A jury has begun hearing a solicitor’s High Court action alleging that she was falsely detained on a cruise ship after making a sarcastic comment that “there may be a suicide”.
Caroline Fanning (49) described feeling “petrified” when security personnel arrived at her cabin after the ship activated its suicide prevention protocol in the early hours of August 8th, 2015.
Ms Fanning, of Foxrock Avenue, Dublin, has brought proceedings against travel agent Trailfinders Ireland Limited, with an office on Dawson Street, Dublin, over events she claims occurred while she and her 13-year-old daughter were on a package holiday on a cruise ship operated by Royal Caribbean Cruise Line.
She is suing for false imprisonment, assault and battery, defamation and breach of duty and contract. The jury heard on Tuesday that the claim of assault and battery relates to a security guard placing a hand on her. The defendant denies her claims and has lodged a full defence.
Opening the case, Barney Quirke SC, instructed by Conways Solicitors, for Ms Fanning, told the jury his client has a history of sea and motion sickness.
During a call with a Trailfinder’s representative in July 2015 she specifically requested a quiet cabin where there would not be too much motion on board the Oasis of the Seas, which has capacity for more than 5,000 passengers. It was part of her case that she was let down in this respect and that there was a breach of contract, said Mr Quirke.
The court will hear Ms Fanning and her daughter were in their pyjamas when they were “paraded” past other passengers at about 9am on August 8th after being held in a medical room, he said.
She and her daughter were later disembarked and were given no refund or assistance in getting home, he said. There was “no justification” for what happened, he added.
In the witness box, Ms Fanning said she felt “really sick” during the night of August 8th and felt moving to a room less affected by the motion might assist. She called the reception during the night, but the woman who answered was “quite hostile” and unsympathetic.
The receptionist, Ms Fanning claimed, said the ship was full so she could not be moved that night. She informed her “out of the blue” that someone could only be moved in a medical emergency.
Ms Fanning said she believed the woman was being sarcastic so she replied sarcastically that “there might be one tomorrow” and “there may be a suicide”.
“I did not mean it. It was pure sarcasm,” she told the jury, adding that the receptionist said she would have to trigger security protocol.
Ms Fanning said she was “petrified” when five or six security guards knocked on her cabin door. They tried to escort her to a medical centre, but she was afraid she would have to leave her daughter alone in the room.
The security guards, she claimed, said they were following protocol, and a short while later a doctor came to examine her.
She and her daughter were shortly afterwards brought to a medical room on a lower deck of the ship and a security guard was placed outside, she said, adding that the staff removed cutlery and knives from the room. She was told the protocol could be lifted if she was cleared by a land-based psychiatrist in the morning, she said.
“I felt like the whole situation had gotten totally out of control,” she added.
Mr Quirke said the defendant will say only three security guards, including one female, attended Ms Fanning’s room. They will claim she made a comment about suicide to more than just the receptionist, he said. He said the defendant will also contend that the events that occurred were reasonable, proportionate and in accordance with policies for the protection of life and safety of passengers.
Ms Fanning will continue giving evidence on Wednesday.