After nine days of trial, a jury awarded $10.3 million to the family of Mr. Benedetto Emanuele Caraffa, a deceased Italian electrician who worked on Carnival Cruise Lines from 1985 to 2000. During his time employed by Carnival, Mr. Caraffa was regularly exposed to asbestos insulation on four different steamships. Long-term asbestos exposure often results in the development of serious respiratory illnesses, such as asbestosis and mesothelioma.
Mr. Caraffa was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2001 and passed away from the disease in 2005. His family filed its lawsuit against the cruise line in 2006.
Although Mr. Caraffa had been a smoker, he quit prior to the start of his tenure with Carnival. The defense attorneys argued that Mr. Caraffa’s history of smoking was responsible for his fatal disease. The defendant also relied on a corporate representative for Carnival, who testified that the company was unaware of the presence of the harmful toxin on its ships, and who opined that the plaintiffs’ case was circumstantial, given the fact that all four of the steamships in question had since been scrapped, making it impossible to prove that Mr. Caraffa had been exposed to asbestos on any of them.
Ultimately, it was the testimony of Mr. Giorgio Rispoli, a former chief engineer with Carnival, which secured the plaintiffs the win. Mr. Rispoli was the only witness who verified the Caraffa family’s claim. He testified that there had been asbestos present in the machine spaces and engine rooms where Mr. Caraffa worked.
The amount awarded broke down to $10 million for pain and suffering; an additional $192,000 in damages for Mrs. Giovanna Settimi Caraffa, the decedent’s widow; $128,000 in lost earnings; and $19,504 in funeral expenses. The award was reduced by 65% due to a ruling of comparative fault, which the plaintiffs have filed a motion to have dismissed.
The case is significant because of the nature of the asbestos exposure. As plaintiff attorney Jason Marguiles explained, “This is the first time an asbestos case against a cruise line has gone to trial.” Marguiles also pointed out that “older cruise workers, who may have been recently diagnosed with pulmonary issues related to asbestos exposure on cruise ships, now have a path for compensation.”