November 21, 2013

Cruise Lines Implement Smoking Bans

Effective last week, Disney Cruise Line has imposed a fleet-wide smoking ban on all cruise ship passenger balconies. This new policy is in accordance with the non-smoking trend seen aboard the majority of cruise lines, as passengers are demanding a reduction in smoking areas. These demands, which have been largely communicated through letters of complaint, are affecting both public spaces and guest balconies on ships.

Described as "simply evolutionary" by Berlitz Cruising and Cruise Ships 2014 author Douglas Ward, the new smoking bans are seen by many as long-awaited and overdue. Public spaces throughout the country have been implementing similar rules over the past several years. Because of this, commentators are far from surprised to see new policies instated. Although cruise ships have traditionally included both smoking and non-smoking areas, the ban on smoking aboard guest balconies is new - and certainly a result of complaints from passengers experiencing the secondhand smoke from balconies near their own. Despite these bans, Disney is still designating open-air smoking areas in order to accommodate all of its guests.

Royal Caribbean International, Seabourn, and Cunard Line are among the other cruise lines hardening their stance against smoking, particularly on passenger balconies. To toughen the stance against smoking, Royal Caribbean is fining violators of these new rules up to $250. However, not all cruise lines are taking as stringent of measures to prevent smoking. Carnival Cruise Lines, for example, still permits smoking on all balconies except those of the spa cabins. Please click here to learn more about these new smoking policies aboard cruise ships, or contact individual cruise lines to learn of their smoking developments.

June 11, 2013

Cruise Ship Industry Trust Waning

The numbers are out on the public's view of the cruise line industry, and they aren't what many in the industry would have hoped for. A new Harris poll on public trust and perception of the cruise industry indicates that the industry's damaged public image has continued to plummet since the fire aboard the Carnival Triumph in February, 2013. That incident, which was heavily publicized by the media, left passengers and crew stranded onboard for four days without propulsion or power until they were towed to port at Mobile, Alabama. After the fire on the Carnival Triumph, public trust in cruising hit a historic low and has continued to decline. Since the fire, the public's faith in the cruise ship industry is down 12%.

The public's perception of the quality of the cruise ship experience has also declined since February. Potential first time cruisers are much more reluctant to splurge on a vacation aboard a cruise than they were a year ago, with 56% who have never taken a cruise saying that they are less likely now to book a cruise than they were a year ago. It should be noted that this poll, which was conducted from May 14-16 of this year, occurred before a fire broke out aboard the Grandeur of the Seas on the less than two weeks later. Although it did not cause as much damage as the fire on the Triumph did, and seems to have been handled in a much better fashion, it seems likely that the latest incident will only further damage the industry's image among the traveling public.
The cruise line industry has taken several measures over the last several months to help minimize the damage done to their public image. (A summary of those steps, along with news of the fire on the Grandeur fire, was the subject of a prior entry on this blog). The result of these efforts is difficult to ascertain, but one thing the survey makes clear is that the cruise line that has suffered the most damage to its reputation is Carnival. While trust in the industry as a whole has dropped 12 percent since the fire onboard the Triumph, trust in Carnival has decreased by 26%. And when it comes to the public's perception of the quality of the cruising experience, satisfaction with Carnival has decreased by 28%. (Carnival Cruise Lines is a subsidiary of Carnival Corporation, which owns several other lines including Princess Cruises, Holland America Line, and Costa Cruises. Costa was in the news last year when one of its ships crashed into a reef off the shores of Tuscany because the captain veered off course and ventured too close to shore. Thirty-two people lost their lives, and legal battles over compensation from this accident are still ongoing). For more information about cruise ship accidents, or to see if you have a case, contact The Law Office of David H. Pollack at 305-372-5900 for a free consultation or visit our website at www.davidpollacklaw.com.

June 4, 2013

Fire-proof Bill of Rights for Cruise Passengers

On May 22, 2013, the Cruise Line Industry Association (CLIA) adopted a formal Cruise Line Passenger Bill of Rights designed to protect the rights of cruise line passengers in the event of mechanical failures and other emergencies. Less than a week later, on the morning of May 28, the Bill of Rights was put to the test when a large fire broke out on Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Seas. The ship was headed south after departing Baltimore when it became engulfed in flames. According to a detailed account of the incident written by a passenger and published in the Baltimore Sun, the ship's crew acted quickly to put out the fire and insure that all passengers were safe.

