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Cruise ship passengers to receive $14,000 in damages


This news story was published on January 28, 2012.
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By Peter Mayer

 

ROME — Italian consumer rights groups were divided over a decision on Friday by the owners of the shipwrecked Costa Concordia to pay 11,000 euros — about $14,550 — in damages to each of the passengers on board the cruise ship when it ran aground on Jan. 13.

Italy’s main tour operator association, Astoi, announced that the Genoa-based Costa Crociere had made the decision on passenger reimbursement following talks with representatives of several national consumer rights associations.

The sum would be paid out to each passenger irrespective of age and is meant to cover “any damage to property suffered, including those related to the loss of baggage and personal effects, psychological distress and the damage suffered by a ruined holiday,” Astoi said statement said.

The deal does not cover passengers who died or suffered physical injuries.

Additional money would be made available to cover other costs incurred by passengers, including travel costs to the point where they boarded the vessel, any eventual medical costs and those for the journey back home, the statement said.

Around 3,200 passengers and some 1,030 crew members were aboard the ship on the night of the accident, which took place near the island of Giglio, off Italy’s western coast.

To date, 16 people have been confirmed dead and around 20 remain unaccounted for.

One of Italy’s main consumer rights groups, Codacons, slammed the agreement, describing the sum as “alms.”

“It is a form of alms which passengers should absolutely not accept,” Codacons President Carlo Rienzi was quoted as saying by the ANSA news agency.

Codacons said it would instead urge survivors from the shipwreck to pursue a collective legal “class action” against Costa Crociere and its U.S.-based parent company Carnival Corp.

Also on Friday, a lawyer in the western German city of Marl said a group of survivors and relatives of dead passengers from the Concordia would seek a class action for damages in the United States.

Lawyer Hans Reinhardt who represents 15 German survivors and the son of one of the dead, was quoted as saying by the online version of the newspaper Bild that damages being sought were about $210,000 for each survivor and around $1.3 million for those who had died in the accident.

According to Codacons, even if passengers were to lose their attempt to receive higher compensation through the class action suits, they would still be able to obtain at least the 11,000 euros promised by Costa Crociere since the offer was valid until 2022.

But another consumer rights group, Federconsumatori, described as “excellent the deal offered by Costa Crociere saying it was unprecedented in Italy.

“For the first time in Italy we have reached a substantial solution in terms of existential damages,” Federconsumatori’s President Rosario Trefiletti said.

The deal “represents a point of reference to passengers from the around 60 other countries,” Trefiletti added. He also said that effectively considering expenses each passenger stood to receive 14,000 euros, or $18,500.

Meanwhile, search efforts were continuing on the Concordia on Friday, with divers again using small depth charges to blast their way past furniture and debris blocking their path on parts of the half-sunk vessel.

Franco Gabrielli, the head of Italy’s Civil Protection service, said Thursday he believed “there is no hope of finding anyone still alive” from the shipwreck.

The removal of thousands of tons of potentially hazardous fuel from the Concordia’s tanks, which was expected to begin on Saturday, may have to be postponed until Sunday due to bad weather, officials said.

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