On February 11, 2015, an Italian three-judge panel found Captain Francesco Schettino guilty of manslaughter of 32 cruise ship passengers traveling aboard the Costa Concordia off the Italian Coast on January 13, 2012. The panel’s rulings include guilty verdicts on other charges in connection with the shipwreck, including personal injury to passengers and the Captain’s abandoning of the cruise ship. Captain Schettino was sentenced to 16 years prison time. One of the most alarming allegations asserted at the Captain’s trial was that the Captain deserted the ship before cruise passengers and crewmembers got off the ship. According to Prosecutor Alessandro Leopizzi, the Captain safely made his way to land “without even getting his feet wet”.
During the trial, testimony was presented emphasizing alleged crew errors and equipment malfunctions during the frenzied period surrounding the shipwreck. Equipment malfunctions allegedly included failure of an emergency diesel generator, elevators’ failure to shut down during the shipwreck and language barriers with the ship’s crew, some of which barely spoke English.
Despite these allegations, principals of Costa Crociere SpA were not criminally charged with manslaughter and Costa Crociere SpA has placed sole responsibility on the Captain. Many of the victims and surviving families believe that Costa Crociere SpA, owned by Carnival Corporation, should be held accountable for the death and horrifying pain and suffering caused by the shipwreck. In 2013, Italy fined Costa Crociere SpA one million euros. In response, Costa Crociere SpA requested a plea bargain on the sanctions imposed on the cruise line for its employee-committed crimes. It appears that in addition to the monetary sanctions, five employees of the cruise line entered into plea bargains which granted lenient sentences, none of which included prison time.
At least one lawsuit filed by U.S. passengers against Costa Crociere SpA for the tragic Concordia shipwreck was dismissed by a California district court under forum non conveniens, a legal doctrine which dictates the most convenient location for a lawsuit based upon the location of physical evidence and witnesses. At the Captain’s trial, Costa Crociere SpA’s lawyer Marco De Luca dismissed any supporting basis for punitive damages against Costa Crociere SpA. According to Mr. De Luca, it is “not in the least bit possible … that Costa Crociere in some measure could have been able to prevent a disaster of this kind.” It is unfortunate and a travesty for the victims’ families and survivors to be forced to go without just compensation if they are not allowed to seek accountability and compensation from Costa Crociere SpA IF the equipment malfunctions truly occurred in the manner alleged.
Costa Concordia captain convicted in deadly shipwreck, CNN, February 11, 2015