Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Costa Concordia Legal Update

This post will serve as the anchor post for all Costa Concordia legal matters.  

Information will be contained in the body of this post or links will point you to the story.

For Latest Updates on the disaster please see the following blog post: 

Costa Concordia Listing after Deadly Accident

11 Feb 2015 - Captain Schettino Sentenced

Sentencing by the three judge panel was as follows:
  • five years for causing the Jan. 13, 2012, shipwreck
  • one year for abandoning the ship 
  • one month for false communications to maritime authorities
Under Italian law, he now has two appeals before actually serving the prison sentence.

20 July 2013 - Five Sentenced

A court in Italy has convicted five people of manslaughter over the Costa Concordia shipwreck off Giglio island which killed 32 people in January 2012.  The plea bargains were accepted by the court.
Prison sentences ranged from 18 months to 34 months.  Five Sentenced in Costa Concordia Shipwreck 

17 July 2013 - Trial for Captain Begins

Captain Schettino's lawyers requested a plea bargain with the prosecutor objecting.  The court will rule out that in a few days. The names of the victims and how they died were read into the record on day 1 of the hearing.  Continuing coverage: Concordia Captain's Trial Finally Underway

9 July 2013 - Trial to Begin in Grosseto

Captain Schettino was scheduled to appear in court today to begin the trial where he faces several counts including manslaughter and leaving the ship. A nationwide lawyers strike in Italy has forced the postponement until July 17th. Full details: Captain Schettino Gets Day in Court or Not 

11 April 2013 - Costa faces €1m fine over Concordia

Costa Cruises has accepted a €1m ($1.3m) plea bargain agreement with an Italian court to limit its criminal liability for the capsizing of the Costa Concordia with the loss of 32 lives. They will no longer be held criminally liable in the Italy, and will in fact join the upcoming trial as an injured party seeking damages for the loss of the ship. Full details: Costa Fined - No Criminal Charges in Italy for Concordia

27 Feb 2013 - Prosecutors Request Indictments

Italian prosecutors in Grosseto, Italy, are seeking indictments against Captain Schettino and 5 others in the Costa Concordia disaster January, 2012.   Full details: Prosecutors Request Indictments

11 Sep 2012 - Expert Panel Releases 270 page Report

In a 270-page analysis, the experts indicated that there were several factors in response to Captain Schettino's maneuver that contributed to the botched evacuation: crew members bungled directions, didn't understand orders and weren't trained or certified in security and emergency drills. Costa Cruises was also to blame for not notifying authorities of the seriousness of the accident.  Pre-trial hearing is still scheduled for October 15th.   Full details: Expert Findings Released on Costa Concordia

21 Jul 2012 - Pre-Trial Adjourned until Oct. 15th

Judge Valeria Montesarchio confirmed at a courthouse in Grosseto, central Italy that problems analyzing the "black box"  (Voyage Data Recorder - VDR) caused an adjournment of the pre-trial hearing until October 15, 2012.

03 Jul 2012 - Captain Freed from House Arrest

Captain Francesco Schettino was released from house arrest by Italian judges on Thursday.  He no longer has to remain confined to his home in Meta di Sorrento near Naples but must remain in the town. Concordia Captain Freed from House Arrest

31 Mar 2012 - Carnival Triumph held by Court

A federal judge Friday ordered the cruise ship held in Galveston as part a $10 million lawsuit filed by the family of a German tourist who died aboard the Costa Concordia shipwreck off the Italian coast, according to a news story on Galveston Daily News. Read more about this in our blog article:  Judge Holding Carnival Triumph In Galveston

2 Mar. 2012 - Pre-Trail Hearings Begin

Captain Francesco Schettino, who denies accusations of manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning ship before all those aboard were evacuated, will not attend the proceedings in the town of Grosseto according to his lawyer. He indicated that it would be "unnecessary" for him to attend and it could be dangerous in light of the climate surrounding the proceedings.

Arriving in Grosseto

According to Italy's La Repubblica newspaper, more than 250 are already in the town as 70 lawyers and their teams arrive to represent survivors and relatives of victims in the legal proceedings. The public and members of the press will not be allowed to attend.

Panel of Experts to Review Evidence

Evidence and testimony, which has been gathered since the accident, will be presented to a court-appointed panel of experts made up of two naval experts and two academics. In a process that may take several months, these experts will have the task of reconstructing what happened and apportion degrees of culpability and blame.

Besides looking at Captain Schettino, the investigation will also look at the decisions and actions of Costa's vice-president, Manfred Ursprunger, and the head of its crisis unit, Roberto Ferrarini, with whom the captain was in contact during the evacuation. The ship's first officer, Ciro Ambrosio, is also under investigation. He was second in command of the vessel at the time.

Reports by the four experts, appointed at the hearing in the Tuscan city Grosetto, are due to be presented on July 21.

13- Feb. 2012 - Amended Lawsuit in Florida
39 Plaintiffs Asking over $500m

A suit filed in the state of Florida back in January, on behalf of 6 individuals who were onboard the Costa Concordia when it struck the rocky coastline January 13th, listed, and eventually was abandoned, was amended February 13th adding an additional 36 plaintiffs.

Not a Class Action Suit

A consumer protection agency in Italy had expressed its intent to file a class action suit shortly after the incident occurred. They are partnered with two U.S.-based law firms for this amended action.
The attorneys clarified the nature of their lawsuit indicating that it is not a class action.

“Although previous reports indicated a class action was filed, this is incorrect. No class certification is sought as the respective losses and injuries suffered by each plaintiff is unique,” according to a statement from the attorneys. 

The law firms are Napoli Bern Ripka Shkolnik & Associates (with offices in New York and Florida), New York-based Proner & Proner and Florida law firm Colson Hicks Eidson, along with Codacons, a consumer-protection association in Italy. 

Gross Negligence & Fraud Cited

The suit accuses the ship’s owners of gross negligence and fraud, and asks for at least US $528-million in damages.  Specifically it asks for more than $78 million in compensatory damages and at least US $450-million in punitive damages, plus interest and attorney costs.

The amended lawsuit was filed on Tuesday in the state circuit court in Miami against Carnival Corp, which is incorporated in Panama and headquartered in Miami, and several of its subsidiaries, including Florida-based Costa Cruise Lines and Costa Crociere, which is based in Italy and operated the Costa Concordia.

“Plaintiffs found themselves in a listing, capsizing, sinking vessel without communication, direction or help from the captain and misdirection from the crew from approximately 9:45 p.m. to approximately 11 p.m. and were left to fend for themselves,” the lawsuit said.

It alleges that the cruise company committed fraud in claiming that it complied with safety regulations, and that the online version of the agreement passengers had to accept in order to buy tickets did not include complete details.

Carnival Extends Deadline

Meanwhile, as we had reported in Compensation Guidelines Costa Concordia, those passengers who survived the incident and were not injured had been offered a settlement, of US $14,500 plus a refund and costs of travel home.  Passengers originally had a deadline of February 14 to respond, but the corporation has now extended the deadline to March 31st.

Carnival said it extended the deadline to allow passengers time to review the offer with less urgency.
“The families of deceased and missing victims and guests who were injured will be covered under a separate proposal based on their individual circumstances,” the cruise line said.

Captain Remains Under House Arrest

An Italian court refused February 7th to lift an order of house arrest for Francesco Schettino, the captain of Costa Concordia cruise ship that ran aground off a Tuscan island last month.

The court in Florence rejected two requests: one from prosecutors to jail Schettino and another from Schettino to be freed.

His pretrial hearing is scheduled for March 20th. If convicted on all charges, Schettino could be imprisoned for a term exceeding 2,500 years.

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