Two lawsuits over last year's Costa Concordia grounding off Italy that defendant Carnival Corp. sent on a hopeful cruise into federal court have been shipped back to state jurisdiction.
The order came just 11 days after the same federal judge decided Italy was the proper place for a Massachusetts family to pursue a claim against the Miami-based company.
Carnival tried to use the Class Action Fairness Act to transfer the cases of Denise Abeid-Saba and 56 other plaintiffs and Geoffrey Scimone and 46 others from Florida to federal jurisdiction.
But U.S. District Judge William Dimitrouleas in Fort Lauderdale remanded the cases to Miami-Dade Circuit Court, noting neither met the 100-person threshold of class action law.
"The court has no doubt that the plaintiffs structured their suits purposefully in order to evade federal jurisdiction," Dimitrouleas wrote in his February 15 order.
But he agreed with decisions from the Seventh and Ninth Circuits that plaintiffs "can skirt removal under the CAFA in mass actions by artful pleadings."
Carnival's request that Dimitrouleas consider federal common law regarding foreign policy also was in vain.
"This case is about international and U.S. passengers injured on a pleasure cruise run by a private corporation and whether that corporation properly adhered to safety standards or was otherwise negligent," he wrote. "U.S.-Italian relationships will not be rocked if a Florida state court judge awards money damages because an Italian corporation was negligent."
Hogan Lovells partner Alvin Lindsay in Miami, who represents Carnival, did not return a call for comment by deadline.
Plaintiffs attorney Louise Caro, managing partner at the Miami office of Napoli Bern Ripka Shkolnik, also could not be reached, but senior partner Marc Bern in New York celebrated the ruling.