Passengers Urge 3rd DCA To Keep Costa Concordia Suits In Miami

, Daily Business Review


Costa Concordia
Costa Concordia

Passengers of the ill-fated cruise ship Costa Concordia argued Wednesday before the Third District Court of Appeal that their negligence lawsuits should stay in Florida.

Simultaneously, Doral-based Carnival Corp. and other defendants argued the cases should be tried in Italy.

The Third District was considering two lawsuits heard by different Miami-Dade Circuit judges that reached different conclusions.

In Denise Abeid-Saba et al v. Carnival, which involves five U.S. and 52 foreign plaintiffs, Circuit Judge Norma Lindsey entered a 23-page order last July 19 granting Carnival's motion to dismiss on a question of forum.

On the same day, Circuit Judge Spencer Eig heard Geoffrey Scimone et al v. Carnival and entered a partial dismissal that allowed 17 plaintiffs with U.S. residency to pursue their claims in Florida. But Eig granted dismissal against 35 foreign plaintiffs.

During argument, plaintiffs attorney Louise Caro of Napoli Bern Ripka Shkolnik & Associates in Miami acknowledged the case law was against her when it came to the foreign plaintiffs. She asked the court to affirm Eig on the U.S. plaintiffs in Scimone and reverse for the U.S. plaintiffs in Abeid-Saba.

District Judge Barbara Lagoa emphasized the difference in detail between the two circuit court orders. She noted Eig's order was only seven pages and lacked the analysis of Lindsey's order, which had 77 findings of fact.

In defending Eig's conclusion, Caro said the rule on specifying reasons for a ruling can include the hearing transcript. Caro said Eig conducted an extensive hearing and verbally went through all the issues raised in his counterpart's written order.

Lindsey found the elements of the case overwhelmingly favored Italian jurisdiction.

The captain and crew were regulated by Italian authorities. The ship was built by an Italian company, and its design was approved by Italian authorities. The rescue and investigation were conducted by Italian authorities. Two-thirds of the passengers were Europeans. While Carnival was the parent of Costa Cruise, it was not involved in the hiring or operation of the ship.

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