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Costa Concordia Cruise Ship Disaster Blamed on Human Error

A Costa Concordia cruise ship capsized off Italy's northern coast on Friday, January 13th, claiming the lives of 6 people and leaving 16 others still missing.  The cruise ship, which was about 950 feet long, was traveling with over 4,000 passengers when it ran aground, striking rocks. 

The ship's owner, Costa Cruises, a unit of Carnival Corp., has blamed the accident on human error by the ship's captain, Captain Francesco Schettino.  According to a Voice of America report, Captain Schettino was arrested on Saturday and is facing multiple manslaughter charges for allegedly "sailing off course and abandoning ship while the passengers struggled to find safety."  Chairman and chief executive  of Costa Cruises, Pier Luigi Foschi said that the ship had deviated from the correct route when it hit rocks near the coast, tearing a large hole in the hull, and that the captain contravened the company's safety procedures. 

Some passengers had to swim to shore, while others were taken in life rafts; however, the severe and rapid tilt of the hull rendered many of the lifeboats unusable.  The cruise line continued its search-and-rescue attempts on Monday, after the ship shifted, putting a halt to the search for several hours. 

Accidents occurring at sea are governed by federal maritime laws, which are complex and may differ greatly from laws governing accidents that occur on land.  For example, most personal injury claims occurring on a cruise ship are governed by a one year statute of limitations period.  Cruise ships may also have contract provisions such as choice of venue, choice of law, and other forum selection clauses that may affect an individual's claim against the cruise ship owners.     

The attorneys at Dreyer Boyajian LLP have extensive experience in maritime law, including actions brought under the Jones Act and the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act.  In 2003, our firm was involved in the litigation concerning a Dutch cargo ship called the Stellamare that capsized in the Port of Albany, resulting in several deaths and other catastrophic injuries.  

To read more about our maritime law practice, click here.  To set up a free consultation with one of our maritime law attorneys, click this link.

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