By Ted Scouten

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MIAMI (CBSMiami/AP) —  A passenger – on board a ship battered by a major storm while in the Atlantic Ocean- has filed a lawsuit against Royal Caribbean in Miami federal court, his lawyer said Thursday.

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The proposed class-action lawsuit filed by attorney Michael Winkleman says Royal Caribbean “knew or should have known” of warnings for hurricane-force winds in the Atlantic before Anthem of the Seas set sail Feb. 6th from Bayonne, New Jersey.

“Literally, concurrent with the Anthem of the Seas leaving, NOAA forecasted there was going to be hurricane force winds,” Winkleman said.

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The 4,500 passengers hunkered down as the ship encountered 30-foot waves off North Carolina the next day. A portion of the propulsion system was damaged, and the Miami-based cruise line canceled the seven-day cruise, returning to New Jersey. Passengers received a refund and certificate for half off a future cruise.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of Frank DeLuca of Cinnaminson, New Jersey, includes forecasts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Ocean Prediction Center, which noted the possibility of storm-force winds along the coast near Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, on Feb. 7th. The agency on Feb. 5th issued a storm warning for the area.  “I was wondering who had control of the boat.  The boat seemed to be out of control.  Getting tossed all over the place,” DeLuca said in a phone interview with CBS 4’s Ted Scouten. “It was a pretty chaotic scene,” he said.

According to the lawsuit, passengers had to hold onto their beds or anything else “to keep from falling due to the severe crashing of waves and listing of the vessel” for about 12 hours. Furniture was overturned, broken glass littered the ship, elevators were inoperable and water rushed through numerous areas of the ship.

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Any passenger who was on the ship can be represented by the lawsuit, which alleges gross negligence on the part of Royal Caribbean. So far, about 75 passengers have signed on. The lawsuit seeks punitive damages for severe emotional, psychological and emotional stress endured by passengers.

“For the captain to challenge those waters with 4,500 passenger and 1,600 crew members, I find it quite disturbing,” said DeLuca.

At least one other lawsuit was filed over the incident — on Feb. 18th by Bruce Simpson of Delaware, who was also on board Anthem of the Seas.

Under terms of passenger tickets, most lawsuits against cruise lines are filed in South Florida federal court.

Royal Caribbean spokeswoman Cynthia Martinez said via email that the company doesn’t comment on pending litigation.

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Ted Scouten