In January of 2012, the Costa Concordia, the largest cruise ship ever built, hit a reef and capsized off the Italian coast. More than 4,000 passengers were evacuated; 32 died and 64 were injured. The captain of the ship, Francesco Schettino, was responsible for taking the ship off a safe course and for failing to follow proper evacuation procedures. He even left the ship before everyone had been rescued. His culpability in the disaster is not in question. However, hundreds of passenger lawsuits and more than a thousand brought by businesses are now mired in a legal wrangle about corporate liability.
The cruise ship was part of the Costa Cruise Lines, based in Italy. It has already been decided that all lawsuits will have to be tried in Italian court. Costa is a subsidiary of Carnival PLC, based in London. Many of the lawsuits are attempting to extend liability to Carnival Corp., which is based in Miami, claiming that it is the parent corporation and, as such, shares responsibility for the negligence and safety violations that contributed to the accident.
Sorting out these corporate relations is especially important for American passengers who are suing for damages. Before boarding, they had to sign an agreement with Concordia to file any lawsuits against the company in Italy. If Concordia turns out to be part of Carnival Corp., this agreement might be moot, giving plaintiffs the possibility of applying U.S. personal injury laws regarding attorney fees and damages for pain and suffering.