Costa ConcordiaAn appellate court in Miami has ruled that Costa Concordia passengers, both U.S. residents and non-U.S. residents, cannot seek compensation in the U.S. for any injuries which they suffered arising out of the Concordia disaster in 2012.

Yesterday, the Third District Court of Appeal published its decision in Denise Abeid-Saba, et al. vs. Carnival Corp., Carnival PLC, Costa Crociere, S.p.A., Costa Cruise Lines, Inc., and Joseph Farcus Architect, P. A.

The appellate court was faced with two orders of trial courts in litigation filed shortly after the Costa Concordia disaster. The cases involved two groups of passengers: one case involved fifty-seven plaintiffs, of whom five are United States residents. The other case involved fifty-two plaintiffs, of whom seventeen are U.S. residents. Carnival moved to dismiss the cases based on the legal doctrine of "forum non conveniens," arguing that the U.S. is not an appropriate location to litigate the cases. In one case, the trial court ruled that both U.S. residents and non-U.S. residents were prohibited from pursuing their cases here in Miami. In the other case, the trial court permitted U.S. residents to continue to pursue their cases here in Miami. 

Long ago, we advised passengers on the ill fated cruise ship to either consider accepting Carnival’s minimal settlement offer or proceed to Genoa, Italy to make a legal claim against Costa and its parent company. Costa of course is based in Italy; the shipwreck, Italian Coast Guard and most of the witnesses and evidence are located there; and the passenger ticket requires that legal claims be pursued in Genoa which is the principal place of Costa’s business and the location where criminal proceedings were pursued against the infamous captain Schettino. It was our opinion that all of the factors favored the filing of cases in Italy and that there was little chance that a Florida court would entertain litigation here.

In a twenty-two page order, the appellate court ruled that none of the passengers, whether U.S. residents or not, could pursue their cases here in Miami or anywhere in the U.S. They must all pursue their cases in Italy where the accident occurred and most of the witness and evidence are located. You can read the twenty-two page opinion here

We previously warned that filing suit here was a long shot: Are Lawyers Taking Costa Cruise Survivors Into Dangerous Legal Waters?

The billion dollar Carnival corporation has escaped virtually all legal accountability for the disaster.

Photo Credit: By Soerfm – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

Today, the body of Costa crew member Russel Rebello was found in the salvaged wreck of the Costa Concordia. His remains were the last to be removed from the ill-fated cruise ship. 

Mr. Rebello was known to his fellow crew members as a warm, friendly and always-smiling young man. He was last seen going back into the sinking ship to rescue passengers.

Rusel RebelloTragedies like the Costa Concordia define a person. When disaster strikes, will the person shirk their responsibilities and run like a coward? Or will they rise to the occasion and help others? 

Maritime lore and tradition say that the captain always goes down with the ship. That’s not exactly true, but the saying reinforces the notion that the captain must be the last person on the ship. He is required by maritime regulations to be aboard the ship in order to supervise the orderly evacuation of all aboard, before he exits.

Francisco Schettino fled the Concordia like a scared rat. He does not deserve even to be called a captain.

When the Concordia hit the rocks and eventually slipped into the sea, it was Mr. Rebello who acted as the true master of the vessel. He put the safety and well being of the guests before himself.  He honored the maritime tradition of a captain staying on the ship and placing himself in harm’s way to help others.

 

Pay your respects below or on our Facebook page.

Earlier this week, a federal district judge in California dismissed a lawsuit filed on behalf of two cruise passengers against Carnival arising out of the January 2012 Costa Concordia disaster, ruling that the case must be pursued in Italy where Costa Crociere is located.

The name of the lawsuit is Patricia Sandoval et al. v. Carnival Corporation et al., Case No. 2:12 CV 05517, filed in the United States District Court for the Central District of California.

Judge Fernando M. Olguin applied the doctrine of forum non conveniens, where the courts determine Costa Concordia the appropriate location of lawsuits.

The Court concluded that the majority of the physical evidence and witnesses are located in Italy and the passengers can obtain an appropriate remedy in Italy. The decision is not surprising at all.  

The Costa cruise line is based in Italy where the company is incorporated.  Its principal place of business is in Genoa, Italy. It registers its ships like the Concordia in Italy. Much of the crew is Italian, including the captain, and cruise the ship departed from an Italian port and sank in Italian waters.  The Italian Coast Guard responded to the disaster and of course there is an Italian criminal trial which has been ongoing for year. The passenger ticket specifies Italy as the location where litigation must be pursued. 

