboard the Costa Concordia shipwreck off the coast of Italy.

An arrest warrant was issued yesterday for the MS Carnival Triumph, a cruise liner based in Galveston, Texas, according to the lawsuit also filed yesterday in federal court in Galveston by the family of Siglinde Stumpf. The Triumph, owned by the same company that owns the Costa Concordia, provides year-round service from the Houston area to multiple ports in the Caribbean and Mexico.

“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,” U.S. Magistrate Judge John Froeschner of Galveston said in the warrant.

The Carnival Triumph 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.

“We are aware of the situation and are working through the appropriate legal channels to resolve it,” Jennifer De La Cruz, a spokeswoman for Miami-based Carnival, the world’s largest cruise-ship operator, said in an e-mailed statement today.

$10 Million Bond

“We are optimistic that the issues regarding the Carnival Triumph will be resolved and the ship will depart on its scheduled voyage later today,” she said.

The Triumph was scheduled to sail today for a five-day cruise to Yucatan and Cozumel, according to a Carnival website.

John Eaves Jr., the Jackson, Mississippi-based lawyer representing Stumpf’s family, said in a telephone interview today that 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 said.

Eaves said he’s part of an international consumer movement lobbying for increased oversight and safety standards in the global cruise industry. At least 25 people died after the Costa Concordia ran aground off Italy in January.

Changing the Law

“We’ve not been able to get Carnival’s attention, so this is our shot over the bow to let them know we’re serious about changing the law and maritime standards,” Eaves said. “We want a uniform set of safety standards, and we won’t stop until we get it.”

Carnival’s De La Cruz didn’t immediately respond today to an e-mailed request to confirm whether the company will post bond.

The case is Kai Stumpf v. Carnival Plc, 3:12-cv-0099, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas (Galveston).