Legal fight after an Atlantic nightmare

MV Athena yacht
MV Athena yacht
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A HOLIDAYMAKER who claims she endured a nightmare voyage across the Atlantic will hear if her battle for compensation is to go ahead – six years after the terrifying crossing.

Anne Hunt, of Raikes Parade, Blackpool, was among passengers on board the MV Athena when it was hit by two hurricanes in 2006.

Her claim for compensation has now gone before a High Court judge, who will have to decide whether it is fair for the case to go ahead after a six-year delay.

Mrs Hunt set off on the 24-day “Maple Leaf Cruise” from a British port to New York, New England and Canada in September 2006 and was set to visit Nova Scotia and Maine before sailing into the Big Apple.

Hell

But the trip of a lifetime turned into a holiday from hell when the ship hit heavy storms and high winds on its way to North America.

One passenger was killed falling down a flight of stairs and a number of others were injured as they tumbled from bunks or fell over as the ship listed in the terrible weather.

Mrs Hunt is among 17 passengers who say they were hurt and is now bringing a claim for substantial damages. The nature of the injuries have not been disclosed.

Her lawyers claim the travel company which booked them on the cruise and the ship’s owners and operators should be held liable for her injuries because of the “negligent” decision to set out in such bad weather and the lack of proper warnings.

She is suing Travelscope Holidays Limited and the Athena’s owners and operators, Classic International Cruises S.A and Arcalia Shipping Company Limited, who deny liability.

Lawyers for the owners and operators of the cruise are now arguing that the passengers’ claims should be struck out due to the “inordinate and inexcusable delays” in bringing the cases to court.

They say crucial witnesses, such as ship’s safety and medical officers, may not be able to attend a hearing so long after the event and their defence has been seriously prejudiced by the long delay.

However, Andrew Young, for Mrs Hunt, insisted the case can still be given a fair hearing and that striking out the passengers’ claims without a full trial would be “draconian”.

Mr Justice Teare – who commented that he saw “no reason why the case has dragged on so long” – reserved his judgment on the preliminary time delay issue and will give his ruling at an unspecified later date.