Survivors of the Costa Concordia grounding win a huge victory in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida.
The District Judge ordered the claims of 104 survivors remanded to the Florida State Court for continued litigation.
The court's February 15, 2013 order concerned two cases, Denise Abeid-Saba , et al., v. Carnival Corporation et al., (USDC-SDFla Docket No.: 12-CV-23513) and Scimone v. Carnival Corp., (USDC-S.D.Fla Docket No.: 12-CV-23505), together representing the claims of 104 plaintiffs injured when the huge ship capsized after grounding on rocks just off the shore of Isola del Giglio .
Both cases were initially commenced in the Florida State Court against Carnival Corp. as the parent corporation as well as ship designers and the architect. The cases were removed to the Federal Court by the defendants under the CLASS ACTION FAIRNESS ACT OF 2005 ("CAFA"), which allows for the removal of so-called "mass actions" to the federal courts. As the District Court noted, however, the CAFA expressly excludes those cases that are consolidated by a defense motion to achieve the CAFA minimum of 100 plaintiffs. Since neither the Abeid-Saba action nor the Scimone action contained 100 plaintiffs, the Court held that neither was amenable to removal under CAFA.
Defendants also plead "federal question" jurisdiction as a second basis for removal; the District Court rejected this argument as well, holding that the interests in the litigation of the Italian government, which took no position in the litigation and neither owned nor operated the doomed vessel, were "speculative at best." A copy of the decision can be obtained by contacting the law firms.
Plaintiff's counsel Marc Jay Bern cited the Court's closing statements in celebrating this great victory for the plaintiffs: "As the District Court recognized, '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 other negligent. We are thrilled that we can now turn our attention to litigating the facts of this case before a Florida State court where the plaintiffs can expect their interests will be protected rather than in Italy where the courts are notoriously slow and cases for mass torts such as shipwrecks have taken as long as thirty years without final decisions."