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COSTA CONCORDIA: Injury Lawyers Start Building Lawsuits

Attorneys in Italy are busy putting together class-action lawsuits against Costa Cruise Lines and its parent company Carnival Cruises following the aftermath of the Costa Concordia shipwreck. Lawyers are reportedly working on separate lawsuits for the injured and family members of the deceased, as well as crew members of the luxury cruise ship that crashed into the rocks off of the coast of Italy’s Giglio Island on January 13th.

Reports indicate that 3,206 passengers were physically unharmed by the incident. Representatives of Costa met with consumer activists on Thursday in Rome in order to discuss a blanket deal for the passengers, which would include compensation for the ticket price of the cruise, transportation from the location of the crash, possessions lost or ruined due to the accident, and damages for trauma and the ruined vacation time.

Suits are also being filed in the United States, Germany, and France, among other countries. However, it looks as though Costa, unlike the Costa Concordia, isn’t going down even with a fight. One angry former passenger, Fernando Tofanelli, told the press that “[Costa representatives] were telling us, ‘If you want any money or compensation, you have to make a legal claim. You need to go to court.” Many of the passengers of the ship were stranded in Italy without passports, keys, food or other necessities and had to struggle to get home, he explained.

Tofanelli had just such an experience. He says that he had to borrow money from friends to keep him going until he could fly back to the United States. He was also unable to procure vital medications while abroad.

“Your representatives told us categorically, and a number of times that there would be no compensation, and that if we wanted to sue the company we would be most welcome to try. I found this response utterly disgusting,” he wrote in a letter to Costa Cruises after he was back home.

Carnival Cruises, Costa’s parent company, is protected by a cornucopia of terms and conditions that passengers must agree with when buying a ticket. The contract is 6,400 words long and stipulates that passengers cannot sue for over $71,000 even in cases of personal injury, property loss or death. It also forbids compensation for mental distress. It also says that “the Carrier shall be entitled to invoke whichever provisions provide the greatest limitations and immunities to the Carrier” if the incident occurs in non-U.S. waters. This essentially means that they can take advantage of every provision and loophole available to lessen liability.

Experts have also pointed out that certain laws limit liability if someone other than the owner of the ship is determined to be responsible for the accident. This may be why Costa has been so critical of its’ captain, Francesco Schettino, who has been largely blamed for the disaster. Schettino’s criminal defense attorney has been busy proclaiming his client’s innocence, especially in the wake of a negative drug test result.

According to the contract, proceedings regarding ships that do not come to port in the U.S. must be held in Genoa, Italy. Even without that restriction in the contract, the accident occurred in Italian waters and therefore the majority of legal action is likely to take place there. However, Carnival Cruise Lines is based in Doral, Florida, in the Miami-Dade county area, and one class-action lawsuit has already been reported in Miami.

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