Carnival Let Drunk Man Fall Overboard, Falsely Called It Suicide, Lawsuit Claims

A Texas woman claims in a lawsuit that Carnival Cruise Lines was not only responsible for the death of her husband after he fell overboard last September, but also slandered her family by telling the media that he had committed suicide.

Clint Markham, who died after falling off a Carnival cruise ship in the Gulf of Mexico, was the victim of negligence and Carnival-sponsored overindulgence -- not suicide, says his wife, Michele Markham. Furthermore, employees on the ship waited 20 minutes after her husband had gone overboard before launching a rescue boat, and never even recovered his body.

A spokesman for Carnival Cruise Lines declined to comment on the lawsuit, citing company policy on discussing pending litigation. Calls to Markham's lawyer in Fort Lauderdale seeking comment were not returned.

The accident took place on September 23, 2011, five days into a cruise aboard the Conquest that went from Galveston, Tex., to Cozumel, Mexico. The trip was a 40th birthday gift for Clint, who the suit notes had just started a new job and had two children.

But on the day of his death, he decided to get a little crazy on a shore excursion to nearby Passion Island. The lawsuit states that he began drinking at 10:30 a.m. and continued through until 3:30 p.m., taking down unlimited rum punches, margaritas, and beers while eating very little. The booze consumption didn't slow down in the evening, with Clint consuming two Everclear-based drinks between 4 and 6 p.m.

Michele claims she her husband to dial it back down, but Clint refused.

"Even though he had consumed excessive amounts of alcohol, Clint Markham had been conditioned by (Carnival) to keep partying, and to take it to the limit and beyond," the lawsuit states.

His inner Tom Cruise-in-Top Gun tapped, Clint, who the lawsuit states was "being the wild, untamed warrior/hunter male," left Michele in the couple's room and went out to continue drinking. Around 6:30 p.m., he went to the upper deck of the ship, where he perched himself on a railing. Then, without warning, he plunged face forward into the water.

The lawsuit claims that there was "no immediate response from the ship" after Clint's fall. 911 calls from other passengers didn't get through to the bridge, and only after roughly 20 minutes was a rescue boat sent out after him. That boat was unable to locate Markham, and his body was never recovered.

To Michele Markham, Carnival's negligence in monitoring the rail upon which Clint had been sitting was a failure to protect him. She also accuses the company of not having a rescue plan in order, and of serving him far too much alcohol while encouraging an atmosphere of getting blind drunk.

But she says even worse was the company's insistence that Clint had committed suicide. The lawsuit states that Clint "was neither depressed nor suicidal," left no suicide note, and had no history of mental illness. Furthermore, based on witness statements, Clint apparently blacked out before falling off the railing.

Nevertheless, the lawsuit alleges that Carnival called Clint's mother, also a plaintiff on the suit, to tell her that her son had killed himself. They also gave that explanation to the media, which surrounded the Markham home waiting for a response from Michele.

Michele is suing the company for intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligence. She's seeking damages, punitive damages, and costs.

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Jon Tayler