Our cruise ship injury lawyers have found the litigation of injury claims against cruise ships can involve complex, procedural rules stemming from the likely multiple jurisdictions involved. At the outset, parties should perform extensive legal and risk analysis to determine the best place to file a suit that would maximize the likelihood of a favorable result, as well as concerns of efficiency. The case below illustrates the procedural hurdles that plaintiffs may need to jump over to begin even litigating injury claims against cruise lines.
This case revolves around the highly publicized cruise ship accident of the MS Costa Concordia. The Concordia was an Italian-flagged vessel that, in 2012, was on a seven-day cruise from Civitavecchia to Savona, Italy. However, the ship ran aground after its Captain decided to deviate from the set course to do a maneuver, during which the Concordia hit a reef in Italian waters resulting in massive hull damage. The authorities evacuated over three thousand passengers, which included approximately 100 U.S. citizens, and over a thousand crewmembers. After the catastrophe, several passengers filed suit in the 11th Judicial Circuit Court in Florida against Carnival Corporation, which does business principally in London, Costa Cruise Lines, which operates out of Florida, Costa Crociere, an Italian corporation, and Joseph Farcus, an architect licensed in Florida. After a series of procedural actions, two groups of passengers refiled two separate actions against the same companies with the same claims. Carnival successfully removed both cases to a federal court and subsequently asked the court to dismiss both cases. The federal court remanded both cases to the 11th Judicial Circuit without resolving Carnival’s motion to dismiss.
Carnival’s argument in its motion to dismiss is the doctrine of forum non conveniens, which means that the U.S. is not an appropriate court in which to litigate the cases. In considering whether the U.S. is the appropriate forum, there are four questions that the court has to ask:
- Is there a sufficient alternative forum that has jurisdiction over the whole case?
- What are the relevant private interests, considering a strong presumption against the first forum choice of the plaintiffs?
- Do the factors of the public interest favor trial in another forum?
- If so, can the plaintiffs refile the suit in another forum without prejudice to their interests or undue inconvenience?
In this case, Carnival agreed to accept the jurisdiction of Italian courts and respect the judgments entered by Italian courts. The plaintiffs argued that litigation in Italy may take many years, and each plaintiff will have to get their counsel because Italy did not allow for class actions. However, the trial court found that this was not enough to make another jurisdiction inadequate. Additionally, the trial court determined that allowing litigation in Florida would be unjust to Carnival because most of the evidence is located in Italy, including all of the relevant witnesses. Most of the plaintiffs in the case are not residents of the United States, and the conduct claimed as negligent occurred in Italy. Finally, Italian authorities inspected, regulated, and certified the Concordia, its crew, and its Captain and is currently conducting its investigation into the accident.
If you or a family member has been injured in a cruise ship accident, the Miami personal injury lawyers at Greenberg, Stone & Urbano offer the assistance you need to obtain the results you desire. With over 130 collective years of experience representing personal injury clients across South Florida, our firm provides legal representation of unmatched excellence. Contact our firm as soon as possible to start on the road to protecting your legal rights. Our firm received an AV rating from Martindale-Hubbell and was ranked as a top firm in South Florida by the Miami Herald. Put our exceptional personal injury attorneys to work on your case. Call us at (888) 499-9700 or (305) 595-2400 or you can visit our website to schedule your initial consultation.