Passengers of the ill-fated Costa Concordia, along with Italian businesses damaged by the cruise ship’s grounding on January 13, 2012, have begun to file lawsuits in American courts against Miami-based Carnival Corporation, the parent company of the Italian firm (Costa Crociere) that owns the Costa Concordia. Attorneys representing the injured parties assert that Costa Crociere is merely Carnival’s ‘alter ego,’ making Carnival liable for the injuries, deaths, and property losses that occurred. According to an Associated Press report of September 17th, the suing parties hail from 14 countries, including the U.S. Monetary damages sought in the new U.S.-based lawsuits reach into the tens of millions of dollars.
When the Costa Concordia ruptured its hull in shallow, rock-laden waters close to the shore of Giglio Island, it was carrying over 4,000 passengers and crew, 32 of whom ultimately died, and many hundreds of whom suffered a wide range of physical and mentally traumatic injuries. The ship’s now infamous captain has stated that company policy required him to graze the island’s edge for a ceremonial “wave-by,” and analysts of the disaster have wondered how a ship’s captain and his corporate superiors could not have been aware of the presence of deadly boulders so close to shore, especially since underwater structures of this kind are typically charted on readily available navigation guides.
Incompetent Response to Crash Exposed Passengers to Prolonged Dangers
In the months since the Costa Concordia disaster, survivors have consistently reported that crew provided little or no direction or assistance. In addition, damage assessment was delayed for so long that it became impossible for passengers to be evacuated before the vessel was already sinking from the weight of taken-on water. Given passengers’ prolonged exposure to lethal conditions on board, it is likely that many suffered not only bruises, cuts, sprains, and much more serious physical traumas, but also overwhelming anxiety that may have left them with post-traumatic stress and other lasting mental disorders.
In successfully prosecuted claims, substantial compensatory damage awards are therefore likely, and if it can be shown that the Costa Concordia captain’s actions were reckless or grossly negligent, punitive damages may also become available.
Legal Hurdles To Be Surmounted in Lawsuits Against Carnival
In order to win damage awards from Carnival in any court, injured parties’ attorneys will have to establish that Carnival Corporation essentially dominated and controlled the operations of Costa Crociere. Typically, a court will examine the degree to which a parent corporation and subsidiary share funds, and/or have overlapping officers, directors, and personnel, when determining whether a subsidiary is the alter ego of its parent corporation. In a court filing injured Giglio businesses have argued that Carnival has essentially admitted to a relationship of control and domination over Costa Crociere, because after the disaster Carnival undertook a company-wide audit of its safety practices. The summarized court papers further state that the Costa Concordia wreck could have been prevented by better training and safety measures ordered by Carnival’s main offices.
The Bigger Picture: The Need for Major Cruise Industry Reforms
Regardless of the particular entity that ultimately bears financial responsibility for cruise ship injuries, the great need for safety reforms in the cruise ship industry is the overriding public policy issue here. The Costa Concordia disaster was, in the view of many, a predictable and preventable event that resulted from grossly inadequate crew training and the complete absence of meaningful and well-enforced regulatory safety standards across the cruise ship industry. Until such time as cruise ship operators are compelled to meet certifiable levels of competence and training for their crews, the only incentive the industry will have to protect the safety of its passengers will be the prospect that it will be held liable for injuries and losses caused by its safety failures. This makes the expertise and commitment of cruise ship injury victims’ attorneys indispensable not only to individuals whose cruises ultimately turned into nightmares, but to all justice-seeking and reform-minded consumers and citizens.
If you or someone you know was hurt in any of these incidents, take moment to contact the Miami cruise injury attorneys at Gerson & Schwartz P.A. at (305)371-6000 or firstname.lastname@example.org.