Following the Costa Concordia tragedy, there was considerable debate about where the survivors would file suit and what legal claims against the cruise line would be raised.

As we approach 6 months after the disaster, there is even more confusion. Lawsuits have been filed all over the place.  

A group of New York lawyers filed suit in state court here in Miami. Many Miami lawyers referred cases to Italian lawyers to pursue in Genoa, Italy where Costa is headquartered. Other New York lawyers filed suit in New York.  Lawyers in Illinois filed suit in Chicago. One lawyer filed suit in Galveston and Costa Concordia Cruise Ship - Design Defect Lawsuiteven took the extraordinary step of seizing a Carnival cruise ship to try and get Carnival’s attention. 

The latest highly publicized court filing, announced last week, involves a case filed against Carnival Corporation for the defective design of the Costa Concordia.   

Mississippi lawyer John Arthur Eaves filed the lawsuit in California and alleges that the Concordia was designed in a manner that causes the cruise ship to "roll and list" and caused problems safely evacuating the vessel.  He intends to names the designers and architects in the lawsuit.

Mr. Eaves scheduled a press conference in Italy (see video below) and said:  

"We believe that the actions of Carnival were so calculated, to place the profits of their fleet, the ability to sell more space on each boat was so calculated a decision that they intentionally ignored safety concerns and for that we have asked the court for punitive damages in the United States which is the ability of a U.S. court to take away the profits by which Carnival gain. We thought it is not right for Carnival to make huge profits by doing the wrong thing." 

Mr. Eaves was the lawyer who filed suit in Galveston and was criticized for seizing a Carnival cruise ship "as a shot across the bow" to get the cruise line’s attention.  I met Mr. Eaves in Washington D.C. during the Congressional hearings into the Concordia disaster. He seems like a bright lawyer and a good fellow who has a passionate interest into cruise ship safety issues. 

His "design defect" filing in California is another creative lawsuit seeking to hold Carnival responsible for the Concordia disaster.  His latest lawsuit has also come under criticism by the cruise industry defenders, but I think it is right on target.

Someone needs to take a look at these taller and taller cruise ships and determine whether they are safely designed.  A couple of months ago I wrote an article Are Cruise Ships Dangerously Top Heavy?  I’m not a naval architect but the cruise ships today seem to have far too much air draft, like a 17 story condominium stuck on a barge.

Cruise ships like this depend on stabilizers. But stabilizers are of no help when the cruise ship loses power.  Ships like this seem likely to tip over.   

It’s the last place I would want my family to be if there is a collision, or a fire, or the engines fail in rough water. 



Photograph: News Pictures / Rex Features

  • I am a naval architect. The claims that cruise ships are inherently unstable are frankly silly and uninformed. There are real problems with cruise ship safety and these sorts of ignorant claims just distract from the real issues.

    If there is any area topic that is thoroughly addressed by the cruise ship regulations it is stability, both intact and damaged. The Costa Concordia rolled because the ship grounded on a uneven ledge. The narrow bow and the stern were supported while the broad middle section of the ship was not. The problem of grounded stability is not unique to cruise ships.

    Cruise ships are not the only ships with significant windage. Car carriers and sailing ships are two examples. They are not inherently unstable either.

    And by the way, stabilizers have nothing to do with the stability of the ship. They are roll dampers. Nothing more or less.

  • Sofia

    Mr. Eaves is one of the sharpeyed lawyers so far in our country.
    The philosophy of cruise business is money above people and above authority just have a look the recent
    cases with our FBI,USCG and so on.
    Wake-up U.S.A. ,great job have been done after 9/11 but a lot to do in other areas also.
    Authority and Lawyers have a lot to do for the coming years,otherwise we endup in the sharks mount

  • krishnan rajasingam

    dear sir,
    i am the indian crew from costa concordia and here we almost 150 indians filed a case against costa but we lost because we already signed in a final release documents on the spot and because we lost this case the company is revenging us like i am on medical treatment and they are not paying my medical bills where has they paid for me first term and now there is no responce and a lot more problem we are facing so is it possible that we can be against costa or not and in this case what should we have to do

  • Rick:

    I know you are a maritime architect but I doubt you have or ever would design one of these monsters.

    These ships have had a well known stability problem for years as they flood right across with no center line bulkheads. The Concordia rolled not because of an “uneven ledge” (which would have rolled the ship into the depths not into the shore) but because of a high superstructure, relatively shallow draft, and no center-line bulkheads. What a nightmare to be on one of these things on the high seas in an abandon ship situation.

    Jim Walker

  • This getting a touch embarrassing, Jim. First stabilizers and now -bulkheads. And the term is naval architect. I am not sure what a maritime architect might be.

    Center-line bulkheads contribute to asymmetrical flooding, which causes ships to roll over. Remember the Lusitania? She had longitudinal bulkheads and capsized in 18 minutes in 1914. Pretty basic stuff.

    Center-line bulkheads would make a cruise ship less, not more safe. That is a bit like claiming that the roll-dampening fins commonly known as stabilizers actually keep the ship stable. Foolish and wrong, but we have been over that already.

    Video from an ROV shows that the Costa Concordia is supported on a rocky ledge on her bow and stern. The middle portion of the ship is unsupported. The entire weight of the ship is being carried by the narrow ends. The buoyancy that once supported the ship and provided stability is gone so, the ship rolled. Why did she roll toward shore? The wind that night was reported to be gusting to over 20 miles per hour. As you have rightly pointed out these ships have considerable windage. The ship rolled away from the wind.

    The problem, Jim, is that there are real and serious safety issues on cruise ships that are not being addressed. Ridiculous statements about stabilizers and center-line bulkheads distract from addressing theses issues. They also do nothing to help your credibility.

  • Rick, I see your point. You are a genius; I must be a moron. Thanks for clearing that up. Now go back to building model ships in a bottle. Jim