* 39 passengers sued ship's owners in Miami court
* Lawsuit alleges gross negligence, carelessness
* Costa extends deadline to accept its compensation
By Jane Sutton
MIAMI, Feb 14 Dozens of additional
survivors of the Costa Concordia shipwreck off Italy have joined
a Florida lawsuit that accuses the ship's owners of gross
negligence and fraud, and asks for at least $528 million in
An 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
Thirty-three more surviving passengers were added to the six
in the original lawsuit filed in January, bringing the total
number of plaintiffs to 39.
Carnival declined to comment, saying it does not typically
comment on litigation matters.
The lawsuit alleges that the company acted with gross
negligence and careless disregard during the cruise that ended
on Jan. 13 when the Costa Concordia hit a reef and capsized off
the coast of Italy. The ship carried 4,200 passengers and crew,
and 32 were killed.
The suit alleges that the crew failed to conduct safety
drills, that the ship was off course when it hit the reef, that
the captain waited too long before giving the order to evacuate,
that the crew performed badly during the evacuation and that the
cruise line inflicted emotional distress and failed to provide
prompt and adequate aid to survivors.
"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.
Among those details were a requirement that claims against
the company had to be pursued in Genoa, Italy, where Costa
Crociere is based.
"The nature of the conduct, being so outrageous and
reckless, and the failure to provide for safety features,
actually negates the contract ... it makes the ticket null and
void," said Marc Jay Bern, a senior partner in one of the law
firms that filed the suit, Napoli Bern Ripka Shkolnik and
The suit said the captain's abandonment of the ship before
all the passengers were evacuated was "so outrageous in
character and so extreme in degree as to go beyond all possible
bounds of decency."
It asks for more than $78 million in compensatory damages
and at least $450 million in punitive damages, plus interest and
Costa, which blamed the captain for the accident, has
offered passengers compensation of $14,500 plus a refund and
costs of travel home.
It had originally given passengers until Tuesday to accept
the offer, but extended the deadline to March 31 to allow them
to review the proposal with less urgency. Costa said the offer
was available only to passengers who had returned home.
"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.
The plaintiffs in the Miami lawsuit are from the United
States, Italy, Venezuela, China, Canada, Germany, Korea and
Kazakhstan. The lawsuit said the Florida court is the
appropriate jurisdiction because the defendants engaged in
business in the state.
"Only one cruise ship has gone down in over 100 years, the
Titanic. Now the Costa Concordia will live in infamy with it,"
The original lawsuit asked for $10 million in compensatory
damages and at least $450 million in punitive damages.
The case number is 12-3496CA 40, Geoffrey Scimone et al vs.
Carnival Corp et al.