The new Bill of Rights was adopted at the CLIA Convention to alleviate passengers' concerns about cruise ship safety in the face of a number of accidents and mechanical failures that have occurred in the last year and to counter the negative publicity generated by them. Among the most notable incidents were the sinking of the Costa Concordia, which resulted in the deaths of a number of passengers, and the engine failure which left passengers onboard the Carnival Triumph stranded without power for several days. (For more information on recent cruise accidents, see the blog post below from March 18, 2013).

While the Bill of Rights has been called a step in the right direction by maritime lawyers representing both passengers and the industry, it also has been criticized for not going far enough in addressing a number of recurring problems. And while the Bill of Rights does lay out specific rights passengers traveling onboard member cruise lines have in the event of emergencies , and what kind of service they can expect while cruising, it does not provide for the adoption of any new regulations. A memo released by the CLIA to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) does make clear, however, that the Bill of Rights will apply to all United States passengers who purchase their tickets in North America, regardless of their itinerary.

Over the past few years, accidents on cruise ships around the world have created some disturbances for the industry. The CLIA and its members have made several efforts to help repair their damaged image by creating an industry Operational Safety Review, examining cruise ships through a Preparedness Risk Assessment, as well as completing a multi-day emergency drill led by the U.S. Coast Guard to make sure that all ships are ready in case of an emergency. The Bill of Rights appears to be another measure to ease the minds of potential passengers who have concerns about cruise ship safety.
We encourage you to review the Bill of Rights, which we have reproduced below along with a link to the CLIA memo, and take a copy with you if you are planning on cruising in the near future. If you feel that any of your rights has been violated, or if you suffer any harm during your cruise, The Law Office of David H. Pollack is available to assist you. Contact us at 305-372-5900 for a free consultation or visit our website at www.davidpollacklaw.com.

Cruise Passenger Bill of Rights

The Members of the Cruise Lines International Association are dedicated to the comfort and care of all passengers on oceangoing cruises throughout the world. To fulfil this commitment, our Members have agreed to adopt the following set of passenger rights:
1. The right to disembark a docked ship if essential provisions such as food, water, restroom facilities and access to medical care cannot adequately be provided on-board, subject only to the Master=s concern for passenger safety and security and customs and immigration requirements of the port.
2. The right to a full refund for a trip that is cancelled due to mechanical failures, or a partial refund for voyages that are terminated early due to those failures.
3. The right to have available on board ships operating beyond rivers or coastal waters full-time, professional emergency medical attention, as needed until shore side medical care becomes available.
4. The right to timely information updates as to any adjustments in the itinerary of the ship in the event of a mechanical failure or emergency, as well as timely updates of the status of efforts to address mechanical failures.
5. The right to a ship crew that is properly trained in emergency and evacuation procedures.
6. The right to an emergency power source in the case of a main generator failure.
7. The right to transportation to the ship=s scheduled port of disembarkation or the passenger=s home city in the event a cruise is terminated early due to mechanical failures.
8. The right to lodging if disembarkation and an overnight stay in an unscheduled port are required when a cruise is terminated early due to mechanical failures.
9. The right to have included on each cruise line=s website a toll-free phone line that can be used for questions or information concerning any aspect of shipboard operations.
10. The right to have this Cruise Line Passenger Bill of Rights published on each line=s website.

Baltimore Sun Article: http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2013-06-03/news/bs-ed-cruise-20130603_1_first-cruise-muster-stations-crew-member

CLIA Memo: http://www.cruising.org/regulatory/news/press_releases/2013/05/cruise-industry-adopts-passenger-bill-rights

March 13, 2013

Cruise Ship Industry: Short Term Memory?

