Concorida cruise ship survivors sue for $460 million 2012

Concordia Cruise ship being sued by survivors

January 13, 2012 the massive Costa Concordia liner struck rocks and rolled onto its side in shallow waters off of an island on Italy's Tuscan coast. This led to a panicked overnight evacuation and at least 16 deaths. Another 16 people were said to be missing. Franco Garbielli of Italy's civil protection agency that is heading up the rescue operation, confirmed that 14 of the bodies found had been identified. 

Initially, six of the surviving passengers of the wrecked Costa Concordia cruise ship filed a lawsuit against the cruise line on the same day the company offered each of the hundreds who had been aboard the vessel a lump sum of 11,000 euros, or $14,400 U.S. dollars. These initial six individuals filed the complaint asking for a jury trial and seeking retribution from Costa Cruises, its parent company Carnival Cruise Lines and two "John Does". The suit was filed in a court in southern Florida where the headquarters for Carnival operate. 

Another set of legal actions is being navigated in the United States. Peruvian crew member Gary Lobaton filed a lawsuit in an Illinios court. His lawyer, Monica Kelly of Ribbeck Law said she has never met those behind the other lawsuit, and that "we will add more (plaintiffs) in the coming week." Marc Bern, a senior partner with the New York based law firm Napoli Bern Ripka Shkolnik that is among those behind the initial lawsuit, also confirmed that they are representing "hundreds" of passengers who were aboard the Concordia Cruise ship, suggesting that many would be joining in on the lawsuit being spearheaded by the initial six surviving passengers. 

The plaintiffs first contacted the Italian consumer law group Codacons, which led to the creation of "an international legal vigorously advocate for passengers' rights." The lawsuit requests "economic and compensatory damages in excess of $10 million for the six named plaintiffs (and) punitive damages, in the amount of $450 million". Clearly, this per-passenger figure is far more than the $14,400 amount decided upon between Costa Cruises and consumer groups, which was announced by the Italian Association of Tour Operators, the day of the lawsuit filed by the six named survivors.

Within the lawsuit, the faults on the Concordia Cruise ship operators fall on several counts as follows:

  • maritime negligence
  • gross negligence
  • intentional infliction of emotional distress
  • negligent retention

Surrounding the compensation deal Costa agreed to, they expressed "its profound condolences to the families of the victims, our continued sympathy to the families of the missing, and our deep regret and sorrow for the damages and hardship the Costa Concordia ship accident caused to all its guests." Below is a list of the agreements the passengers would make in order to obtain the compensation package offered by Costa:

  • compensation would be paid to each passenger regardless of age
  • cover damage to and loss of property
  • cover any psychological distress suffered
  • reimburse the cost of the cruise 
  • reimburse any additional travel expenses 
  • return the contents of cabin safes to their owners if possible
  • set up a psychological counseling program for those passengers who request it
  • no one is obligated to sign this agreement
  • if they sign they cannot sue Costa
  • based upon their purchase of their cruise package, this may be the only option for them to recieve compensation as many were purchased online or through a different means, thus eliminating their right to sue for another compensation

Seperate agreements will be reached with those passengers who were injured and needed treatment at the scene, and with the families of those who died, mentioned in a statement from Costa. Costa is offering their package in accordance with both Italian and International law. Their desire was stated as seeking to 'give, after such a serious disgrace, a quick, concrete and adequate answer."

Many passengers were clear in saying they did not find this agreement in any way satisfactory, as they suffered major emotional trauma, as well as assisted many other passengers around them. It was also noted that many of these surviving passengers had not yet recieved anything from their rooms of their personal possessions, while some even swam to shore. Overall the belief from the survivors was that they wanted Costa to take individual experiences and actions into account, and placing a blanketed offer on the table would not suffice for adequate compensation for all the loss that was now part of their lives. Bern, the New York lawyer called the compensation offer "an insult. This was not an incident that could possibly be covered by the ticket limitations. This is an act of horrendous negligence." He also stated that one of the primary reasons for the high cost attached to the $10 million each and punitive damages at $450 million was in part to get "the attention of the defendants. We do not know the nature and the full extent of the damages that these people have suffered."

Meanwhile, the Captain of the Costa Concordia Cruise ship, Francesco Schettino, was under house arrest and facing possible charges of manslaughter, shipwreck, and abandoning ship. He admitted to prosecutors, defense attorneys, and a judge that he made a "mistake" in colliding with rocks off shore. But he has not taken responsibility for the suggestions made that he was going too fast as the prosecutors alleged. Schettino claims he ran the ship aground to keep it from sinking and limit the tilting. In addition to the above charges, he faces an astronomical 2,967 years in prision once all the charges are combined. 

The Concordia Cruise Ship was carrying 4,200 passengers and crew at the time of the shipwreck. Of those, 32 souls were declared dead or still missing and presumed dead. Those who lived to tell their stories each suffered different degrees of trauma, but for the famliies fo the 17 souls dead and 15 still missing, no monetary amount will ever replace their loss or comfort their grief. 



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