Costa Concordia disaster: Lawyers to take action against ship’s owners

The Costa Concordia cruise ship lays aground near the port on January 9, 2013 on the Italian island of Giglio.

One year on from the Costa Concordia tragedy that claimed 32 people’s lives, dozens of passengers and crewmembers who survived are taking legal action against the ship’s parent company for damages.

Thirty-six passengers and crew are claiming thousands of euros in compensation from Costa Cruises for physical as well as psychological injuries such as post-traumatic stress disorder.

John Arthur Eaves Jr., an American lawyer representing more than 150 passengers from 10 countries believes Costa Cruises is faced with multi-million dollar compensation bill. He has described the 11,000 euros ($14,350) in compensation to each of the more than 3,000 passengers aboard the stricken vessel as “peanuts”.

The legal team representing the victims say Costa Cruises must be held negligent due to the tradition of “bowing” (taking the ship close to the island’s shore to salute locals).

“[Costa Cruises] knew the practice of navigation close to the coast because it was in the public domain but still such course changes must be recorded in the captain’s logbook,” the lawyers said.

Ship staff under investigation are also putting blame on Costa Cruises, including Paolo Mattesi, executive of the company. Mattesi said the passengers’ security “was not provided by any officer with a formal delegation of security features”.

According to a survey of the port of Livorno, two of the ship’s radars (one compulsory, another optional) were out of order. This would not affect the dynamics of the accident but such failures should be reported to the maritime authorities and this did not happen, the survey concluded.

Eaves said he is pushing for improved standards in the cruise industry.
“There is a consistent pattern of lack of discipline and communication problems,” he told reporters. “The sooner we can resolve it, the sooner these victims can get back to rebuilding their lives.”

This lawsuit is a separate action to the criminal proceedings against Captain Francesco Schettino later this year. Prosecutors’ 50,000-page investigation against Schettino is reportedly the largest such case in Italian legal history. Schettino faces charges of manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning ship, with prosecutors calling for a 20-year prison sentence.


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