Cruise ship survivors offered $14,454 compensation
Uninjured passengers of Costa Concordia would also get travel and medical costs covered
Costa Crociere SpA is offering uninjured passengers €11,000 ($14,454 Cdn) each to compensate them for lost baggage and psychological trauma after its cruise ship ran aground and capsized off Tuscany when the captain deviated from his route.
Costa, a unit of the world's biggest cruise operator, the Miami-based Carnival Corp., also said it would reimburse passengers the full costs of their cruise, their travel expenses and any medical expenses sustained after the grounding.
Sixteen bodies have been recovered since the Costa Concordia hit a reef on Jan. 13. Another 16 remain unaccounted for and are presumed dead. Search efforts for them resumed Friday as salvage crews prepared to begin extracting some 2,380 tonnes of heavy fuel oil before it leaks.
The agreement was announced Friday after negotiations between Costa representatives and Italian consumer groups who say they represent 3,206 cruise ship passengers from 61 countries who suffered no physical harm in the accident.
The deal does not apply to the hundreds of crew on the ship, the roughly 100 cases of people injured or the families who lost loved ones.
Crew member files lawsuit
One crew member from the Costa Concordia has filed a lawsuit in Chicago federal court against Carnival Cruise Lines and its Costa subsidiary.
The lawsuit seeks to represent all 4,200 passengers and crew aboard the vessel when it capsized. It was filed Thursday on behalf of crew member Gary Lobaton, who is from Peru.
The lawsuit accuses Carnival and Costa of negligence because of an unsafe evacuation after the accident occurred. Sixteen people are known dead and 16 more are missing.
Carnival is based in Miami and Costa in Hollywood, Fla. The lawsuit says Chicago is a proper venue because Carnival does substantial business in Illinois.
Neither company would comment about lawsuits Friday.
Passengers are free to pursue legal action on their own if they aren't satisfied with the deal. Some consumer groups have already signed on as injured parties in the criminal case against the Concordia's captain, Francesco Schettino, who is accused of manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning the ship before all passengers were evacuated. He is under house arrest.
In addition, Codacons, one of Italy's best known consumer groups, has engaged two U.S. law firms to launch a class-action lawsuit against Costa and Carnival in Miami, claiming that it expects to get anywhere from €125,000 ($164,255 Cdn) to €1 million ($1.3 million Cdn) per passenger.
Codacons has also called for a criminal investigation into the not-infrequent practice of steering huge cruise ships close to shore to give passengers and residents on land a bit of a thrill.
Don't take the deal: German attorney
German attorney Hans Reinhardt, who currently represents 15 Germans who survived the accident and is in talks to represent families who lost loved ones, said he is advising his clients not to take the settlement.
Instead, he, like Codacons, is working with the U.S. law firm to pursue the class-action suit in Miami.
"What they have lost is much more than €11,000," he told the Associated Press.
But Roberto Corbella, who represented Costa in the negotiations, said the deal provides passengers with quick and "generous" restitution that consumer groups estimate could amount to some €14,000 per passenger when it includes the other reimbursements.
"The big advantage that they have is an immediate response, no legal expenses, and they can put this whole thing behind them," he told AP.
Angry passenger Herbert Greszuk, a 62-year-old German who left behind everything he had with him, including his tuxedo, camera, jewelry, and even his dentures, told the AP before the compensation deal was announced that it was an issue of accountability.
"Something like this must not be allowed to happen again. So many people died; it's simply inexcusable," he said.
Claudia Urru of Cagliari, Sardinia, who was on board the ship with her husband and two sons aged 3 and 12, said she was very worried about her children.
Her eldest child, she said, is seeing a psychiatrist: He won't speak about the incident or even look at television footage of the grounding.
"He's terrorized at night," she said. "He can't go to the bathroom alone. We're all sleeping together, except my husband, who has gone into another room because we don't all fit."
As a result, she said, her family has retained a lawyer because they don't know what the real impact — financial or otherwise — of the trauma will be. She said her family simply isn't able to make such decisions now.
"We are having a very, very hard time," she said.
'Tourist navigation' not illegal
The chief executive of Costa, Pier Luigi Foschi, told an Italian parliamentary committee this week that so-called "tourist navigation" wasn't illegal, and was a "cruise product" sought out by passengers and offered by cruise lines to try to stay competitive.
The Concordia gashed its hull on reefs off the island of Giglio after Schettino made an unauthorized deviation from its approved route to bring it closer to Giglio. Some 4,200 passengers and crew were hastily evacuated after the Concordia ran aground and capsized a few kilometres away near the port of Giglio.
Passengers have said the evacuation was chaotic. Coast guard data shows the captain only sounded the evacuation alarm an hour after the initial collision, well after the Concordia had listed to the point that many lifeboats couldn't be lowered.
Schettino has admitted he had taken the ship on "touristic navigation" but has said the rocks he hit weren't charted on his nautical maps.