New York-based personal-injury law firm Proner and Proner said it joined forces with Codacons, the Italian consumer-protection organization, in filing a class action against Costa Cruises.
Firm partner Mitchell Proner said that he already has initiated legal action against Francesco Schettino, the Costa Concordia's captain, in the Italian civil courts.
Proner said that the suit will seek at least $160,000 for each passenger who was aboard the ship at the time of the Jan. 13 disaster near the Italian island of Giglio.
He said that those who were “severely injured in the shipwreck, as well as the families of those who lost loved ones,” could collect hundreds of thousands of dollars on top of that amount.
There were 3,200 passengers and about 1,000 crew members on the ship when it hit a rocky reef and was evacuated.
As of Jan. 24, there are 16 confirmed dead and another 16 still missing, according to news reports from Italy.
Proner said that Costa, which is owned by Carnival Corp., “has gone on record as blaming the accident on the negligent actions of Schettino in an attempt to minimize its liability.”
“In typical cruise-ship accident cases, passengers are bound by the legal terms laid forth on the ticket,” said Proner. “For example, most cruise-ship tickets establish a much shorter time limit within which passengers may file claim against the cruise ship company than normally set by United States state and federal laws. In the case of Costa Concordia victims, litigation resulting from the accident would have to occur in the courts of Italy.”
Proner, however, said he is confident that U.S. courts will accept the case “in an effort to protect the rights of the 120 American citizens” who were onboard the Costa Concordia.
According to published reports, a second New York law firm, Napoli Bern Ripka Shkolnik, also will represent passengers in the class action. Codacons had announced last week it was planning a class action.
Follow Donna Tunney on Twitter @dttravelweekly.