Will Costa Concordia Passengers Be Able to Sue Costa and Carnival in the U.S.?

Costa Concordia Lawsuit The Associated Press just published an article about the hundreds of passengers and crew members who have filed suit against Costa and Carnival here in the U.S. following the Costa Concordia disaster.

A number of newspapers are running the story, as well as TIME magazine which carried the article "Passengers Suing Carnival Cruises for Millions over Costa Concordia Shipwreck." 

Miami lawyer Gabrielle D’Alemberte, who represents five U.S. citizens suing in Florida, explains some of the drawbacks about trying to sue in Italy. She is quoted in the article explaining that Italy does not allow attorneys to work on a contingency fee basis in which the lawyer’s fee comes out of any settlement or verdict. She also states that compensation for pain and suffering and emotional distress are harder if not impossible to collect in Italy. “This was traumatizing at every level . . . That’s a cause of action in this country. It’s not in Italy.”

Travel Agent Central, in an article written by Susan Young, published an article today explaining the jurisdictional difficulties that the passengers will face suing here in the U.S.  The article is entitled Lawsuits Target Carnival Corp. in the U.S. But Will They Succeed? and quoted me extensively.

I would like to see all of the passengers and crew members obtain great success suing both Costa and Carnival here in the U.S. Costa's settlement offer of less than $15,000 is a joke, but I think that prospect of suing in Italy will be prohibitively expensive and time consuming and the outcome uncertain..  I think ultimately the cases here in the U.S. will be kicked out of court. 

I hope I'm wrong but I don't think I am.  You can read my thoughts about the prospects of successfully keeping the cases here in the U.S.in the article here.    

The Washington Post covered the story and included the video interview of lawyer D’Alemberte, as well as Miami attorney Robert Peltz below: 

 

 

 

Photo credit: Travel Agent Central

 

Cruise Ship Rape: A No Man's Land On The High Seas?

Cruise Ship Rape - Victim Anika MarksA newspaper in South Africa published a disturbing story today about the defense raised by the lawyers for a passenger who is accused of raping a woman during a cruise aboard  the MSC Sinfonia cruise ship.

The case involves South African national Anika Marks who sailed on the MSC Cruises ship in November 2009.  Ms. Marks was on what is described as a three-day business trip with 40 work colleagues when another South African passenger, Sindhu Ramanandh Bhogal, allegedly drugged and raped her. 

The cruise ship regularly sails between Durban and Mozambique. On the cruise in question, Ms. Marks says that she awoke two hours after the alleged rape.  She accompanied her colleagues to the South Africa - Portugese IslandsPortuguese islands (see map), one of the ship’s stops on the cruise.  She reported the rape during the cruise the day before the cruise ship was due to return to Durban.  

Rather than using a Jane Doe pseudonym, Ms. Marks is using her own name because she believes that this will encourage other rape victims to take action.

After two years of legal wrangling, defendant Bhogal's lawyers have a new defense - the South African state courts cannot try him for the cruise ship rape because the incident happened in international waters.  The defense lawyer even obtained a statement from Sindhu Ramanandh Bhogal - Cruise Shipthe cruise ship's captain (how interesting) that the incident did not occur in South African waters.  At a hearing last week, Mr. Bhogal’s lawyer cited a provision in the South African Criminal Procedures Act that if the alleged crime occurs in international waters, the South African state courts have no jurisdiction. 

Ms. Marks, on the other hand, alleges that the alleged rape took place the same night the ship left Durban such that the vessel was still in  territorial waters.

If the court concludes that the alleged rape occurred on the high seas, then Mr. Bhogal may walk free.  The prosecution would then have to obtain authority from the National Prosecuting Authority to try and prosecute Mr. Bhogal.  

Cases like this reveal the dilemna which many women face after they have been raped on cruise ships around the world.  Sometimes they find themselves in a no man's land.

In the U.S., only the state of Florida has a law which permits the prosecution of rapists on the high seas.  The Florida law is unique because it permits the state to exercise jurisdiction over crimes which occur on cruise ships even if the rape occur in international waters, provided the ship leaves from a U.S. port and the majority of the passengers are residents of Florida.  

Regarding rapes which occur on cruises in international water which leave from ports in other states, only the U.S. Department of Justice may prosecute such crimes provided that the FBI is interested in investigating the incident.

But if the rape does not involve a U.S. victim or assailant and is against a citizen of another country and occurs on a foreign flag vessel on the high seas, the FBI has no jurisdiction.  This means that the criminal can avoid prosecution on technical terms, citing a lack of jurisdiction.      

MSC Sinfonia Cruise Ship

 

Photo credit:  Photos nos 1 and 3 - International Newspapers via Saturday Star