A family from Florida has filed a lawsuit against Celebrity Cruises alleging that the cruise company placed their deceased relative in a beverage cooler, causing significant decomposition.
Robert L. Jones, 78, passed away on August 15, 2022, while onboard the Celebrity Equinox due to heart complications.
According to Jones' wife, Marilyn, his body was meant to be stored in the ship's morgue until they docked in Florida, six days later.
However, Jones' family doubts that happened and has filed a lawsuit against the cruise company.
The lawsuit filed against the cruise company alleges that at some point during the trip, Jones' body was transferred to a beverage cooler located on a different floor of the ship.
His wife, Marilyn, and daughters, Robin Phillips and Teresa West, claim that they were advised to keep the body on board instead of disembarking during a stop in Puerto Rico.
As a result of allegedly being transferred from the ship's morgue to a beverage cooler, the body of Robert L. Jones is said to have decomposed to such a degree that the family was unable to have an open-casket funeral, which was an important tradition for them.
According to the lawsuit, after being moved from the morgue, Jones' body was placed in a body bag on a floor palette in a beverage cooler that was not at an appropriate temperature or suitable for storing a body correctly.
Marilyn, her daughters, and even her grandchildren are now suing the cruise company for $1 million.
On April 19, a lawsuit was filed in the Florida Southern District court, claiming that Celebrity Cruises failed to properly store the remains of Robert L. Jones, resulting in his body being too decomposed for an open-casket funeral.
The lawsuit outlines how Marilyn was given two options by cruise staff: to have her husband's body removed from the ship at San Juan or to have it stored correctly on board for six days until they arrived at their final destination in Fort Lauderdale.
It read: "Celebrity employees told Plaintiff Marilyn Jones that if she had her husband's body taken ashore in San Juan, she would be required to stay in San Juan with his body and would have to make arrangements for transport for herself and her husband's body back to the mainland United States.
"Plaintiff Jones was 78 years old at the time and was without any other family members on board the ship."
According to the complaint, the cruise company assured the family that they had a functioning onboard morgue equipped to handle a passenger's death.
The lawsuit contends that Marilyn was advised by the cruise staff to keep her husband's body on board, and she trusted that his remains would be appropriately cared for.
It was only when a funeral services employee arrived at the morgue in Fort Lauderdale to collect the body that it became apparent that the body had been moved.
The complaint alleges that the advanced state of decomposition suggests that the body was never properly stored to prevent decomposition.
The family further alleges that the onboard morgue was not functioning correctly at the time of Jones' death, and they were not informed of this issue or consulted before his body was moved.
The lawsuit points out that Celebrity Cruises has dealt with deaths in the past and should have known how to handle storing a body properly.
The family argues that the cruise company's actions demonstrate a disregard for Jones' passing, dignity, and the loss felt by his family, friends, and community. They claim that Celebrity displayed a lack of care for the safety of his remains.