In August, Marilyn Jones and her husband Robert set sail on an eight-day Caribbean cruise from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, aboard the Celebrity Equinox. Just two days into the trip, Robert, 79, suffered a fatal heart attack. In a federal lawsuit filed this week, Marilyn Jones claims she was presented with two options: disembark with her husband’s body in Puerto Rico, or have it stored in the ship’s morgue until returning to Florida. Assured that the ship could safely transport her husband’s body, she opted to remain aboard.
Upon returning to Florida, a funeral home worker and a Broward County sheriff’s deputy discovered that Mr. Jones’s body had been moved from the morgue to a beverage cooler. Due to the insufficient temperature in the cooler, his body had decomposed to the point that an open casket was no longer possible at his funeral. Marilyn Jones and her family are now seeking a jury trial and at least $1 million in damages for their trauma.
Celebrity Cruises has not released a statement on the lawsuit, citing the sensitivity of the alleged facts and out of respect for the family. The lawsuit reveals that Ms. Jones had been advised that disembarking in San Juan came with a “50/50 shot” of the coroner’s office there taking possession of her husband’s body for an autopsy before releasing it to a funeral home.
Maritime lawyer Jacob Munch, who represents Ms. Jones, told the New york Times the cruise lines have an obligation to maintain morgues, especially in sensitive situations like this one. The lawsuit claims that Celebrity Cruises’ handling of the matter had been “reckless and careless,” leaving the family devastated and struggling to heal.
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