A Florida family has filed a lawsuit against Celebrity Cruises, alleging that the cruise liner placed their deceased family member in a drinks cooler on board, resulting in severe decomposition.
Robert L. Jones, 78, passed away on the Celebrity Equinox in August 2022 due to heart complications.
According to the complaint filed in the Florida Southern District court, Jones’ body was supposed to be stored in the ship’s morgue for six days until docking in Florida, as told to his wife Marilyn.
However, the family claims that Jones’ body was moved to a drinks cooler on a different floor of the ship instead.
Jones’ wife, Marilyn, and daughters, Robin Phillips and Teresa West, allege that they were urged by cruise workers to keep the body on board during a stop in Puerto Rico, rather than having it removed.
This decision allegedly led to the body decomposing to such an extent that an open-casket funeral, which is a long-standing tradition of the family, was not possible.
The body was reportedly kept in a body bag on a floor palette in a drinks cooler that was not at the appropriate temperature for proper storage of a body.
As a result, Marilyn, her daughters, and even her grandchildren are suing Celebrity Cruises for $1 million.
The lawsuit claims that the cruise line failed to store Jones’ remains properly, resulting in his body being in an advanced stage of decomposition.
The complaint alleges that Marilyn was told by cruise workers that she could either have her husband’s body removed from the ship in San Juan or have it stored on board for six days until their final destination in Fort Lauderdale.
The lawsuit further states that Celebrity Cruises recommended keeping the body on board and assured Marilyn that the morgue on the ship was equipped to handle a passenger’s death.
However, it wasn’t until a funeral services employee in Fort Lauderdale went to retrieve the body that it was discovered that the body had been moved.
The complaint alleges that the body was clearly in an advanced stage of decomposition, indicating that it was not stored properly to prevent decomposition.
The family also believes that the morgue on board the ship was not functioning properly at the time of Jones’ death and that they were not informed of the situation or involved in the decision to move the body.
In the lawsuit, it is mentioned that Celebrity Cruises has had previous instances of deaths on board and should have known how to properly handle and store a body.
The family accuses the cruise line of showing indifference to Jones’ passing, dignity, and the loss experienced by his family, friends, and community, and of neglecting the safety of his remains.
When contacted for comment, Celebrity Cruises declined to provide a statement, citing the sensitivity of the alleged facts and respect for the family.
The lawsuit filed by Jones’ family against Celebrity Cruises brings to light the importance of proper handling and storage of deceased passengers on cruise ships.
The alleged mishandling of Jones’ body has resulted in significant emotional distress and the inability to hold an open-casket funeral, which has deeply affected his family.
This case serves as a reminder for cruise lines and other entities in the travel industry to prioritize the respectful treatment of deceased passengers and to ensure that proper protocols are followed to prevent any mishandling or neglect of their remains.