On January 13, 2012, the cruise ship Costa Concordia, a 114,500 ton vessel valued at $450M USD, struck a rock and capsized off the coast of the tiny Tuscan island of Giglio, Italy. In the aftermath of the grounding the scene was utter chaos as the 4,200 passengers and crew attempted to egress from the crippled ship as it keeled over in the shallow waters. While the search continues there may be as many as 33 people dead (including at least 2 Americans who remain missing) as a result of this senseless tragedy.
Many questions remain concerning why the ship ran aground and why proper emergency procedures were abandoned by the Captain. Based on early reports it is clear the investigation will focus on the Captain's negligence/recklessness which caused the grounding, the lack of safety briefings to passengers, crew confusion and misconduct during the emergency, communication failures, lack of lifeboat access, and why the ship listed so quickly and including whether the water tight doors operated as designed.
In a dramatic phone conversation released shortly after the capsizing, an Italian coast guard official was heard ordering ship captain Francesco Schettino, who had abandoned the ship with his first officers, back on board to oversee the evacuation. But Schettino resisted, saying it was too dark and the ship was tipping dangerously. .In Italy, prosecutors are apparently preparing to bring charges against Schettino, who has been blamed for causing the accident by intentionally deviating from the planned voyage route and steering too close to shore. He then abandoned the vessel before the evacuation was complete. According to published reports, a court in Italy has already offered some insight into the Captain's conduct stating that Schettino had shown "incredible carelessness" and "a total inability to manage the successive phases of the emergency," by failing to sound the alarm until nearly 30-40 minutes after the initial impact. According to the Court, Schettino abandoned the ship and remained on shore in a state of "complete inertia" for more than an hour, "watching the ship sink." "No serious attempt was made by the captain to return even close to the ship in the immediate aftermath of abandoning the Costa Concordia." Other reports confirm that the initial distress calls were made by cell phones from passengers rather than by the crew.
Carnival Cruise Line is the parent company of Costa Crociere SpA (CCS), operator of the Costa Concordia. CCS makes up about 16% of Carnival's fleet according to investment analysts. Carnival has headquarters in Miami and London, and is incorporated in Panama. Carnival Chairman and Chief Executive Micky Arison said senior management has been "in continuous contact" with Costa executives in Italy. "We have our senior-level technical experts on the ground to provide additional support for this tragic and highly unusual incident." While it is laudable that Carnival is now pitching in, of greater interest will be Carnival's answers to questions concerning how much involvement, training and expertise Carnival provided to CCS and the Cost Concordia crew before this tragedy occurred.
It is important for passengers to know that the cruise line ticket is a critical document. Information in the ticket may control passenger's and victims' rights, including, deadlines for making claims, and limits on where claims can be initiated against the carrier. For example, the Carnival ticket includes a provision that requires notice to be submitted to the carrier within six months and a law suit to be filed within one year of injury or death, in only one U.S. location -- the U.S. Federal District Court in Miami. More importantly, the Costa Crociere S.p.A ticket contains a provision requiring that any suit be brought in Genova, Italy and imposes strict limits on the amount that a carrier must pay for claims. For this reason, it is critical to seek experienced counsel to address the issues that arise under the tickets and to be able to navigate around any barriers to a just recovery.
Our firm has prosecuted claims on behalf injured passengers around the globe and we have tried cases in federal court against many cruise lines, including Carnival.
Partners Gretchen Nelson and Dan Rose have prosecuted claims against Princess Cruise Lines, another subsidiary of Carnival, in California, including multiple claims arising from the listing of the Crown Princess on July 18, 2006 off the coast of Florida.
Our firm also represented 90 foreign nationals in the United States arising out of the sinking of the Sea Diamond near Santorini Greece in 2007. That sinking bears striking similarities to the Costa Concordia tragedy and raises many of the same complex legal issues. Those cases were settled for confidential amounts in the United States.
Partner Daniel Rose has substantial experience in maritime cases and recently secured a victory in a maritime trial involving a fatally injured Navy SEAL.
Partner Anthony Tarricone, past president of the American Association of Justice, is experienced in international injury and death claims. He is a member of Pan European Organization of Personal Injury Lawyers (PEOPIL) and frequent lecturer/instructor on International Injury and Death claims, including recent presentations--A Global Issue: Fundamental Rights in Personal Injury Law, Geneva, June 4, 2010 and Challenges in Handling Cross Border Cases, American Association for Justice, International Practice Section, New York, July 11, 2011.
Paul Edelman who is counsel to the firm is extremely well known in Admiralty Bar circles as the and has represented victims of cruise ship accidents for more than 50 years. He even represented victims in the Andrea Doria. He has published numerous maritime articles including on the Athens Convention. Mr Edelman was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Sailors and Seamen's Organization, an insurance and defense centric organization that nonetheless recognized Paul's lifetime of work toward improving travel on the High Seas and dedication to victims of maritime accidents the world over.
If you have any questions please call or email Dan Rose or Gretchen Nelson.
To read Kreindler's Forbes Magazine interview click here.