Italy cruise ship passengers widen US lawsuit

Passengers aboard a Costa Concordia cruise ship that capsized off Italy last month have amended their US lawsuit to bring additional charges of negligence against the ship's captain and crew.

The lawsuit in a state court in Florida, where the cruise operators are based, now includes 39 plaintiffs, each of whom is seeking individual damages for unique losses and injuries, their attorney Mark Bern said in a statement.

"The plaintiffs will seek punitive damages as a result of the nature of the conduct of the Costa Concordia's officers and staff, which demonstrated a reckless disregard for human life and property," the statement said Monday.

"These passengers were left terrified and unguided in a desperate situation while the captain was already safely in a lifeboat with his clothes dry and his luggage in hand," Bern said.

"Once the surviving passengers reached land, their ordeal was far from over, because Carnival failed to offer them the barest courtesies and assistance, leaving them in a country where most were aliens, with only the clothes on their back, no money and no passports."

The original suit was filed by six passengers late last month, and demanded $460 million in compensation from Carnival Cruise Lines, the parent company of Costa Cruise Lines, which owns the Costa Concordia.

The Costa Concordia had 4,229 people aboard including about 1,000 personnel when it ran aground near Giglio, a picturesque island off Tuscany that is part of a nature reserve known to swimmers and divers for its clear waters.

Thirty-two people are now believed to have died in the tragedy, although the bodies of 15 have not been recovered.

Captain Francesco Schettino, who faces charges of manslaughter and abandoning ship before all passengers were evacuated, is under house arrest.

He has admitted responsibility for the impact but has blamed the ship's faulty equipment.

Since the disaster, several consumer associations have announced their intention to bring a class action against Costa Cruise Lines despite the firm's offer to pay passengers on board the doomed liner more than $14,000 each.

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