Costa Concordia Passengers File $100 Million Class Action Lawsuit

Passengers from the crashed Costa Concordia have filed a $100 million class action lawsuit following the historic collision that has left at least 16 people dead and the luxury liner grounded off the Tuscan coast.

The Costa Concordia struck a rock on the Italian island of Giglio on Friday, January 13, which tore a 160-foot hole in the hull of the ship, causing the vessel to capsize. The ship, which is owned by Costa Crociera SpA, a subsidiary of Miami-based Carnival Corp., was carrying 4,200 passengers and crew when the accident occurred. As many as 22 passengers and crew remain unaccounted for and recent media reports say search efforts are being ceased.

The complaint, which seeks class-action status to represent all of the disaster’s victims, alleges negligence and breach of contract. The lawsuit names Carnival’s Costa Crociere unit and seeks damages for alleged violation of the Athens Convention, which involves safe passage at sea; breach of contract; negligence; and unjust enrichment, explained Bloomberg News. The ship’s captain, Francesco Schettino has been accused of causing the accident when he steered too close to shore and then abandoned ship.

Costa Concordia crew member Gary Lobaton, filed the lawsuit in federal court in Chicago saying in the complaint, “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.” Passengers and crew “were abandoned by the captain,” he added.

Last week, we wrote that the operator of the doomed Concordia offered most passengers—those not injured in the disaster—$14,460 (11,000 Euros) each for their lost baggage and psychological distress. One Italian consumer group deemed the Costa Concordia offer insufficient, and is urging passengers to reject it. It is up to each individual Concordia survivor to decide whether they will accept the offer; however, if they do accept, they must agree to drop all future litigation, and will receive payment within seven days, according to a prior Reuters report.

And, although Costa said it has reached agreements with consumer groups in several countries, one group preparing a class action suit has advised its clients to reject the offer; another group said most passengers would agree to the preliminary settlement, said Bloomberg News. One attorney described the offer as “joke.”

Italian consumer group, Codacons, not involved in negotiations with Costa Crociere, also described the offer as inadequate and, earlier this month, 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 passenger. According to Reuters, 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.

Schettino claims the company pressured him to sail close to Giglio “to present a spectacle” for the ship’s passengers and promote publicity “in the increasingly competitive cruise ship business,” according to the complaint. Schettino “breached his duty as the master of his vessel and abandoned his ship in the first available opportunity he had,” said in the complaint. Citing a recording of a telephone conversation between the captain and the port authority, the coast guard ordered Schettino to return to the ship when Schettino claimed the evacuation was nearly complete when, in fact, said Lobaton, “it had scarcely begun,” Bloomberg News reported.

The complaint alleges the cruise company never conducted safety drills to prepare passengers for an accident, nor alerted passengers to the dangers after the ship crashed and water flooded the engine room, said Bloomberg News. The defendants “were on notice of the existent danger and failed to evacuate plaintiffs upon impact,” Lobaton said in the complaint, noting that the ship’s staff “had a duty to provide true and accurate information to the plaintiffs to prevent undue risks.

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