Sunday, 22 January 2012

Costa Concordia disaster: Cruise firm faces US lawsuit

Costa Concordia disaster: Cruise firm faces US lawsuit

The company operating a cruise ship that sank off Italy last week is facing a class-action lawsuit in the US.
The capsized Costa Concordia lies off the coast of the island of GiglioItaly's consumer association Codacons and two US law firms told the BBC they would file the suit against Costa Cruises on behalf of the passengers.
Costa Cruises has blamed the ship's captain, who denies responsibility, for the incident
They want at least $160,000 (£105,000) for each passenger on the ship.
Costa Cruises, owned by US-based Carnival Group, has suspended the ship's captain. At least 11 people were killed in the accident.
The Costa Concordia ship, which had more than 4,200 passengers aboard, collided with rocks off the coast of the Tuscan island of Giglio a week ago. Hundreds were injured and 21 remain missing.
Mitchell Proner, a lawyer with Proner & Proner, said: "Along with Codacons, we have formed an association and our firms are collectively going to be filing a suit in Miami, by Wednesday next week, on behalf of all the victims of the Costa Concordia disaster."
'Rogue captain'
Mr Proner said claimants would be seeking compensation for continued medical care, loss of earnings as well as the psychological impact they had suffered while trying to get off the ship.

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Not only is Costa owned by an American company but they have brought themselves into our stream of commerce”

He said that some of the claimants - currently 110 - would seek two or three times the minimum claim, while the worse cases could seek as much as 1m euros.
Costa Cruises have blamed Capt Francesco Schettino, currently under house arrest, for committing "grave errors of judgement" including making an "unauthorised manoeuvre" in the Costa Concordia.
The firm has withdrawn its offer to pay legal fees for the captain - who denies all responsibility - and has begun the process of launching a civil claim against him in Italy.
But Mr Proner said that the firm could not pin all responsibility for the disaster on a "rogue captain".
"It's easy to say this captain acted alone," he said.
"There are indications that there have been regular route deviations in the past. There should have been safeguards on board, where were the alarms? If there was a dereliction of duty, what was going on on their computer systems?
"At the time of the Titanic it might have been easy to say that radars didn't exist. Nowadays, with all the technology, it isn't. There had to be a failure in the system that allowed this to happen."
'Protecting rights'
A spokesman for Costa Cruises said the firm's legal department would, in due course, be responding to allegations against it but was focusing now on the situation on the island of Giglio.
He said that, as an initial gesture, a full refund and discount on future cruises had been offered to all passengers.
The president of Codacons, Marco Ramadori, said the offer was insufficient.
"They are offering to refund the cost of the ticket as if you had missed a plane and lost your luggage. You cannot compare the two," he said.
Costa passengers are reported to have signed a contract when buying their cruise that any litigation will take place under Italian law, in Italy.
But Mr Proner said that he thought it likely that the US courts would accept the case.
"The US has a long tradition of protecting rights and not only is Costa owned by an American company but they have brought themselves into our stream of commerce," he said.
"There were 120 Americans on board and they will demand access to their rights."