Articles Posted in Cruise Ship Passenger Rights

Published on:

This week, CLIA (the Cruise Lines International Association) announced the adoption by its Board of Directors of a “Cruise Industry Passenger Bill of Rights.” The Bill of Rights was declared as a commitment by the cruise industry to the safety, comfort and care of cruise passengers:

Cruise Industry Passenger Bill of Rights

1. The right to disembark a docked ship if essential provisions such as food, water, restroom facilities and access to medical care cannot adequately be provided onboard, subject only to the Master’s concern for passenger safety and security and customs and immigration requirements of the port.

Published on:

The odds of becoming the next cruise passenger victim of a sex crime are unknown.

You and your family decide to go on a cruise to celebrate a special occasion at sea. The luxurious and glamorous temptation of spending a week on a majestic cruise ship is understandable, and for all you know, a quite safe way to spend some quality and relaxing time with your spouse and teenage children.

Two months after coming back from the cruise, your 15-year-old daughter courageously confesses that while alone in her cabin on the cruise ship, a crew-member unlocked her cabin door using a universal key card, and forced her to perform several sex acts. She kept quiet and did not tell anyone until today, because she did not want to ruin the family vacation.

That horrendous event is unfortunately not as uncommon as one may think, and certainly not as uncommon as the cruise industry would like you, potential customer, to believe. Yet, that is exactly what happened in 2010 to a 15-year-old girl and her family while on board a Royal Caribbean cruise in New Zealand, as reported by CNN below:

After years of hearings, committees, and disputes over the lack of statistical data on crimes occurring on cruise ships, Congress finally gave birth to a new law, the Cruise Vessel Security & Safety Act. This law aimed notably at forcing the cruise industry to to abide by new requirements of transparency, including the requirement to report to the FBI all crimes that occur on their ships. The passage of the new law was deemed a bipartisan success, and the essential step in the right direction to finally have a crime database that could be used in the future to improve the security and safety of cruise passengers.
Continue reading

Published on:

In a previous article, we have listed the reasons why the Costa Concordia cruise passengers will have a strong legal argument to lift the cruise company’s limits of liability under the Athens Convention.

The language contained in the Convention allow the cruise liner to limit is financial liability to a maximum of $72,000 per passenger affected by this tragedy for their personal injury or death. However, Article 13 of the Athens Convention does provide that if a passenger is able to prove that their damage resulted from an act or omission done [ . . . ] recklessly and with the knowledge that such damage would probably result, then the limits of liability of the Athens Convention would not apply.

Thumbnail image for costacondoria-space_resize.jpgThe latest information coming out of the office of Italian prosecutor Francesco Verusio is the most damning evidence of recklessness yet on the part of Captain Schettino.

In a new audio recording released Thursday, Captain Francesco Schettino is heard communicating with Livorno port authorities after the ship had hit a reef and before the ship began capsizing. In the exchange, a port authority officer tells Schettino that they have heard from a crew member that there had been a major incident during dinner and that plates and glasses had slammed onto passengers.

Schettino was quick to reassure the officer that everything on board was fine and replied that the incident in question was caused by an electrical blackout and that the crew is “verifying the conditions on board“. Captain Schettino failed to mention that the ship had hit a reef.

New accounts by crew members are beginning to surface six days after the incident. French stewart Thibault Francois told French Television that the captain sounded the alarm too late and did not order or instruct the crew to evacuate the ship until it was too late and the ship had already begun listing on its side and taken in a substantial amount of water. Eventually, crew members started lowering lifeboats on their own.

Francois said “the captain asked us to make announcements to say that it was electrical problems and that our technicians were working on it and to not panic”. “There were no orders from the management,” he added.

Another crew member, Mukesh Kumar who was one of the many ship’s waiter said that “the emergency alarm was sounded very late,” only after the ship “started tilting and water started seeping” in. “The ship shook for a while, and then the crockery stated falling all over,” said Indian Kandari Surjan Singh, who worked in the ship’s galley. “People started panicking. Then the captain ordered that everything is under control and said it was a normal electric fault … so people calmed down after that.As reported by the Associated Press.

cruiseshiplaw.jpgFor additional information about cruise ship litigation and cruise ship law, visit Leesfield Scolaro’ Cruise Ship Law Center.

It now sounds that Captain Francesco Schettino attempted to minimize the incident telling the Livorno port authority that the incident was only a blackout and nothing else. He intentionally omitted to advise that the ship had hit a reef. That fact alone unquestionably resulted in the coastal rescue efforts to be delayed by at least 40 minutes. The ship hit the reef at approximately 9:30 p.m. and it is not until 10:10 p.m. that the “Abandon Ship” signal was sounded.

An Italian Judge will have to decide whether lives could have been saved had the port authority been told by Captain Schettino the true nature and potential extent of the seriousness of the incident. The judge will also have to decide whether Captain Schettino was reckless in announcing to passengers that the incident in question was only an electrical issue and that everything was under control. As a result, the evacuation was also delayed until it was clear that the ship was taking water and began capsizing.

In another sad news, the search and rescue efforts found four additional bodies in the wreckage of the ship. The number of fatalities rose to 15. There are still 17 people who remain unaccounted for, including 2 Americans, Barbara Heil and Gerald Heil.

Captain Schettino remains under house arrest. He faces up to 15 years in jail if found guilty on charges of manslaughter and abandoning his ship.
Continue reading

Published on:

Sinking-Costa-Concordia-o-001.jpgThe Athens Convention establishes a comprehensive integrated system to govern the liability of cruise ship operators for personal injuries and property damage sustained by its passengers. It contains standards for establishing liability and permissible defenses as well as its own statute of limitations and venue provisions. The Convention was primarily motivated by a series of uninsured ferry disasters occurring in a number of underdeveloped countries.

Amid the Costa Concordia tragedy, it seems very likely that cruise passengers will have to file any lawsuits in Genoa, Italy, where the cases will be subject to Italian law. Courts in the United States have consistently upheld the choice of law clauses contained in cruise passenger tickets absent evidence that “enforcement would be unreasonable and unjust”, ” the clause was invalid for such reasons as fraud or overreaching”, or “the enforcement would contravene a strong public policy of the forum in which the suit is brought”.

More importantly, as part of this comprehensive system, the Athens Convention allows the carrier to limit its liability for passenger personal injury or death in the absence of its reckless misconduct. The current monetary limitation in U.S. dollar is approximately $72,000. The operative words are “in the absence of [the carrier’s] reckless misconduct.” Specifically, Article 13 of the Athens Convention provides that the carrier will lose its right to limit liability where it is proven that the damage resulted from an act or omission done with intent to cause damage or recklessly and with the knowledge that such damage would probably result.

Can Costa Concordia Passengers prove that the carrier acted recklessly and with knowledge that damage would probably result and lift the carrier’s right to limit its liability?

Here are the pertinent facts that have come to light thus far:

The cruise ship deviated from its original course
According to court documents filed today in Italy, Captain Francesco Schettino admitted to a judge that he made a mistake in steering the ship too close to the Island of Giglio. Captain Schettino deviated from the ship’s programmed route and came 0.28 nautical miles (less than 600 yards) from the coast.

The cruise ship intentionally deviated from its original course
Head waiter, Antonello Tievolli, reportedly did not ask the captain to steer towards his native island, but he nonetheless told his family that he would be passing by that evening and his sister, Patrizia Tievoli, shared his whereabouts on her Facebook profile by posting the following wall post: “In a short period of time the Concordia ship will pass very close. A big greeting to my brother who finally get to have a holiday on landing in Savona”.

Captain Francesco Schettino abandoned ship
According to an audio recording, which is now part of the prosecutor’s case against Captain Schettino who is currently under house arrest and facing criminal charges for manslaughter and for abandoning ship, it is established that the ship’s captain did leave the cruise liner before all passengers were evacuated and ashore.

The cruise company confirmed ship’s deviation was not authorized
Pier Luigi Foschi, chairman of Carnival’s Italian unit, Costa Crociere confirmed at a press conference in Genoa on January 16, that the Costa Concordia ran aground at about 9:45 p.m. on January 13, within hours of leaving a port near Rome to continue a Mediterranean cruise. The ship’s route was set electronically before it left, and the cruise liner should not have been so close to Giglio Island. Foshi added “the fact that the ship strayed from that course can only be due to a maneuver that was not approved, not authorized nor communicated to Costa Crociere by the captain of the ship”.

The cruise company knew of the common practice to sail close to the Island of Giglio
It has now surfaced that it was common practice for the Costa Concordia to deviate from its original route and to sail dangerously close to Giglio Island. An amateur video footage was recently posted online showing the Costa Concordia sailing off the coast of the island, closer to the shore in August 2011 than it did on January 13.

Italian Prosecutor qualifies Captain’s Schettino’s behavior as reckless
In a recent interview to the media, Italian Prosecutor Francesco Verusio declared that “the unscrupulousness of this reckless maneuver that the commander of the Costa Concordia made near the Island of Giglio is something that is inexcusable. From the investigation we carried out straight off the incident, we are certain that the captain of the ship was on the command bridge and the control of the ship was in his hands. This risky maneuver that the captain performed sailing close to Giglio Island without due caution caused the impact that we all saw. The captain is in a very difficult position because we are sure that he abandoned the ship when many passengers were still waiting to be evacuated”.
Continue reading

Published on:

A newly released audio exchange between Port Authority and Costa Concordia Captain Fransesco Schettino was released today. Below is the transcript of the exchange:

Captain Schettino: It’s Capt. Schettino.

Port Authority: Schettino, listen to me, there are people trapped onboard, now you go back, you will go with your rescue boat under the stern of the ship, there are some steps, you climb those steps and you get onboard and you get back to me letting me know how many people are on board. Is that clear to you? I am actually recording this conversation captain.

schettino.jpgPort Authority: Speak in a loud voice.

Captain: So, the ship right now …

Port Authority: Speak in a loud voice! Put your hand by the microphone to cover it and speak up! Is that clear?

Captain: So, right now the ship is tilted…

Port Authority: I understand that. Listen to me, there are people that are getting off using the rope ladder on the stern side, you go back there and you go up that ladder the opposite way, you go onboard the ship and you tell me how many people [are there.] And what they need. You tell me if there are children, women or people that need assistance and you give me a number for each one of these categories is that clear?

Captain: Officer, please.

Port Authority: There are no “pleases!” Get back on board! Please assure me that you are going back on board.

Captain: I am here on the rescue boat. I’m right here, I didn’t go anywhere else, I’m here.

Port Authority: What are you doing captain?

Captain: I’m here to coordinate rescue operations.

Port Authority: Do you refuse to do that?

Captain: No, I’m not refusing to do that.

Port Authority: Are you refusing to back on board?

Captain: No, I am not refusing to go back. I am not going because the other rescue boat stopped.

Port Authority: Get back on board! This is an order! You don’t need to make any other assessment. You have declared that you have abandoned ship, therefore I’m in command. Get back on board right now is that clear?

Captain: Officer…

Port Authority: Can you not hear me?

Captain: I’m getting back on board.

Port Authority: Then go! And call me right away when you are on board. There’s my rescuer there.

Captain: Where is your rescuer?

Port Authority: My rescuer is on the stern side, go! There are already bodies, Schettino! Go!

Captain: Officer how many bodies are there?
Continue reading

Published on:

The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeal’s recent decision in Johnson v. Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., invalidating releases for activities on cruise ships, which was participated in by Leesfield Scolaro‘ Robert Peltz as amicus curiae on behalf of the Florida Admiralty Trial Lawyers Association, is an important decision protecting the rights of cruise ship passengers, who are injured as a result of the negligence of cruise ships and their crew.

Read Robert Peltz Bio

Although RCCL centers much of its advertising around the FlowRider and other similar activities on its ships, it requires passengers to sign releases discharging it from all liability in participating in these activities, even for the negligence of its ship and crew. In Johnson, RCCL convinced District Court Judge Moreno to throw out Ms. Johnson’s case based upon the release, which she was required to execute. As a result, she never had the opportunity to have her case heard on its merits.

Badges