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Shipwreck lawyer calls for cruise industry reforms

/ 09:05 PM February 09, 2012

THE COSTA Concordia lying on its side off the island of Giglio, Italy. AP

ROME—A US lawyer representing more than 70 passengers and crew members of the Costa Concordia on Thursday called for sweeping changes to the cruise industry following last month’s disaster.

John Artur Eaves from the US state of Mississippi said there should be better training for crew members, more responsibility for cruise ship operators and a system for tracking ships similar to flight control in aviation.

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“It is time to talk about changing this industry so this accident never happens again,” Eaves said at a news conference in Rome.

“We have allowed shipping laws to remain in the past. Maritime law has leaks in it and it doesn’t have the glue to keep it afloat,” he said.

Eaves also dismissed as “unconscionable” the clauses signed by Costa Concordia passengers as part of their ticket purchases specifying that any legal action should be in Italy and limiting the value of damages claims.

The Costa Concordia hit rocks and keeled over off the Tuscan island of Giglio on January 13, killing 32 out of a total 4,229 people, including 296 Filipino crew, on board.

Eaves said the compensation of 14,000 euros per passenger currently offered by operator Costa Crociere — part of US giant Carnival Corp — was “disrespectful” and said he wanted at least $100,000 (75,000 euros).

He specified that, under US law, any of his clients would specifically have to opt out of a class action lawsuit already filed by another legal firm in the United States which encompasses all the ship’s passengers and crew.

Eaves said individual lawsuits had a “quicker result” with a ruling within one or two years instead of four to five years in a class action case.

The cases against Carnival will have to be “extra-contractual” because passengers had signed up to legal action only in Italy, he said.

“Carnival was setting the culture, setting industry practices, running the show. That is the reason why we believe Carnival was responsible,” he said.

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“I believe Costa and Carnival are adequately covered by insurance. I don’t think this will get to the corporate profits of either company,” he said.

Eaves previously represented the families of victims of the US embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, as well as the bereaved when a US jet cut down a cable car in the Italian Alps killing 20 people also in 1998.

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TAGS: Costa Concordia, Disaster, Laws, maritime accident, Shipwreck
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