Last year, the cruise industry's biggest story was the Costa Concordia's grounding in Tuscany after it struck a rock in the seabed, which caused the ship to partially sink. This year the cruise industry has already experienced another unfortunate disaster with the engine room fire aboard the Carnival Triumph. Thousands of passengers and crewmembers were left stranded without power for four days, in conditions many described as unlivable. This week, at the annual Cruise Shipping Miami (CSM) conference, executives from the major cruise lines met to discuss the state of the cruise industry in general, and the effects of these incidents in particular. Despite a weak year relative to historical averages, executives said that 2012 was on par with industry expectations for most cruise lines, and many of the larger cruise lines expressed excitement about the new opportunities for expansion that are opening up in emerging markets such as East Asia and Brazil. (The European market struggled more than others due to the Concordia incident as well as the European sovereign-debt crisis).

The cruise line industry has maintained its stance that cruising is still one of the safest ways to vacation, and in an effort to reassure passengers unnerved by recent events, Carnival announced that it would be performing a thorough review of its entire fleet to help prevent any similar accidents or incidents in the future. Nevertheless, the Triumph fiasco has prompted many, both in and outside the industry, to demand greater safety regulation of the cruise ship industry. (Cruise line executives, of course, insist that the cruise ship industry is adequately regulated)

Horror stories of accidents, crimes, disappearances, and illnesses occurring on cruise ships are admittedly nothing new, dating back to the infamous maiden-voyage of the Titanic. And while it is true that the percentage of passengers who experience a serious injury or fatality is comparatively small relative to the total number of those who cruise, the frequency and severity of these episodes appears to be increasing. If you or any of your loved ones have suffered an accident or become ill aboard a cruise ship, you may be entitled to compensation. For a free consultation, contact the Law Office of David H. Pollack at 305-372-5900 or visit our website at www.davidpollacklaw.com.


http://www.sun-sentinel.com/business/fl-cruise-industry-outlook-2013-20130313,0,6208669.story

http://www.travelagentcentral.com/cruises/state-cruise-industry-executives-sound-globalization-and-more-39502

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/03/13/uk-usa-cruise-idUSLNE92C00F20130313

January 21, 2013

Lozman v. Riviera Beach

The Supreme Court last week held that a Riviera Beach, FL resident's floating home was a house, not a 'vessel', and therefore the marina where he had docked it could not seize his home under federal maritime law. The owner of the home, Fane Lozman, is a self-made millionaire who had been residing in the City of Riviera Beach Marina where he had indefinitely moored his 60-by-12 foot houseboat. The houseboat had been towed from another marina following Hurricane Wilma's passing in the summer of 2005. Lozman had resided in Riviera Beach for a little more than a year before his relationship with city became rocky. The city had plans for a luxury development in the marina, but Lozman fought against it and ultimately succeeded in halting the plans. The city council wanted to clear the path for their development, and in 2007 passed new regulations for the marina, which required proof of insurance and registration, as well as new docking fees for the marina. In March, 2008, Lozman received a letter from the city advising him he would be evicted unless he brought his home in compliance with the new regulations and paid outstanding fees to the Marina also from the new regulations. In April 2009 the city arrested the houseboat and filed a claim in admiralty on his home, the boat was subsequently auctioned off and demolished. Lozman dismissed the admiralty claim, but the district court ruled in favor of the city, declaring that his home was indeed a 'vessel' and could be arrested under federal maritime law.

On appeal, the case finally reached the Supreme Court in 2012. The Supreme Court announced its ruling on January 15 ending the lengthy legal battle. The central question in the case was whether Lozman's house could be considered a'vessel' under federal maritime jurisdiction. Lozman argued that the house, which had no self-propulsion, energy production/storage, or rudder, was not a 'vessel' because it's purpose and was not to transport goods or people. The City argued that the houseboat was indeed a vessel because it was capable of moving on water. The Supreme Court sided with Lozman

Lozman was seeking compensation for his house, which he valued at around $50,000, as well as reimbursement for legal and other related fees that totaled up to nearly $300,000. The ruling is expected to have significant legal ramifications for boat owners and others in the maritime. Across the country marinas, vessel owners, marine bankers, and other marine affiliated businesses have been reviewing their operations in light of the ruling. Among the issues the ruling is likely to affect are:

• What vessels are allowed to dock at marinas;
• What kind of non-traditional craft that may be approved for maritime loans;
• How creditors can recover unpaid bills;
• The balance of power between federal and state governments in regulating certain areas;
• The status of other indefinitely moored structures, like riverboat casinos and oil rigs;
• The relationship between admiralty law and other areas of law;

Because the decision does not provide a bright line rule for what a vessel is the issue will likely be revisited by federal district courts and appellate judges. This leaves it up to judges across the country to use their judgment to settle future disputes, but does set a precedent. From a historical point of view, the distinction is important mainly due to the unique characteristics of boats. In particular the fact that they can be easily moved. Unpaid creditors, such as the city, were given the power to "arrest" boats to recover debts. In circumstances such as Lozman's, this has now changed.

It has yet to be seen or determined exactly how this ruling will play out in future cases, but it has definitely established a precedent on the issue. If you or anyone you know has a dispute that you feel may be affected by this new ruling, or need advice concerning what to do in light of it, please contact the Law Office of David H. Pollack at 305-372-5900 or visit our website at www.davidpollacklaw.com


http://www.npr.org/2013/01/15/169452244/supreme-court-rules-that-houseboats-are-houses-not-boats

http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/cert/11-626

http://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/news/crime-law/court-rules-lozmans-floating-home-not-covered-unde/nTxKy/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/25/fane-lozman-houseboat_n_1378142.html

January 4, 2013

Virus Outbreak Subsides on Queen Mary 2

The world's last active ocean liner, Cunard Line's RMS Queen Mary 2, made headlines last week when it was reported that as many as 201 of its passengers and crew members reported suffering from gastrointestinal illnesses and 19 showed active symptoms of norovirus. It was the second cruise ship that week that had reported an outbreak of the dangerous virus. However, a follow up report released by Cunard Line on Wednesday, January 2, states that only two passengers and 16 crew members had suspected cases of norovirus.

Norovirus is an easily transmissible virus that poses great risk for young children and the elderly. It causes vomiting and diarrhea, and in healthy individuals usually resolves in one or two days. The isolated nature of cruise ships creates an environment where viruses such as these can spread quickly and cause harm to those on board. Cunard Line claims that they took steps to help deter and prevent the spread of the virus by encouraging all passengers who showed symptoms to present themselves to the medical staff on board, quarantining the sick, and dispatching extra crew members to clean and disinfect public areas.

The Center for Disease Control's (CDC) Vessel Sanitation Program has been investigating the situation on the Queen Mary 2, and on Thursday, sent two environmental health officers and an epidemiologist on board to assess the situation. They have released their investigation on their website. To view the full report, click here.

If you have been exposed to infections on a cruise ship or suffered other injuries, contact the Law Office of David H. Pollack at 305-372-5900 or visit our website at www.davidpollacklaw.com

July 6, 2012

Captain Schettino: A "Divine Hand" Guided Me to Save Lives

Francesco Schettino, the Costa Concordia ship captain accused of causing the accident on January 13, 2012 was released from house arrest yesterday. Click here for MSNBC news article.

He is charged with multiple counts of manslaughter, causing the accident and abandoning ship prematurely. A strict component of his house arrest prevented Schettino from communicating with anyone besides his lawyer and close friends. Now that the house arrest has been lifted, however, the AFP reported that Schettino made a statement to the media claiming that a "divine hand" guided him and saved lives.

"A divine hand surely touched my head . . . If I had continued on that path the ship's prow would have hit the rock. It would have been carnage."

Further, Schettino denies that the tragedy, which took the lives of 32 passengers, was caused by own mental state at the time of the crash. In a letter to his lawyers and published by Italian Media, Schettino says:

"There are those who say the impact with the stern was caused because I was suffering from a hallucination. What hallucination! It was rather my instinct, my skills, the ability to know the sea and suddenly change direction." Click here to read more of Schettino's statement.

Schettino is alleged to have caused the disaster by sailing too close to the shore, causing the Costa Concordia to slam into rocks and capsize with over 4,000 passengers on board.

June 29, 2012

Yacht Racers Rescued at Sea: Norwegian Star and Royal Caribbean's Enchantment of the Seas pull Newport Bermuda Yachtsmen to Safety.

