NBC to Broadcast Special Report on Costa Concordia

On Thursday night at 10:00 PM, NBC will broadcast a special report on the Costa Concordia during an episode of Rock Center With Brian Williams.  The special will features a story about the survivors of Italy’s Costa Concordia shipwreck, and the rights that they unknowingly signed away when they boarded the ship. Here's the introduction to the NBC special called "Costa Concordia Survivors Battle Cruise Line for Settlements:"

Six months after the Costa Concordia shipwreck, many survivors are frustrated and angry. Only after their nightmare did they realize that cruise ships are far less accountable than airlines or railroads. In buying their cruise tickets, they signed away rights that Americans usually take for granted. Harry Smith reports on Thursday’s new episode of Rock Center on NBC:

 

Carnival Cruise Line Settlement Keeps Getting Publicity

Yesterday I reported on a settlement which a passenger from Texas reached after she was seriously injured while trying to step off a tender boat onto the dock in Grand Cayman.  The case illustrates the liability of cruise lines when they fail to safely transfer their passengers from the cruise ship to shore during ports of call.     

The passenger was seriously injured and underwent surgery with the insertion of plates and screw.  This type of injury is painful, the surgery and recovery are painful, and the medical expenses are substantial.  After fling suit, the Carnival passenger reached a $125,000 settlement with Carnival cruise line.  

The settlement was picked up by a local news station, CBS News 4 in Miami, and then I blogged about it, and then it was discussed by the very popular USA Today cruise blog called "CruiseLog" this morning, and by the afternoon a news station Cayman 27 in Grand Cayman was reporting about the settlement.    

The CruiseLog readers, who are usually conservative, pro-cruise and anti-lawuit minded, concluded that the settlement was too much, which is strange because it seems to be a rather modest settlement.  But the interesting thing is that such a modest settlement received so much attention - from a local news station in Miami - to a national newspaper - to a news station in the Caribbean.

Settlements like this are usually confidential because the cruise lines require secrecy.  Cruise lines hate publicity like this.  It is inconsistent with the image cruise lines try and project, and the cruise lines think that it encourages others to file suit.  But the truth is that cruise lines like Carnival make billions upon billions of dollars each year and pay no taxes by incorporating in foreign countries like Panama and flying foreign flags on their cruise ships.  Carnival also has literally billions of dollars in insurance.   

Anytime a passenger falls between a tender boat and a dock, it is going to be a case of liability.  Cruise lines have a duty of "high care" for getting passengers, particularly elderly passengers, safely to shore.  So a settlement like this is almost a certainty. 

Although this case has received alot of interest in the media, a $125,000 settlement is pocket change for a corporation like Carnival when it lets a passenger fall between a tender and a dock.  

  

 

 

Video credit:      Cayman 27 News

Cruise Disappearance Case of George Smith IV - Civil Case Settled But Is Justice Done?

The AP is reporting that a final settlement has been reached between Royal Caribbean and the wife and family of George Smith IV.  Royal Caribbean has paid the families and their counsel $1,310,000.  The cruise line has also turned over copies of certain investigation materials to the families.

George Smith IV - Disappearance - Royal Caribbean CruiseThe settlement arises out of an incident on July 5, 2005, when Mr. Smith disappeared from Royal Caribbean's Brilliance of the Seas cruise ship between Greece and Turkey.  Mr. Smith was on his honeymoon with his new wife, Jennifer Hagel, following their wedding the week before. 

Before the cruise ended, the cruise line, Royal Caribbean, quickly concluded that Mr. Smith's death was an accident.  However, when photographs of Mr. Smith's blood on an awning below Mr. Smith's cabin began appearing on nightly television, the U.S. public began to question exactly what happened that night. 

