Costa Cruises yesterday offered all surviving Concordia passengers a minimum of €11,000 (£9,200) in compensation in an attempt to limit the legal and financial fallout from the disaster that left the cruise liner wrecked off the Italian coast.
Each passenger would also receive a refund on the cruise and the costs of their journey home. The offer – negotiated by consumer groups – applies to all passengers regardless of age. Those accepting the deal would have to agree to drop all future litigation, and would receive payment within seven days.
The Concordia, carrying more that 4,000 passengers and crew, crashed onto rocks close to the island of Giglio on Friday 13 January, before partially capsizing. At least 32 people are thought to have died. So far only 16 bodies have been recovered.
Costa's compensation offer does not apply to the hundreds of crew on the ship, the 100 or so cases of people injured or the families who lost loved ones.
Codacons, a consumer organisation that was not party to the negotiations, advised passengers to reject the offer. The group's president Carlo Rienzi said the sum was insufficient and urged passengers to check whether they had suffered psychological trauma. Codacons is collecting names for a class action requesting €125,000 each.
John Arthur Eaves, an American personal injury lawyer, is urging passengers to file individual lawsuits in the US. "People need to be treated like individuals. Everyone in this boat had different damages," he said. But Roberto Corbella, who represented Costa in the negotiations, said the deal offered passengers a speedy and "generous compensation". "The big advantage that they have is an immediate response, no legal expenses, and they can put this whole thing behind them," he said.
The captain of the Concordia, Francesco Schettino, meanwhile, is under house arrest, accused by prosecutors of multiple manslaughter and of abandoning ship before his passengers.
However, Costa Cruises has also been criticised by officials such as Beniamino Deidda, the chief prosecutor of Tuscany. "Lifeboats that do not descend, staff that did not know what to do, lack of preparation; clumsy and absurd orders to return to the cabins. The confusion indicates an incredible negligence in enforcing safety," he said this week.
Meanwhile, this morning, with little or no hope of finding further missing passengers alive, the Dutch salvage firm Smit will begin extracting the stricken vessel's 2,380 tonnes of fuel oil in order to prevent it leaking into the pristine waters surrounding the wreck.