On June 26, the Norwegian Star cruise ship diverted its course to rescue six sailors aboard the Avenir, a yacht associated with the Newport Bermuda Yacht Race. In a distress signal sent to the U.S. Coast Guard at approximately 1:00 p.m., the vessel was still adrift, though the sailors reported irreparable damage to the rudder, resulting in an inability to steer the yacht. Click here to Read more about the distress signal.

The Norwegian Star, en route from New York City to Bermuda, was just 54 nautical miles from the distressed vessel in the Atlantic Ocean when the U.S. Coast Guard notified it of the emergency. Norwegian captain, Kenneth Harstrom, expeditiously diverted the ship's course and safely transferred the three men and three women from the Avenir onto the Star. The yachtsmen departed Bermuda to deliver the Avenir to Bristol, Rhode Island two days before the rescue.

The Star wasn't the only ship to effectuate a rescue during the 2012 Newport Yacht Race. Royal Caribbean's Enchantment of the Seas brought Nathan C. Owen on board on June 18th when he began to suffer from dehydration. Reports of Owen's condition were relayed to the primary physician for the race, who ultimately directed that he be evacuated from his yacht, the 46-foot sloop Seabiscuit. About 200 miles northwest of Bermuda, Enchantment of the Seas intercepted racer and brought him onboard where he was treated for his condition.

Click here for more information about how Owen's rescue was coordinated by Newport Bermuda Race Communications.

June 22, 2012

11th Circuit Made Waves with Ruling that "Onboard Activities Waiver" is Invalid

237487_grandeur_docked.jpgSchool is out, temperatures are soaring, and conditions are prime for water sports fanatics and families eager to spend some downtime on the high seas during the upcoming summer months. With the variety of onboard activities on the rise, it's no surprise that the number of reported injuries is, too.


Whether passengers are testing their dexterity on the rock-climbing wall, perfecting their serve on the volleyball court, practicing their putt during a round of mini golf, or even learning to surf, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled that an "Onboard Activity Waiver" is invalid and unenforceable against passengers who sustain injuries while engaging in activities on the ship.

In Johnson v. Royal Caribbean Cruises, LTD, a passenger brought a personal injury action against the cruise line when she severely injured her ankle on a simulated surfing activity called "The FlowRider" aboard the Oasis of the Seas.

The "FlowRider," as described by the cruise line on its website:

"The FlowRider sends a thin sheet of water up a sloped and (thankfully) cushioned platform to create a wavelike flow of water. . . After receiving safety instructions and a few tips for a successful ride from our instructors, you can let 'er rip standing up (flowboarding) or lying down (bodyboarding)..."

The instructor in charge of the attraction violated safety guidelines when he instructed Johnson to stand on the bodyboard while he held it, a maneuver that deviated from its regular use. When the instructor released the board, Johnson fell and suffered a fractured ankle.

In Johnson, the lower court held that the "Onboard Activity Wavier" that Johnson electronically signed barred Royal Caribbean from liability as a result of the injuries she sustained on the FlowRider. By signing her name, Johnson agreed to release Royal Caribbean and its employees from actions "arising from any accident [or] injury ... resulting from ... [her] participation in any or all of the shipboard activities [she] has selected..."

The lower court also rejected Johnson's argument that the waiver is invalid under 46 U.S.C 30509 (assuming general maritime law and admiralty jurisdiction is applicable) which prohibits regulations or contract provisions that attempt to absolve a defendant from its own negligence in the transporting of passengers between ports in the U.S. or between the U.S. and a foreign country.

Royal Caribbean was granted summary judgment on the grounds that the waiver was enforceable.
At the end of last year, however, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the decision, ruling that the waiver signed by Johnson clearly runs afoul of 46 U.S.C 30509, a statute containing no exceptions for passengers engaging in activity which may be deemed ultra-hazardous or recreational in nature. Click here for full court opinion.

Although Royal Caribbean is the only cruise line that boasts an attraction like the FlowRider, (and it's no wonder, with numerous injuries reported and even one death resulting from its use), if you are injured seriously during any onboard activity, consult a maritime lawyer to ensure that a waiver isn't being enforced against you.


