Carnival cruise ship briefly seized in Texas

March 31, 2012 - 7:35 PM
Italy ship aground

In this picture provided by the Eaves Law Firm on Saturday, March 31, 2012, unidentified US Marshals are seen enforcing an arrest warrant on board of the Carnival Triumph cruise ship moored at Galveston harbor, TX, U.S.A., Saturday, March 31, 2012. An arrest warrant was issued on Friday for the MS Carnival Triumph, a 2,758-passenger cruise liner based in Galveston, that is owned by the same company that owns the Costa Concordia, the luxury cruise ship that ran aground off the coast of central Italy in January killing some 30 people. U.S. Magistrate Judge John Froeschner of Galveston ordered the ship held in a $10 million lawsuit filed by the family of a German tourist who died aboard the Costa Concordia shipwreck off the Italian coast. (AP Photo/Eaves Law Firm, handout)

DALLAS (AP) — U.S. marshals briefly seized a cruise ship in coastal Texas on Saturday under a judge's order in a $10 million lawsuit filed on behalf of a woman who died in the Italian cruise ship disaster.

The Carnival Triumph was seized for several hours at its port in Galveston, where it was scheduled to leave with 2,700 passengers. Both sides said they reached a confidential deal late Saturday afternoon that released the ship for its five-day cruise to Mexico.

A Texas judge had ordered the seizure to secure the plaintiff's claims against Carnival Corp., the Miami-based parent company of the Italian cruise line whose ship hit a reef and sank off an Italian island in January. The lawsuit was filed Thursday on behalf of a German woman who died in the wreck, which killed 32 people.

Plaintiff attorney John Eaves Jr. said he didn't file the lawsuit to inconvenience passengers of the Carnival Triumph, but rather to emphasize to Carnival the need for improved safety. He said terms of Saturday's agreement were confidential.

Carnival released a statement noting that the lawsuit was related to a European-based sister cruise line. The company said "the matter involving the Carnival Triumph" was resolved and the ship departed early Saturday evening.

Deputy U.S. Marshal Alfredo Perez confirmed that marshals seized the vessel and held it through Saturday afternoon. Passengers were allowed on and off the ship, which wasn't allowed to leave its port while the deal was negotiated.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of the estate of Siglinde Stumpf, claims that Carnival shared responsibility for Stumpf's death for not preparing and maintaining proper safety programs for all vessels under its control, including the ill-fated Costa Concordia.

The Italian captain of the Costa Concordia when it sank, Francesco Schettino, is under investigation for alleged manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning ship during the evacuation. Schettino has denied wrongdoing and claimed that the reef wasn't marked on charts.

Eaves argued that the company's training for captains and crew members is inadequate. He said a major aim of the lawsuit was to persuade Carnival to improve safety standards and to join in a campaign to update maritime law, which he said has some good elements but "we want to bring it into the modern age."