Mr. Smith's bride, Jennifer Hagel, hired our firm to represent the estate of her husband. In turn, we retained a number of experts including forensic scientist Henry Lee to board the cruise ship and assist us in searching for answers.  Two Congressional hearings were convened, in December 2005 and March 2006, to inquire into the circumstances surrounding the cruise line's response to Mr. Smith's disappearance.  Subsequent Congressional hearings into passenger disappearances and cruise ship crime followed in 2007 and 2008. 

In June 2006, our client Jennifer Hagel reached a proposed settlement with Royal Caribbean on behalf of her husband's estate in the amount of $1,060,000 and an agreement by the cruise line to turn over its investigation materials to the Smith and Hagel families.  The Smith family objected to the settlement. 

In 2008, a Probate Court in Greenwich, Connecticut approved the settlement - finding that is was reasonable and in the best interests of all concerned.  The Smith family again objected to the Probate Court's order and the Smith family and Ms. Hagel have been litigating in Superior Court in Connecticut for the past two years.

The civil and probate cases are now settled.  Royal Caribbean increased its settlement offer by $250,000.  The cruise line has also made its investigation materials available to the families as originally agreed to in June 2006.

Mr. Smith's disappearance brought much needed attention to the issue of mysterious overboard passengers and shipboard crime.  These events set the stage for an unprecedented five Congressional hearings leading to President Obama's signing of the Cruise Vessel Safety and Security Act.       

To date, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has not concluded what happened in Mr. Smith's cabin in the early morning hours of July 5, 2005.  One of the four men last seen with Mr. Smith on the morning of July 5th, Gregory Rozenberg, is serving time in prison for drug trafficking.   

The AP article indicates that the FBI investigation is officially "open and active."  

The Greenwich Time, which was one of the first newspapers to cover the story in July 2005, published an article today "Smith Family Hopes for Answers After Cruise Ship Case Settles."  

January 6, 2012 Update:

Update on Disappearance of George Smith From Royal Caribbean's Brilliance of the Seas Cruise Ship

 

Royal Caribbean - Rolls Royce Settlement - For $65 Million I'll Say I Love You

Rolls Royce - Pod Propulsion - Royal CaribbeanToday the Internet is a buzz regarding Royal Caribbean's much touted $65 million dollar settlement with Rolls Royce - the manufacturer of the "Mermaid pod-propulsion system" on Celebrity Cruises' Millennium-class ships.  The pods were installed on four Celebrity ships - Millennium, Summit, Infinity and Constellation.

Royal Caribbean sent out a new release today on PR NewsWire regarding the settlement on the eve of a trial scheduled in Miami. 

Royal Caribbean's lawsuit against Rolls Royce started in 2003. 

The allegations were ugly.

Royal Caribbean asserted that Rolls Royce engaged in fraud, misrepresentations, negligence, and unfair trade practices. Royal Caribbean’s lawsuit sought $300 million, but then inflated the damages to beyond $700 million.

Then Carnival got into the fun.  In 2008, it filed a 45-page lawsuit against Rolls-Royce and other defendants, leveling 11 charges including fraudulent misrepresentation, deceptive and unfair trade practices, breach of warranty, false advertising and negligence.

Rolls Royce counterclaimed, alleging that there was a conspiracy to interfere with its business.  

But today, Royal Caribbean announced a "suitable and amicable resolution." 

Celebrity Cruises' CEO Daniel Hanrahan says: "we look forward to continuing our alliance with Royal Caribbean Settlement - Cruise Money - Rolls-Royce for many years to come . . . Rolls-Royce has one of the best reputations for reliability, and guests and travel agents should feel confident in Rolls-Royce's assurances of the reliability of the Mermaid pods."

Rolls-Royce's President of Marine Business John Paterson says: "we are not only satisfied to have reached a solution with Celebrity Cruises, but that we have been able to improve and enhance the Mermaid pod's reliability  . . .  we look forward to the opportunity to continue contributing to Celebrity's high operating standards now, and in the future."

A love fest.

Its amazing what $65 million can buy . . .

 

Credits:

Pod propulsion diagram                Rolls Royce

Cruise Inc.                                         CNBC