Lewis S. “Mike” Eidson, partner at the nationally recognised trial law firm Colson Hicks Eidson and former president of the American Association for Justice – the world’s largest association of trial lawyers – believes punitive damages will be appropriate for the Costa Concordia accident which resulted in loss of life and countless injuries to thousands of passengers in an unexplainable and completely avoidable accident.
“In addition to loss of use of the vessel and potential criminal charges, Carnival will face enormous costs associated with personal injury and negligence lawsuits” The cruise ship is operated by Costa Cruise Lines, Inc. and its subsidiary, Costa Crociere S.p.A., located in Hollywood, Florida. Both companies sail under the banner of their owner Carnival Cruise Lines, the largest cruise company in the world, which is located in Miami-Dade County. According to Eidson, all three corporations could be liable for the passengers’ damages and for violation of laws and industry regulations.
“At this time we know of 6 dead and 29 unaccounted for. There are serious physical and psychological injuries to the thousands of passengers who were fortunate enough to escape with their lives,” says Eidson. The Costa Concordia ran aground on Friday after hitting rocks off the coast of Italy with more than 4,200 passengers and crew on board. Costa Chairman and CEO Pier Luigi Foschi blamed human error stating, “The captain did not follow the authorized route that is used by Costa ships.” The Captain, Mr. Schettino, told Italian television he was not to blame for the ship, built in 2006, crashing into the rocks. “I don’t know if it was detected or not, but on the nautical chart, it was marked just as water…“
In addition to loss of use of the vessel and potential criminal charges, Carnival will face enormous costs associated with personal injury and negligence lawsuits,” says Eidson. “Lawyers and safety investigators will examine issues like safety procedures and negligence such as failing to perform the safety drill, policy failures that allowed a captain to abandon ship before the passengers, and lack or failure of a warning system to notify the crew they were off course, which could have prevented such a foreseeable accident from occurring. In addition, they will examine the fundamental question of how Carnival and Costa would employ a captain who would knowingly sail their ship into such dangerous conditions and allegedly tamper with the ship’s safety detection equipment.”
“Airplanes have ground proximity warning devices that emit an audible warning but pilots must listen and take action. Why wasn’t the crew monitoring their course? Who was controlling this vessel with 4,200 lives on board? This is preposterous with today’s technology. This is not the era of the Titanic when you couldn’t see an iceberg. Passengers feared for their lives and many are still unaccounted for,” says Eidson.
In a career that spans 25 years, Eidson has handled numerous cruise ship and aviation disasters, involving the operation of cruise ships, cases involving off shore accidents, and medical malpractice matters aboard vessels. He has handled accidents occurring throughout the Caribbean, Cabo San Lucas Mexico, Alaska, among others.
“Carnival may try to isolate and place total blame for the accident on the captain to minimize punitive damages, which could be in the millions of dollars, to protect their industry, and their position of leadership in the industry,” says Eidson. The cases could be litigated in Miami, the home base of Carnival Cruise Lines and Costa Cruise Lines, even though the accident occurred in Italy. Eidson also warned passengers that their ticket may contain a venue selection provision and a short one year statute of limitations in which to bring a claim for their losses. Also, most such tickets require passengers to make a claim for their losses within six months of the incident.