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Cruise ship runs aground in Italy, lawsuits filed in Florida

A cruise ship owned by the Costa brand foundered in Italian waters and ultimately ran aground on Italy's Tuscan Coast. The incident resulted in the death of 32 passengers aboard the cruise ship and undetermined amounts in property damage.

An essential question is whether or not those suing the cruise line for wrongful death and other causes of action can pursue their claims in State and Federal Courts situated in Florida. The company that operates the ship argues that those claims must be filed in Italy.

At stake in the outcome are not only time and convenience, but the possibility of recovering for injuries and damages caused by the alleged acts of negligence. Italian courts take years longer to deal with similar legal actions and do not allow class actions --one lawsuit on behalf on many people who suffered differing injuries from the same source by reason of a single act creating liability.

The lawsuits allege that the captain of the Costa Concordia cruise ship was negligent in allowing the ship to sail too close to shore, because he was talking on his cell phone and failed to attend to the ship. Italian authorities are considering filing criminal charges against those responsible.

Although unique in some ways, the case presents issues which frequently arise in injury cases involving a commercial carrier of passengers. The ship itself never entered a U.S. Port and is owned by a corporation based in Italy. The corporation is a subsidiary of Miami based Carnival Corp.

Those seeking to recover damages in U.S. Courts contend that safety matters, including the investigation of the accident, are directed from the office of the parent corporation in Miami.

The Corporation contends that it neither owns nor operates the ship involved, and that the owner is an Italian corporation.

Source: Atlanta Journal Constitution "US lawsuits target Carnival in Italy cruise crash," Curt Anderson, Sept. 11, 2012

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