US law firm sues after cruise drama

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An American law firm is mounting a class-action suit against Norwegian shipowner Torstein Hagen’s Viking Ocean cruise line and all its affiliated companies. It claims the cruise line knowingly and intentionally sailed right into a severe storm off the country’s northwest coast earlier this year, putting passengers in danger.

The stricken cruiseship Viking Sky drifted dangerously close to the rocks in the treachererous bay off Norway’s northwest coast. Now some American lawyers are attempting to win more compensation for passengers, and profit themselves, after the drama at sea. PHOTO: NRK screen grab

Norway’s state accident investigations board (Havarikomisjonen) hasn’t yet completed its official investigation of the cruise drama in the treacherous waters of Hustadvik in March. The Miami-based law firm Lipcon Margulies Alsina & Winkleman has nonetheless filed its class action lawsuit in the Superior Court of the State of California in Los Angeles, where Swiss-based Viking Ocean Cruises has an office.

The plaintiffs are listed as New Jersey residents and passengers Axel and Lauren Freudmann “on behalf of all similarly situated passengers on the Viking Sky cruiseship.” Even though the cruise line refunded all passengers’ fares, covered their expenses after the drama and offered to provide them with another cruise at a later date, that apparently wasn’t adequate compensation in the view of the US lawyers, who stand to profit themselves from the proceeds of any verdict or settlement.

‘Severe distress, pain and suffering…’
The claims alleges that cruise passengers “were subjected to severe distress both physical, psychological and emotional, endured pain and suffering along with physical and emotional injury as a result of the defendants Viking’s negligence … and/og intentional conduct.” It further alleges that Viking Cruises “sailed through notoriously perilous waters into the path of a Bomb Cyclone where, due to the defendants’ negligence, the vessel lost power leaving the vessel adrift to be battered by high seas and winds as it drifted towards dangerous reefs.”

The lawsuit cites passengers as being “unable to stand in their staterooms” and “being thrown out of their beds, causing various injuries.” Passengers “fearing for their lives, held onto whatever they could find while water rushed in through numerous other areas of the vessel. Furniture was overturned and tossed throughout the vessel; broken glass littered all levels of the vessel; elevators were inoperable; waves crashed through open and/or shattered balcony doors.”

The lawsuit, which features photos of the vessel and damage on board, goes on to claim that “hundreds of passengers including plaintiffs Freudmann were subjected to hours of terror, unsanitary conditions, lack of ventilation and trauma as they feared for their lives … all of which could have been easily avoided if defendants Viking simply waited to sail until after the severe wintere storm passed or rerouted the ship so that the passengers were not exposed to the dangerous weather conditions.”

Noted how ‘Hurtigruten’ stayed in port
The lawyers, referring to a newsinenglish.no story from March 25, further noted that two Hurtigruten ships (part of the Norwegian coastal liner service) “delayed their departure from their respective ports of call on March 22 in order to avoid sailing through the worst of the bomb cyclone the Viking Sky sailed through.” (The law firm did not notify nor seek permission from newsinenglish.no before reprinting portions of newsinenglish.no’s story in its legal claim.)

They sum up their complaint by stating that Viking Cruises “breached its duty of reasonable care under the circumstances.” They go on to recite alleged injury and losses suffered by the passengers on board, including subsequent “insomnia, depression, anxiety, nightmares and dizziness.”

Many passengers in the aftermath of the Viking Sky drama praised both staff on board the vessel and the rescue effort mounted by Norwegian authorities. There was no loss of life. Of the nearly 1,400 passengers and crew on board the vessel, 27 suffered injuries serious enough that they were sent to local hospitals for treatment.

The lawyers are nonetheless demanding a jury trial on all claims, with Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reporting that they also want the equivalent of nearly NOK 90 million (USD 10 million) in compensation, to be shared by all those on board the ship.

Jon Mørland, Oslo-based spokesman for the cruise line, told NRK that Viking had no comment on the lawsuit.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund