Costa Concordia death toll reaches 16: passengers file class-action

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    Italian Cruise ship Costa Concordia death toll has reacheed 16. Meanwhile many passengers have filed class-action in sunken cruise ship

    Proner & Proner, Italian consumer rights’ association Codacons and Napoli Bern Ripka Shkolnik, a New York law firm are joining forces to lead the lawsuit on behalf of victims in the January 13 shipwreck. The ship capsized when it came too close to the shore of the island of Giglio.

    A criminal probe was also ordered to investigate the disastrous voyage of Costa Concordia that left at least 15 dead. The ship was a luxury liner and was twice the size of star-crossed Titanic.

    The ship’s Captain Francesco Schettino has been accused of causing the accident. He has been charged with multiple manslaughter and abandoning the 450 million-euro ($590 million) ship before it was evacuated. His conversation with a coast guard commander revealed that he had left the ship before the evacuation of the passengers had completed.

    Schettino’s lawyer Bruno Leporatti stated that the phone call record can lead to the widening of the investigation against his client. He said that the calls had “opened further channels for investigation that could reasonably lead to an increase in the number of those under investigation. Third parties could have at least contributed to creating the tragic event.”

    Besides the cowardly abandonment of the ship, the transcripts of his conversation on phone aslo revealed that he had come dangerously close to the shore, thus endangering the safety of the ship. Federal investigators have pinpointed the fatal distance to be within 150 meters of the shore. This was done in a flamboyant move to “salute” the coast. ‘Saluting’ coasts is a common practice, but it is never advised to be practiced this close to the shore.

    Mitchell Proner of New York law firm Proner & Proner is preparing to file a class-action suit on behalf of passengers in the disaster. He said that the lawsuit would be filed in Miami on Wednesday and the main target would be the ship owner.

    Proner informed the media, “At this point we’re exploring numerous defendants; certainly you’ve got (ship owner) Costa Cruise lines. While they might be trying to indicate that the incident is the fault of this one rogue captain, we know that they’ve had some precedents going close to these islands along the Italian coast.”

    He further stated that the ship had, in another previous incident, come dangerously close to the island of Procida in the Gulf of Naples.

    Talking about the irresponsible action, Proner added, “Procida set up mortars and saluted and the Concordia responded by blasting their sirens. So this is something that they have done in the past as a way of generating publicity and advertising for their company. It’s thrill-seeking for the passengers, but it’s reckless.”

    Talking about the victims affected by the disaster, Proner said that they would seek at least U.S.$160,000 for each, adding, “If they sustained injury it can be a multiple of that number. If they have a disability as a result of the incident and certainly in the cases of fatalities, we’re expecting in excess of a million euros per individual.”