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Costa Crociere Shipwreck: The passengers are entitled to damages

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The tragedy which happened a few days ago when the Costa Concordia was shipwrecked off the island of Giglio in Italy gives rise to a series of legal issues, such as the question of whether the passengers entitled to damages and, if so, what items of damages may be awarded and against whom.

The answer to the first question is fairly obvious: All the passengers are entitled to be awarded damages for the losses suffered as a result of the aforementioned shipwreck.

From a legal point of view, this is a classic example of breach of contract pursuant to article 1218 of the Italian Civil Code concerning a series of tourist package contracts regulated by the recently approved Italian Tourism Code.

As regards the answer to the second question, we must distinguish between damages for economic loss and damages for non-economic loss.

As far as the first category of damages is concerned, passengers are entitled to the reimbursement of the tickets paid by them, as well as to the damages for costs incurred by them in returning home.

They are also entitled to damages for loss of luggage and personal items.

As far as the second category of damages is concerned, passengers are entitled to so-called moral damages, which are awarded in Italy when a criminal offence has been committed or when a constitutional right has been violated, as well as being entitled to so-called ruined holidays damages, which are designed to compensate consumers for a lost leisure and entertainment opportunity.

Whereas all passengers are entitled to be awarded the aforementioned items of damages, those who were injured in the shipwreck will also be entitled to damages for the injuries suffered by them as a result of such shipwreck, which should awarded on the basis of tables of damages specifically drawn up by the Italian courts.

Such tables of damages essentially identify three types of compensation that may be awarded and namely: damages for permanent disability, damages for temporary absolute disability and damages for temporary partial disability.

As regards those who unfortunately died in the shipwreck, their heirs will also be entitled to claim damages for losses quantified on the basis of the aforementioned tables of damages. In cases such as the one at hand, so-called catastrophic damages may also be awarded for the extreme suffering experienced by those who were aware that they were about to die.

It must be pointed out, moreover, that the quantum of damages should be assessed not only in accordance with Italian law, but also in accordance with the provisions contained in the international conventions ratified by Italy and by the European Union.

The passengers’ requests for damages must be sent to Costa Crociere, which will then forward such requests to its insurer.

Article 49 of the Italian Tourism Code provides that such requests must be sent within ten working days of the passengers having returned to the place of departure.

Italian case law and legal scholars are generally of the opinion (there are, however, dissenting opinions) that the claim for damages is forfeited in the event that a request for damages is not sent within the aforementioned deadline (even though the notoriety and seriousness of the event in question could induce judges into giving a less strict interpretation of article 49).

The quantum of damages will be difficult to assess, also on account of the fact that some items of damages may, as is well known, be awarded on an equitable basis without the judge being bound by any particular benchmark.

In any event, the first estimates that have been made in relation thereto (i.e. 10,000.00  to 20,000.00 Euros for those passengers who have not suffered personal injury) appear to be plausible in consideration of the fact that such estimate takes into account the refunding of the cost of the cruise, the costs of returning home, as well as the moral damages and so-called ruined holidays damages.

Paul Bodenham

Daniele Costa

L’immagine del post è stata realizzata da Snufkin, rilasciata con licenza cc.

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