Our firm advised Concordia passengers long ago not to waste time and money filing suit in the U.S. because their cases would likely be dismissed.  

We advised our clients to proceed directly to Italy and retain Italian lawyers to pursue compensation. Here is one of such articles, published back in January 2010: Are Lawyers Taking Costa Cruise Survivors Into Dangerous Legal Waters?

 

Have a comment? Please leave one below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Jean-Philippe Boulet Creative Commons 3.0

Disgraced Costa captain Francesco Schettino is back in the news after a professor at the University of Rome invited him to lecture to a class of graduate students studying forensic science.

A number of news sources quote Schettino saying: "I was called in because I am an expert. I had to illustrate the management of panic control."  He later said: "I have sailed the seas of the world and I know what to behave and how to react."

Of course it was Schettino, now known as "captain coward", who killed 32 passengers and crew members because he was frozen with panic after he ran the cruise ship into the rocks off of Giglio. He fled the scene of the disaster he caused, by hopping Schettino the Deadly Buffoonin a lifeboat and abandoning his responsibilities. 

When I think that this debacle couldn’t get any more absurd, this deadly buffoon re-emerges to pour salt in the wounds of the victims’ grieving families. 

Last month, the tan, slick-haired captain was photographed jetting around the holiday island of Ischia, surrounded by a "gaggle of glamorous women" while celebrating signing a book deal.

Meanwhile, a newspaper reports today that a human skull was found in the remains of the Concordia cruise ship, which has been towed to  the port town of Genoa for scrapping.

 

Have a thought? Please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

Image credit: National Post

For the past week I have watched specials on television and read articles about the Korean ferry disaster when the Sewol capsized with several hundreds school children aboard.

I have been asked to provide interviews on CNN and radio talk shows.

All of the television and radio interviewers invariably asked about the similarities between the sinking of the Costa Concordia and the current disaster. I have been asked about the cowardly conduct and arrest of both captains, the erroneous information provided to the passengers on both vessels, the failure to deploy and utilize the lifeboats and life-rafts in a timely manner, and the unnecessary loss of life on both ships.

This afternoon CNN aired coverage about both the Sewol and Concordia disasters. 

Today CNN aired Abandon ship? In Recent Maritime Disasters, Captains Don’t Hang Around.

Today the New York Times published Duty and Shame as the Ship Sank.

In both the NYT article and the CNN video today, more time was spent talking about the Costa cruise disaster than the recent ferry mishap.

A survivor of the Concordia appeared on CNN this afternoon (photo below) and talked about her family’s harrowing ordeal of escaping the sinking ship after Captain Schettino abandoned ship. She lamented that there is no international maritime organization with any real authority to require greater responsibility of the maritime companies which transport passengers.

The images of helicopters hovering over the stricken Korean ship and grieving families ashore appear indistinguishable from the Concordia disaster over two years ago.

The cruise industry has taken a beating in the last few years. More Concordia-like cowardly captains, dead passengers and dramatic news anchors on TV are not the type of images that sell cruise vacations.

Sewol ferry costa concordia disaster

Its been nearly two years since the Concordia recklessly crashed into the rocks surrounding the little port of Giglio, killing 32 passengers and crew and terrorizing thousands.

The officers of the operator of the cruise line, Costa, and the owners of the owner, Carnival corporation, quickly dumped 100% of the blame on the now disgraced captain, Francesco Schettino, who remains on trial for manslaughter and abandoning ship. 

Although salvors have up-righted the cruise ship during the highly published "parbuckling" maneuver at a cost of nearly one billion dollars, the ship is still sitting in the water at the port. 

Pier Luigi Foschi Costa Cruises The big news this week has been Carnival’s announcement yesterday that the former CEO of Costa Cruises is retiring.  

Pier Luigi Foschi was CEO at Costa Cruises at the time of the disaster. Many people believe that Foschi and other senior Costa officials knew that their captains were altering the cruise routes and performing dangerous "flybys" but diverted attention from themselves by foisting all of the attention and blame on Captain Schettino.

