Family Sues Celebrity Cruises for Allegedly Mishandling Body of Man Who Died on Board

Robert “Bob” Jones
Sims Funeral Home

Robert Jones’ body was “so far gone,” his family claims they were unable to have an open-casket wake and funeral.

A mourning Florida family has filed a lawsuit against Celebrity Cruises after they claim their deceased loved one’s remains were mishandled and left to decompose.

Husband and father Robert “Bob” Jones, 79, died of a cardiac event while on board the Celebrity Equinox on Aug. 15, according to a lawsuit filed by his widow and other loved ones. 

Jones’ wife of 55 years, Marylin Jones, along with his daughters and grandchildren have all been listed as the plaintiffs in the suit, with Celebrity Cruises being the defendant, the lawsuit states.

According to the lawsuit, after Robert passed, cruise employees offered two options to Marilyn: either remove her husband's body from the boat in Puerto Rico or have him stored in the ship’s morgue until they reached port in Florida. 

Employees also warned his loved ones that if his body was removed from the ship in Puerto Rico, Marilyn would be required to stay with him, until arrangements for could be made for his remains to be brought back to Florida, the lawsuit alleges.

The family was told if they released the body in Puerto Rico an autopsy may be performed, and if that happened it was unclear when his body would be able to be released back to the U.S., according to the lawsuit. 

Based on the information the cruise employees gave and the confirmation that the ship had a morgue capable of holding her husband's remains, Marilyn chose to have them store her husband's body on the ship until they reached port in Florida in six days, the lawsuit alleges. 

When the ship docked in Florida, a deputy sheriff and a local funeral-home employee went to retrieve Robert’s body and found it was not in the morgue but rather in a body bag placed on a pallet in a cooler, according to the lawsuit.

Robert’s body was found with signs of advanced decomposition, the suit alleges. His body was described as being found “expanded with gas formed from decomposing, his skin had turned green, and, with the intubation tube still remaining in his mouth and down his throat, there was blood splatter on the inside of the body bag,” the lawsuit said.

According to the lawsuit, since the cooler was not temperature-appropriate to stop advanced decomposition, Robert's family was unable to have an open-casket wake and funeral since his body was “so far gone” in the decomposition that the funeral home was not able to salvage him.

The cruise ship had a morgue but the lawsuit alleged it was not working properly at that time.

“The Celebrity crew in charge of storing Mr. Jones body during the six remaining days of the cruise acted recklessly, willfully, and wantonly, and without care for the Jones family’s loved one by failing to ensure that the morgue was properly working for the duration of the near week that the remains were stored under their care,” the lawsuit said. 

Celebrity Cruise declined to comment on the incident due to “sensitivity” and “out of respect for the family” according to CBS News

“Bob was happiest living in Northwest Florida where he made many lifelong friends and belonged to many community organizations,” his obituary states. “In his free time, Bob enjoyed driving and restoring vintage cars.”

Robert’s loved ones listed as plaintiffs are seeking $1 million in damages as well as a jury trial in the case, the lawsuit said. 

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