June 16, 2012

Tragedy at Sea: Princess Cruise Line Ignores Calls for Rescue, Gets Hit with Lawsuits in State and Federal Court

Fundamental U.S. Maritime law imposes a duty to rescue at sea. In Caminiti v. Tomlinson Fleet Corp., 1981 A.M.C. 201 (E.D. Ohio), two men went overboard from their vessel and two passing commercial ships didn't stop, despite seeing the passengers struggling in the water. The men drowned and the shipping companies denied that a duty to rescue the men existed. The court disagreed, finding that "the law of the sea has always demanded a higher degree of care, vigilance and diligence," and that the duty to rescue "strangers in peril" exists even if the ships were not the cause of the peril.

On February 24, 2012, a commercial fishing boat crewed by three young, Panamanian men was heading home to Rio Hato, Panama after a fishing excursion. The engine on the small vessel failed and was adrift without power for nearly 15 days before it was spotted by three passengers aboard the Star Princess. The cruise ship passengers allegedly spotted the distressed vessel through a pair of high-powered binoculars and immediately alerted the ship's crewmembers that the fishermen were signaling for help, waving their arms and a red piece of cloth tied to a pole. Unfortunately, the Star Princess continued on its course and failed to effectuate a rescue.

The fishing boat was later discovered by the Ecuadorean Coast Guard on March 24th near the Galapagos Islands, with only one survivor onboard, 18-year-old Adrian Vasquez. Oropeces Betancourt, 24, died of dehydration on March 11 and Fernando Osorio, 16, died four days later from dehydration, sunburn and heat stroke.

Princess claimed that the passengers' sighting of the fishermen was never communicated to the bridge.

"Because of what we suspect was a case of unfortunate miscommunication, regretfully the captain of Star Princess was never notified of the passengers' concern," it said in a statement.

"This is an upsetting and emotional issue for us all, as no employee onboard a Princess ship would purposefully ignore someone in distress," the statement added. "It is our ethical and maritime responsibility to provide assistance to any vessel in need, and it is not an uncommon occurrence for our ships to be involved in a rescue at sea." Read more about Princess' account of the tragedy.

Princess Cruises, for it's failure to rescue the three, distressed Panamanian fishermen, has been hit with two lawsuits. The first suit, a negligence action filed by the sole survivor of the incident, accuses Princess of "outrageous conduct" and "Callous disregard for human life" when it ignored rescue signals by the three men, resulting in the otherwise avoidable death of the other two fishermen. The second suit alleges that Princess breached its duty to rescue under general maritime law by ignoring pleas for help by the stranded anglers.

There are three international conventions that impose a duty on ships to rescue at sea and all three effectively require that a captain of a vessel, if notified, must proceed to the assistance of any persons in distress.

The first is the International Maritime Organizations (IMO) regulations found in the Safety of Life at Sea Convention (SOLAS).
The second is the U.N. Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCOLOS).
The third is the International Convention of Salvage (1989) ("Salvage Convention"). Read more about Ethical and Legal Implications of failure to rescue at sea.


February 1, 2012

Concordia survivors face legal hurdles moving forward

The media has been abuzz the last several weeks with stories about the Costa Concordia accident. From stories about the ship's captain, Francesco Schettino, allegedly being hired to work with a coalition of salvage crews in Italy to articles speculating on what the fall out will be for Carnival Corporation, the parent company of Costa Crociere and other cruise lines, the accident has everyone talking about cruise ship safety. All that talk, however, is likely to be of little consolation to the passengers and crew members on the Concordia and their families, since the odds of them being able to litigate their cases in the United States are extremely remote. In the case of the crew members, their employment contracts typically require them to arbitrate any claims they have arising out of their employment, including claims for injuries, in their home country or the country where the cruise line is based (in Costa's case, Genoa). In the case of injured passengers, they, too will likely be precluded from filing suit in the United States for the injuries they sustained because of the fine print contained in the tickets they purchased before they boarded the ship.

While most of the major cruise lines require passengers who are injured on cruises touching in a United States port to file suit in the jurisdiction where they are headquartered - Miami, in the case of Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and NCL, Seattle, in the case of Holland America- no such protection is afforded passengers on cruises that do not call or touch a US port. In the case of Costa Crociere, the terms of the ticket for cruises outside the United States requires passengers to file suit in Genoa, Italy, which makes it extremely difficult for them to pursue their claims.

