Costa Concordia Survivors Face Mounting Legal Obstacles

Survivors of the sunken Costa Concordia cruise ship may have a series of regulatory obstacles to clear before they receive compensation for their injuries and losses, according to a recent Reuters article. According to the report, Carnival Corp, the cruise industry leader whose Italian subsidiary owned the Costa Concordia, is notorious for taking great, if legally questionable, lengths to protect itself from potential big-money lawsuits.  The Costa Concordia, which sunk on January 13, 2012, became an international news sensation after its captain allegedly abandoned ship, leaving passengers and crew members in want of instruction and leadership. The incident left 32 dead and many more with significant physical, emotional and financial damages. 

Reportedly, the contracts which Carnival provides regarding legal redress in the event of an accident are often written in intentionally confusing professional jargon and, in many cases, not given to passengers until moments before they step onboard. Under these contracts, accident victims are usually required to file suit in remote locations where lawyers demand payment regardless of outcome and personal injury cases can drag on indefinitely. (In the case of the Costa Concordia, the ticket contracts state that all claims are to be instituted only in the courts of Genoa, Italy). Continuous legal proceedings coupled with cultural barriers and additional costs are typically enough to deter victims of Carnival Cruise accidents from following through with litigation. 

By creating obstacles which prevent passengers from filing personal injuries claims, Carnival Corp and its competitors have essentially devised an effective plan for avoiding huge settlements, according to reports. There is some doubt, however, about the legality of their plan—particularly the part regarding where lawsuits can be filed. The matter has been contested all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, where in a 7-2 decision, the court sided with Carnival that lawsuits must be filed in the jurisdiction agreed upon in the ticket contract. In the recent case of the Costa Concordia, plaintiffs’ attorneys are again attempting to challenge Carnival’s contract terms and bringing action in Florida, where the company is based, rather than Genoa. In one of the suits, 39 survivors are alleging negligence and seeking damages off up to $5.28 million from the cruise line. 

Surviving family members seeking redress for one of the Costa Concordia’s 32 deaths may be at an even greater loss. According to the article, neither Italy nor the United States are a party to the Athens Convention, an international maritime treaty which establishes liability for wrongful death at sea. Rather, US citizens are subject to the 1920 Death on the High Seas Act—a law which allows the surviving family members of those killed aboard a ship to collect lost financial support though fails to account for non-economic losses. In other words, if the lost family member was a child or retired, or otherwise without dependents, the law deems his or her life worthless. 

If you or a loved one has been injured at sea, you may be eligible for compensation for your damages. To find out if you qualify for a legal recovery, contact the trusted cruise ship accident attorneys at Morgan and Morgan for a free, no-risk case evaluation today. Contact us for a free, no-risk case evaluation.