Carnival Cruise Sued For 'Party Atmosphere' That Allegedly Led To Woman's Death
Casinos have lots of tricks to get you to spend money. They don't have clocks, or windows. They overwhelm your senses with lights, beeps and sirens. They make everything red, and play repetitive melodies on a loop to give you the trance-like sense of being in a womb. And they ply you with a lot of alcohol.
But if you get incredibly drunk on that alcohol, and shatter a glass that slices your arm, ultimately killing you from extreme blood loss, are the casino employees responsible?
Three weeks ago, Ila Parish filed a lawsuit against Carnival Corp., reports The Southeast Texas Record, for negligence by "fostering a party atmosphere," and failing to properly train its staff.
Parish is the mother of Angel Holcomb, a 39-year-old woman from Galveston, Texas, who died last year in a Carnival Cruise ship's infirmary as it glided through international waters toward Montego Bay, Jamaica.
Holcomb wasn't a heavy drinker, and drank slowly, according to the complaint. But on a May evening last year, she sat at a poker table in the Carnival Conquest's casino with a few family members, "mostly watching" the game, and at one point had four drinks in front of her.
The drinks were purchased by another guest, who was on a winning streak, but they were brought to her by a "uniformed waiter." A pit boss allegedly told Holcomb that she couldn't have so many drinks on the table, but that he'd bring her another one as soon as she finished.
Her mother allegedly expressed concern, but the pit boss and poker dealer chided her by saying that she should let Holcomb "have some fun."
Feeling unwell, Holcomb left for her cabin around midnight, according to the complaint. Her fiance allegedly found her lost and confused, and brought her to their room as a relative watched her "stumbling and eventually fall in the hallway because she was intoxicated and wearing heels."
Lawsuit Claims Cruise Workers Inadequately TrainedHolcomb later got out of bed and went to the bathroom to get some water, the complaint states, but dropped the glass. A shard tore through her left arm, and when her fiance ran to her, he found blood "spraying everywhere."
The complaint claims that the response of Carnival Cruise personnel was profoundly inadequate: The two crew members who came to help weren't properly trained; it took an hour after the emergency call for Holcomb to get to the infirmary; the employees brought "a canoe used for water rescues" instead of a stretcher; it couldn't fit in the elevator and they ultimately carried Holcomb down seven flights of stairs.
Fifteen minutes after arriving in the ship's infirmary, the plaintiffs claim, Holcomb went into cardiac arrest. An autopsy later found that a piece of glass had entered Holcomb's forearm and severed her ulnar artery.
The lawsuit filed in federal court in Texas alleges that the Carnival Cruise employees weren't trained appropriately in the way to serve alcohol to passengers or respond to emergencies, allowing guests to become dangerously drunk and hurt themselves. A Carnival Corp. spokeswoman declined a request for comment, because it's pending litigation.
Law Holds Drink Sellers And Servers LiableTexas, like many states, has a "dram shop law" which holds a drink seller or server liable if they sell or serve alcohol to someone who is "obviously intoxicated to the extent that he presented a clear danger to himself and others," and the alcohol is a proximate cause of the damages suffered. The law is usually invoked in drunk driving cases.
This isn't the only lawsuit that Carnival Corp. has on its plate. Last month, a teenager passenger filed suit against one of its cruise lines, accusing security staff of forcing her to strip, urinate, remove a tampon, and have her genitals examined as part of an aggressive strip search while she was still underage.
But Carnival Corp. likely faces its greatest legal challenge from the wreck of the Costa Concordia, which capsized off the coast of Italy in January, killing at least 32.
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Claire Gordon has contributed to Slate's DoubleX, the Huffington Post, and the book Prisons: Current Controversies. While an undergraduate at Yale University and a research fellow at Yale graduate school, she spoke on panels at Yale and Cornell, and reported from Cairo, Tokyo, and Berlin.
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