The big question going forward, though, is not whether the passengers and crew members injured or killed as a result of the Concordia disaster will be compensated in some fashion - Costa Crociere has reportedly offered to pay $14,000 to passengers who sustained no physical injuries - but whether they will be compensated fairly. Most maritime personal injury attorneys, including myself, believe the answer is no, given the legal hurdles both passengers and crew members face as a result of where they will be required to litigate. This is not to say that both Costa Crociere and Carnival do not have an interest from a public relations standpoint in settling cases involving the Concordia for a fair amount, since their image is critical to attracting new passengers and retaining old ones. However, given the magnitude of the catastrophe and the apparent recklessness of the captain, it seems unlikely that Costa will pay anything close to full value on any of these cases.

For one thing, based on the evidence that has come out so far, attorneys for injured passengers and crew members would almost certainly have a basis to seek punitive damages against Costa. However, such damages are likely unavailable under Italian law, which a court in Italy would probably apply if the cases were tried there. For another, general maritime law in the United States would permit passengers and crew members to seek emotional distress damages, which given the circumstances of this case, would almost certainly be substantial. (It is hard to imagine anyone not being justifiably traumatized by being on board a sinking cruise ship. Think Titanic). It is unclear whether courts in Italy would allow recovery for these damages, but the consensus among maritime attorneys is that even if plaintiffs could bring their cases in Italy - a questionable proposition, since Italian law does not allow for contingent fee representation - the damage awards are likely to be smaller than in the United States.

Continue reading "Concordia survivors face legal hurdles moving forward" »

January 17, 2012

Search Continues for Concordia Cruise Ship Passengers

With 11 confirmed deaths and at least 20 people still missing, the Concordia cruiseship disaster continues to garner attention from the international press and public. In the immediate aftermath of the Costa Cruise disaster, images of the listing cruise ship are everywhere you look. The media continues to present up-to-the minute details of the search and rescue efforts. It seems with each passing day, more controversy comes to light and new investigations and lawsuits are opened.

And although the impact on Carnival Corporation, the owner of Costa, is uncertain, the future of the cruise industry does not appear to be a mystery to many cruise industry experts.

According to The New York Times, January is the beginning of the cruise industry's peak season, as it is the time when the cruise lines typically book a third to half of their reservations for the entire year.

Despite the tragedy, most predictions about the future of the cruise industry are optimistic. According to The New York Times, experts say the Costa tragedy has not caused an increase in passenger fear and that the Costa tragedy will have no long-term impact on the cruise industry. According to The Huffington Post, other experts doubt there will be any impact on demand, while others still predict a blitz of price slashing by Carnival followed by an uptick in sales.

By most accounts, it seems likely that the cruising public will continue to fill the ships in spite of the Costa tragedy. The Costa tragedy has, however, underscored just how important it is that passengers know their legal rights in the event that tragedy should strike.

Most cruise ship passengers are unaware of the restrictions placed on their right to sue when they are injured on a cruise ship. The majority of cruise lines, including Costa Crociere, have clauses in their tickets which specify where and when injured passengers can file suit. These clauses typically provide for a shorter statute of limitations (usually one year), and require passengers to file suit in a particular court or jurisdiction. In the case of passengers who were injured or died on the Concordia, they are unlikely to be able to file suit in the United States because the terms of their passenger ticket reportedly require them to file suit in Italy. Although there has been some discussion in the maritime legal community as to whether the forum selection clause would be enforceable against United States citizens because the accident appears to have resulted from reckless, rather than negligent conduct, on the part of the ship, this argument has yet to be tested, and if successful, would be the exception to the rule. In all likelihood, passengers who were injured or died on the Concordia will likely be forced to file suit in Italy, rather than in the United States, which will significantly impair their ability to recover money (although given the evidence that has come out so far about the accident, Costa may well want to settle these cases to avoid any additional negative publicity).

Continue reading "Search Continues for Concordia Cruise Ship Passengers" »