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Appellate court returns Concordia cases to Florida state court

Appellate court returns Concordia cases to Florida state court
A US federal appeals court has sent two lawsuits by Costa Concordia survivors back to Florida state court, where the passengers want their cases heard. Both actions allege passengers were injured when the ship capsized after grounding off the coast of Italy.

The two groups totaling 104 survivors are seeking at least $2m in compensation per passenger and $590m in punitive damages from Carnival Corp., Costa Crociere, Costa Cruise Lines and ship's architect Joe Farcus.

The lead attorneys for Abeid-Saba et al. v. Carnival Corp. et al. and Scimone et al v. Carnival Corp. et al are Marc Jay Bern and Mitchell Proner of New York City-based law firms Napoli Bern Ripka Shkolnik & Associates and Proner & Proner.

The separate actions, filed by groups of 56 and 48 plaintiffs in the Circuit Court of the Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Florida, were removed by Carnival to the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida. Carnival argued the federal court had jurisdiction under the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA) of 2005, which allows for the removal of mass actions if the suits in the aggregate have 100 or more plaintiffs.

The cruise operator also cited federal courts' exclusive jurisdiction over cases raising 'substantial issues of federal common law relating to foreign relations.'

Subsequently, Carnival filed motions to dismiss each case, based on the forum selection clause in passengers' ticket contracts.

Circuit Appellate Judge Stanley Marcus said the removal did not apply under CAFA since neither the plaintiffs nor the state court proposed that 100 or more persons' claims be tried jointly, nor could the cases be combined just for the purpose of meeting that threshold number.

In a news release, the attorneys for the passengers hailed the decision as a 'momentous victory.'

A Carnival spokesman declined to comment on an active legal case.