FORT LAUDERDALE, FL– A widow and her family are suing Celebrity Cruises for allegedly mistreating her husband’s body after he died on a ship last year, saying it was left to decompose and they suffered extreme emotional trauma.
After Marilyn Jones’ husband, Robert Jones, 55, died of a heart attack aboard the Celebrity Equinox on Aug. 15, his body was stored for almost a week in a walk-in cooler normally used for drinks rather than in a properly refrigerated morgue She was promised, according to the federal lawsuit filed in Florida.
As a result, the body was bloated and green, and the family was unable to hold an open-casket funeral, “which was a long-standing family custom and which his family had requested,” the lawsuit says. Marilyn Jones, her two daughters and three grandchildren are suing for $1 million in damages.
Celebrity Cruises declined to comment, citing the sensitivity of the case and “out of respect for the family”. Cruising the Caribbean year-round from Fort Lauderdale, the Celebrity Equinox is flagged from Malta and is capable of carrying nearly 3,000 passengers and 1,200 crew.
According to the lawsuit, filed in Fort Lauderdale on Wednesday, his widow was given two choices by crew members following the death of Robert Jones.
They allegedly told Marilyn Jones, then 78 and from the Florida Panhandle, that his body could be removed at the next station, Puerto Rico, or kept in the morgue until the ship returned to Fort Lauderdale in six days. Because passenger deaths sometimes occur, most large cruise lines have a morgue.
The crew told her that if she chose Puerto Rico, she would have to go with the body and then arrange transportation for her and herself back to Florida, the suit says. She was also told that island authorities might require an autopsy, which could further delay her return.
Since Jones was alone, she chose the morgue. But the body was not kept there, the lawsuit says.
When the ship arrived in Florida, a funeral home and a Broward County sheriff’s deputy found that the morgue appeared to be out of order. They found the body in a walk-in beverage cooler in a bag on a pallet, according to the suit.
The cooler is said to have been significantly warmer than the near-freezing temperatures required to properly store a body, and the remains of Robert Jones were in “advanced stages of decomposition”.
The celebrity’s actions caused the family “extreme trauma from imagining Mr. Jones’ body horribly decomposed and from knowing that her husband and father were recklessly and casually left in a drinks cooler, belying his dignity.” took,” the suit reads.
Jones’ attorneys are seeking a jury trial.