People around the world were understandably horrified by the pictures of an elevator gushing blood aboard the 2,056-passenger cruise ship the Carnival Ecstasy last week. Our cruise ship injury law firm in Miami received a number of inquiries from people wondering what had happened and if the passengers who had stumbled upon this gruesome scene were entitled to make some sort of personal injury claim against Carnival.

We have successfully sued and investigated claims against Carnival, Royal Caribbean, NCL, and other cruise lines on behalf of passengers who have been injured due to elevator accidents on cruise ships. From what I have seen in various media reports, passenger Matt Davis and his wife Susan had approached the elevators when he discovered that blood was pouring out of it.

Apparently, Carnival crew members were on hand, trying to divert him and his party away from the site. Miami-Dade Police are investigating the death and have so far released the name of the victim, a 66-year-old electrician from Italy, crew member Jose Sandoval-Opazo. The facts surrounding his death are still unknown. Our sincere condolences go out to Mr. Sandoval-Opazo’s family and fellow crew members.


There has been much written on the internet about this incident and why Mr. Davis would have chosen to videotape it. On the one hand, I can understand why some people would question his motives, but as a lawyer who frequently sues Carnival on behalf of injured passengers, I am aware that Carnival rarely provides any CCTV (CLOSED CIRCUIT TELEVISION) footage that would indicate how and why an alleged incident occurred–if anything happened at all.

CCTV footage could and would answer a lot of questions about potential claims, and more importantly serve as a valuable tool for the prevention of subsequent incidents. For example, if a passenger were to claim that he or she tripped and fell on a loose nosing on a step–or a wet floor–the CCTV could tell us how the dangerous condition was created as well as how long it had existed. It might show diligent crew members attending to the situation, or lazy and over-worked crew members simply stepping over it or ignoring it.

CCTV footage can and should be used, not just as a shield to protect cruise line coffers from the occasional frivolous lawsuit or claim, but also as a means to determine the root cause of dangerous conditions that can be prevented before they cause serious injuries–like broken ankles, legs, hips, arms, wrists, and necks.


Some of the emails we received asked me if Mr. Davis, his family, or other passengers who had witnessed the gory scene would be entitled to make a claim against Carnival for their emotional pain and suffering or distress. To be clear, at this time we do not represent Mr. Davis or any individual associated with this tragedy, nor have we performed an investigation or had access to any information beyond what has been reported on CNN and other media outlets. Nor do we have any information that Mr. Davis or anyone else has sought to bring a claim against Carnival.

In my opinion, he would not be able to successfully sue Carnival, if his claims were based solely on an emotional injury. Generally speaking, in maritime cases against cruise lines, claims based solely upon emotional distress have been uniformly dismissed by federal judges across the country.

First, the Ticket Contract (passenger ticket) for most cruise lines, including Carnival, specifically precludes claims based solely on emotional distress. Specifically, section 12 (d) of Carnival’s Ticket Contract states as follows:

(d) Carnival shall not be liable to the passenger for damages for emotional distress, mental suffering/anguish or psychological injury of any kind under any circumstances, except when such damages were caused by the negligence of Carnival and resulted from the same passenger sustaining actual physical injury, or having been at risk of actual physical injury, or when such damages are held to be intentionally inflicted by Carnival.

In other words, an actual physical injury must be associated with the alleged emotional harm for a passenger to sue Carnival.

Secondly, general maritime law also does not recognize claims based solely on emotional injuries. For example, if the injury occurs while the vessel is outside the state territorial waters (generally three miles from land or more), maritime law would apply, and it is used to determine both liability and damages.

Most reported cases require that either a physical injury or rape has occurred in order to sustain a passenger’s claim of purely emotional injury. In other words, without a physical injury, a passenger cannot recover damages for extreme emotional distress. For example, in a recent case against a cruise line, 207 passengers claimed to have been emotionally injured because the cruise ship encountered extremely bad weather, which the ship’s officers knew of but chose not to avoid.

The cruise line’s lawyers asserted that 141 of the 207 passengers did not sustain any objective physical injuries. The court dismissed those passengers’ cases and ruled that they were not entitled to recover any money for just their emotional distress.

If you have had an accident aboard a Carnival cruise ship, anywhere in the world, because of Carnival’s carelessness and have sustained a serious physical injury, you should consult with an experienced cruise ship personal injury attorney immediately.

Cruise lines like Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Norwegian, Disney, Holland America, Cunard, Princess, and MSC stipulate very strict procedures as to how, when, and where they can be sued. Strict statutes of limitations and written-notice requirements are often used by the cruise industry to confuse injured passengers and their lawyers.


Our lawyers have successfully sued Carnival and the other major cruise lines on behalf of hundreds of passengers. Let our years of experience, knowledge, and passion help you obtain the compensation you deserve for lost wages, medical expenses, travel reimbursement, and pain and suffering. Call us today for a free initial consultation at 1-866-597-4529 or email us at [email protected]. We also provide consultations via SKYPE and FACETIME. Speak to an experienced cruise ship accident attorney today.