Costa Concordia Owner Offers Compensation to Uninjured Cruise Ship Passengers

The operator of the doomed Costa Concordia cruise ship has offered most passengers – those who were not injured in the disaster – $14,460 each for their lost baggage and psychological distress. However, one Italian consumer group has deemed the Costa Concordia offer insufficient, and is urging passengers to reject it.

The Costa Concordia struck a rock off the coast of the Italian island of Giglio on Friday, January 13. The collision tore a 160-foot hole in the hull of the ship, and caused the vessel to capsize. The cruise ship, which is owned by the Italian company Costa Crociera SpA, a subsidiary of Miami-based Carnival Corp., was carrying 4,200 passengers and crew when the accident occurred. At least 16 people died in the accident, and as many as 22 passengers and crew are still unaccounted for.

Francesco Schettino, the captain of the Concordia, has been placed under house arrest in Italy, and is accused of manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning the ship before all passengers were evacuated. He has admitted to having made an “navigational error” when he brought the Concordia close to the Giglio coast, but claims the rocks he hit weren’t charted on his nautical maps.

According to a Wall Street Journal report, Costa Crociere announced an agreement reached with several Italian consumer groups by which uninjured passengers would receive $14,460 each, or €11,000. These passengers would also receive a full refund of their cruise fare, as well as reimbursement of travel expenses and any medical expenses sustained after grounding, the Journal said.

The consumer groups involved in the deal say they represent just over 3,200 passengers from 61 countries who escaped the Concordia relatively unscathed. Those not covered by the deal include the Concordia’s crew, as well as injured passengers, and families of the dead. Settlements for injured passengers will be negotiated individually.

It will be up to each individual Concordia survivor to decide whether they will accept the offer. If they do accept, passengers must agree to drop all future litigation, and will receive payment within seven days, according to a Reuters report.

One Italian consumer group that was not involved in negotiations with Costa Crociere, however, is calling the offer inadequate. Earlier this month, the group, Codacons, began signing Concordia passengers up for a class action lawsuit it plans to file in Miami, Florida, where Costa’s parent company is based. Codacons has said it plans to seek at least $160,000 for each Concordia passenger.

According to the Reuters report, Carlo Rienzi, president of Codacons, said Costa Corciere’s offer was insufficient and urged passengers to see a doctor to check whether they had suffered psychological trauma.

At least one crew member has already filed a U.S. lawsuit against Carnival Corp. and Costa Crociere over the Costa Concordia disaster. Gary Lobaton filed yesterday in federal court in Chicago, alleging breach of contract and negligence, according to a report from Bloomberg News. The complaint seeks class action status to represent all those aboard the Concordia at the time of the accident.

Among other things, the complaint alleges the defendants failed to carry out safety drills to prepare passengers for an accident and didn’t notify them of the danger to the ship after water began flooding the engine room.

“The defendants failed to properly and timely notify all plaintiffs on board of the deadly and dangerous condition of the cruise ship as to avoid injury and death,” Lobaton said in the complaint. The passengers and crew “were abandoned by the captain.”

The complaint also states that Schettino claims Costa Crociere pressured him to sail close to Giglio “to present a spectacle” to passengers and generate good publicity “in the increasingly competitive cruise ship business.”

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