The Costa Concordia, a large cruise ship owned and operated by Carnival, left Port Civitavecchia, Italy for a Mediterranean cruise in January 2012. The ship’s captain decided to bring the ship close to a nearby island. The ship got too close and crashed into a reef outside Tuscany. The crash ruptured the hull, capsized the ship, requiring a complete evacuation. Thirty-two people died in the accident.
Two weeks following the accident, six plaintiffs filed a complaint (Scimone I) against Carnival and related corporate entities in the 11th Circuit of Florida. The six plaintiffs soon amended their complaint and named 39 plaintiffs in total. When 65 others indicated they wanted to join, Scimone I was voluntarily dismissed by the plaintiffs.
The original 39 Scimone I plaintiffs divided themselves into two groups and distributed the additional 65 individuals. Scimone II contained 48 plaintiffs and Abeid-Saba contained 56 plaintiffs. In July 2012, the groups filed two separate complaints in state court, each with less than 100 names plaintiffs. Among others, they brought claims for maritime negligence, gross negligence, fraudulent misrepresentation, intentional infliction of emotional distress. Each suit sough $590 million in punitive damages plus a combined $204 million in compensatory damages. The two complains were severed in late August 2012. Neither group of plaintiffs moved for consolidation of the two cases.
Carnival removed both cases to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. Carnival argued for removal based on the mass action provision of CAFA and on federal courts’ exclusive jurisdiction over cases raising “substantial issues of federal common law relating to foreign relations.” Carnival additionally filed two motions to dismiss the cases based on forum selection clause of the plaintiffs’ contracts and forum non conveniens.
Plaintiffs’ filed motions to remand their actions to state court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1447. Plaintiffs argued that the CAFA is not applicable where there are less than 100 named plaintiffs and that the case did not implicate foreign relations, rendering removal on that group improvident.
The District Court granted the plaintiffs’ motion to remand the case to state court and the 11th Circuit affirmed the District court’s remand order.
The case is styled Scimone, et al v. Carnival Corp., et al., Case No. 13-12291 (11th Cir. 2013)