Local maritime geek Jack Hickey is fighting the good fight in trying to help victims of the Concordia disaster, but Carnival is not making it easy:
Anyone trying to sue Costa Concodia’s corporate parent, Carnival Cruise Lines, though, will find that the company is stoutly protected by international law and by a carefully worded contract that passengers accept when they buy their tickets.But Jack says there still might be something there:
For its part, the company is heaping blame on the ship’s captain, Francesco Schettino, calling the accident “human error” and contending that the captain diverted the ship from its authorized route. The company, based in Miami, did not respond to requests for comment for this article.
Such forceful criticism of the captain may be intended to help the company avoid liability under international agreements like the Convention on Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims. The convention is referred to on the Web site of the International Maritime Organization as “a virtually unbreakable system of limiting liability” for the owners of ships after accidents.
To Jack Hickey, a maritime lawyer in Miami who is working with an Italian lawyer to represent Costa Concordia passengers, the cruise line’s responsibility is obvious. Referring to the captain, Mr. Hickey said that the company had “nobody with more authority or responsibility than him” on the ship, and that it was not as if a janitor had somehow steered the ship onto a rock formation. Besides, he noted, in an age when ships are in constant communication with their owners, the company should not be able to argue that it had no idea what was going on. “You mean you can’t track it?” he asked. “You mean if it gets that far off track, you don’t know?”6400-word contract?
The issues in the case could be shaped by the highly restrictive terms of the contract that every passenger gets with his or her ticket, said Gerald McGill, an admiralty lawyer in Pensacola, Fla.
Cruise contracts are notoriously restrictive regarding the rights of passengers, and Costa’s 6,400-word contract is no exception. The Costa contract sharply limits the kinds of lawsuits that can be brought, where those suits can be brought and how much the company can be made to pay. All such provisions have been upheld in the courts of the United States, he said.
Costa’s contract states that the line will pay no more in cases of death, personal injury and property loss than about $71,000 per passenger. It allows no recovery for mental anguish or psychological damages. It bars class-action suits.
“If you read this cruise line ticket, and it doesn’t make your stomach turn, it should,” Mr. McGill said.
That's longer than most short stories (and probably not as interesting)!