Carnival announced yesterday Foschi is retiring from the Carnival organization after 16 years. He had retired from Costa in the summer of 2012, six months after the Concordia capsized. Carnival Corporation then named him as the CEO of the Carnival-Asia operations. 

The Miami Herald says that Foschi is receiving a bonus of 1,250,000 euros ($1.7 million) as part of a separation agreement.

According to the Independent newspaper, Foschi was paid $3,970,000 in 2012, for the one year period after the Concordia debacle. He also reportedly has shares worth $4,700,000.

Carnival Chairman Micky Arison praised Foschi yesterday for his contribution to Carnival’s business.

Meanwhile, those Concordia passengers who did not accept Costa’s settlement offer of 11,000 euros are continuing to pursue lawsuits against Costa and Carnival. The Costa crew members affected by the Concordia disaster were essentially left out in the cold and were lucky if they ended up on another Costa ship.

Its a telling list of financial priorities. A billion dollars to salvage the Costa ship, millions of dollars for the Costa CEO, peanuts for the Costa passengers, and nothing for the Costa crew members.    

 

Have a thought?  Please leave a comment below, or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

Maria Grazia Trecarichi - Costa ConcordiaInternational news sources are reporting that remains located at the ship wreck of the Costa Concordia are of an Italian woman, an Italian prosecutor said.

"The human remains belong to Maria Grazia Trecarichi," prosecutor Francesco Verusio said.

Newspapers quote Trecarichi’s widower Elio Vincenzi saying:

"I have learned from the press that the remains belong to my wife but have had no official confirmation. They assured me I would be the first to know, it didn’t go that way."

Mr. Vincenzi had earlier identified shoes and a necklace found with the remains as belonging to his wife.

 

Yesterday morning, CNN’s New Day aired a short program about Captain Schettino’s testimony at his criminal trial. He claims that he is not to blame for the deadly Concordia disaster.    

CNN’s Erin McLaughlin reports on the story.

I was interviewed briefly in the program.

You can read about the story here.

You can also read about my thoughts about Captain Schettino’s testimony here.  

 

 

Maritime Lawyer Jim Walker - Cruise LawIn yesterday’s criminal trial against Captain Schettino, the disgraced captain of the doomed Costa Concordia testified that the disaster was not his fault, but was due to the error of the helmsman who failed to promptly follow his orders to turn the cruise ship away from the rocks.

Schettino testified that when he arrived in the bridge, he told the officer at the helm to turn the rudder to the left, which would have pulled the stern to the right and possibly avoided the rocks. But there was a delay of around 12 to 13 seconds, and the helmsman turned the rudder to the right.

The problem with Schettino’s defense is that it was Captain Schettino who decided to divert the cruise ship from its scheduled route and head the ship directly toward Giglio in the first place.  The cruise ship then sailed four miles off course heading dangerously close to the rocky island.  

Sailing a ship off course like this, at high speed, in the night is ill conceived. Its not much different than altering the scheduled course of a 747 aircraft and flying it toward a mountain to show off. It’s hardly a defense to Captain Schettinothe captain’s malfeasance by returning to the cockpit at the last second and telling a subordinate officer to try and make a last ditch emergency maneuver to avoid crashing the plane. Thar’s just additional evidence of the captain’s recklessness.

Captain Schettino also complained that Costa should shoulder some of the blame because the Costa nautical maps did not accurately depict the rocky shoals which the Concordia struck.  I say hogwash to that, because the cruise ship should not have been anywhere near Giglio. The granite rocks around Giglio are part of the geological structure of the earth and have existed for over a million years. If the maps on the ship are not perfect and miss a rock or two, Schettino nonetheless planned to head the ship directly on what essentially was a collision course with the island of Giglio.

The 32 deaths are due in large part due to the captain’s delay in ordering the evacuation of the passengers and crew. The helmsman had nothing to do with that. My opinion is that the Italian court will find Schettino guilty of all counts: causing the shipwreck, manslaughter and abandoning ship.

Schettino’s game of blaming everyone except himself must be particularly painful to the families of the Captan Schettino - Costa Concordia32 dead passengers and crew who are trying to heal from the horror of losing their loved ones on Captain Schettino’s ship. It also reveals a lack of remorse and a continuing arrogance which hopefully the court will consider in sentencing the cowardly captain.

CNN interviewed me about Schettino’s testimony this morning on its program "New Day." The images are from the CNN program this morning.