Tuesday, January 31, 2012

First lawsuits filed over shipwreck

GIGLIO, Italy -- Calling an initial compensation offer “insulting,” an attorney representing Costa Concordia passengers announced Tuesday details of a $460 million class-action lawsuit against the owner of the wrecked cruise ship, The Guardian reports.

The lawsuit comes more than two weeks after the cruise ship, owned by Costa Cruise Lines, an affiliate of Carnival Corp., capsized Jan. 13 off the coast of Italy, killing 17. At least 16 passengers remain missing and are presumed dead.
Mitchell Proner, a New York-based personal injury attorney, said his firm of Proner & Proner, along with a coalition of international lawyers, is representing more than 500 passengers. He announced details of the civil lawsuit filed in Florida on Tuesday during a press conference in Genoa, Italy, according to The Guardian. He called Costa Cruise Lines’ initial offer of $14,460 to passengers for lost baggage and psychological trauma “insulting.”

“They must be held responsible for what they did,” Proner said. “They intentionally put the passengers at risk. We believe we can win in Florida and we are going to go forward, forward, forward without fear until they don't know what hit them … sort of like the Concordia.”

Proner has teamed up with another New York firm, Napoli Bern Ripka Shkolnik, noted for winning compensation for Ground Zero workers who had health claims related to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The civil lawsuit has been filed in Florida, the home base of Carnival. While Costa Cruise Lines is headquartered in Italy, it is also registered in Hollywood, Fla.
“At present, it is unknown as to whether the US courts will accept the class-action claim, given that the conditions set forth by the cruise ship tickets specify that litigation must take place in the Italian courts,” according to a blog post on the Proner & Proner website.

Unlike in Italy, accident victims who file suit in the United States can recover punitive damages if they can prove a defendant acted egregiously. These damages can soar above the amount of any actual loss. U.S. lawyers who bring successful cases on behalf of injured people can be awarded fees of as much as 30 percent of any recovery.

Meanwhile, Italian emergency officials say they are calling off a search for missing people in the submerged part of the Costa Concordia cruise ship, due to the danger to rescue workers, according to the Associated Press.
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