Think limits on personal injury damages are a good thing? Just hope you are never injured on a Mediterranean cruise.
The luxury cruise ship Costa Concordia capsized on January 13, near the island of Giglio off the coast of Italy. At least 11 people died and 22 are missing. This tragedy was completely avoidable. The ship hit some rocks and flipped onto its side because the ship’s captain took it too close to the shore, knowing he was not supposed to. To add cowardice to injury, he abandoned ship – as did much of the crew, leaving passengers to fend for themselves.
Costa Cruises is owned by Miami-based Carnival, the world’s largest cruise line. In an effort to control the public relations damage that the company and the cruise ship industry will likely suffer in the wake of the tragedy, Carnival has said that it will refund to survivors all voyage costs, including onboard expenses, pay the costs of lodging and return transportation and will offer counseling to the passengers and their families as needed.
But what if you or someone you loved was injured in the accident, or worse yet, killed? Costa Cruises and Carnival doesn’t mention that, because they are probably protected.
What most people don’t know is that the cruise ship industry has an Ace in the hole to give protect it from injury claims. They make it a condition that when you buy a ticket to go on that once-in-a-lifetime cruise, you have agreed to be subject to the “Athens Convention Relating to the Carriage of Passengers and their Luggage by Sea.” This international treaty, first adopted in 1974, limits the damages that a cruise ship company must pay when someone is injured during a cruise. Using today’s exchange rates, the limit is approximately $65,000.
So, if a family member is injured or killed on a cruise ship due to the negligence of the captain or crew, what can you hope to recover? According to the treaty, not more than $65,000.
The cruise lines are not shy about asserting this limitation. In June, 2011, a Federal District Court Judge in Miami rejected the argument of cruise line that its liability was limited to no more than $65,000 for damages suffered by a minor – who was raped on a cruise ship. The judge ruled that the limitation in the treaty did not limit damages for injuries caused by intentional wrongs. But for injury claims based on negligence, the limit still applies. Is this fair? Only to the cruise lines.
Have a question about limits on damages? Contact Bill Cannon or Mike McConnell with Cannon Law, P.C. at 888-404-0202.