Uniworld wins ship-collision lawsuit over MSC Cruises

A British court ruled that MSC Cruises will have to pay Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection for loss of revenue in addition to physical damages after the MSC Opera crashed into the River Countess riverboat in Venice in June 2019. 

The High Court of England and Wales said that MSC Cruise Management Limited has to pay Uniworld 2.4 million euros for physical losses along with what could be more than 7.5 million euros in “non-physical losses,” according to Devonshires, the British law firm representing Uniworld. 

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A spokesperson for the law firm said that a trial in May 2022 will determine the amount of compensation owed.

Uniworld had sued MSC for nearly $13 million in damages in early 2020.

Uniworld CEO Ellen Bettridge said then that the company had filed the lawsuit after extensive conversations with MSC proved unproductive. Bettridge said that due to the “severe damage to our ship, we were forced to cancel 14 voyages, frustrating our guests and travel partners during the peak summer season.”

MSC admitted last year to full liability for the Opera’s collision with the River Countess, putting the river ship out of service for a number of months. However, while MSC agreed to cover the physical losses, the company argued that under Italian law, it should not have to compensate Uniworld for loss of earnings. 

Uniworld had to repair the River Countess and refund and compensate 1,600 customers whose trips were canceled. It also paid compensation, hospital bills and repatriation costs for injured passengers, the law firm said. 

“This is a landmark decision that means our clients will be able to recover the substantial losses they faced as a result of an incident where they were entirely blameless,” said David Pack, a partner at Devonshires. “This case should act as a warning to other operators of ocean liners, not just in Venice but globally.”

Referring to Venice’s ban on large cruise ships, which Bettridge said the collision helped to bring about, she added, “For years, the city of Venice has been plagued by massive ocean cruise liners being able to dock in the historic city, causing an eyesore to its beauty. It took an incident of this nature to bring about change.”

Uniworld has since rebuilt the River Countess, reintroducing the ship in July 2021 as La Venezia.

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