Local lawyer at forefront of Italian shipwreck case


Vail’s Charles Lipcon considered among the top maritime attorneys

By Randy Wyrick
The Vail Daily

EAGLE – The luxury liner Costa Concordia had barely begun to take on water when local attorney Charles Lipcon’s phone began ringing.

The cruise liner sank on Jan. 13, only few hours after it set sail, when it allegedly hit the rocks off Italy’s Isola del Giglio and sustained a 165-foot gash that capsized the ship onto its port side. The Carnival Cruise Lines ship had 4,000 people aboard, 123 Americans. If you are going to sue a cruise ship line, you have to do it in the state where it’s headquartered. Lipcon’s law firm is headquartered in south Florida, where, most of the cruise lines are also headquartered. He’s been part-time Vail resident for years and has owned a condo in Vail Gateway Plaza since 1990.

“It’s like a big funnel that sends clients to our firm,” Lipcon said Tuesday outside a courtroom in Eagle, where he was involved in a case with the Vail Gateway.

A few times during that court trial, Lipcon discreetly rose from his seat at the plaintiff’s table to make his way quickly into the hall, where he could talk by phone with prospective clients, staff members from his law firm and answer media inquiries.

His law firm isn’t involved yet in litigation but Lipcon said, “We will be.” He’s been all over television and radio, in print and online offering expertise.

Those requests started Friday afternoon while he was in court seeking to stop an orthopedic company from opening a surgical training company in Vail Gateway Plaza. He’s handling several clients with legal actions against several cruise lines. But even for him this one’s different, he said.

“This is horrible,” he said.
In addition to at least 11 dead, 60 people were injured and nearly two dozen people were still missing, including two Americans . The ship’s captain, Franchesco Schettino, is being detained for possible manslaughter and for allegedly causing a shipwreck and abandoning the ship before all his passengers had escaped. Italian prosecutors are being quoted as attributing the shipwreck to reckless maneuver.

Lipcon said he’s had clients who’ve had to go through therapy because of what they suffered at the hands of a cruise lines. Parents are separated from their children when a ship lists and interior doors are sealed.

“Nothing is tied down and things get thrown around,” he said.
He’s been fielding emails and phone calls all weekend, he said.  Carnival Cruise Lines is calling it a “terrible tragedy.”

Lipcon is maritime lawyer and founder of Lipcon, Margulies & Winkleman, P.A. Typically Costa, a subsidiary of Carnival, requires suit be brought in Genoa, Italy, but some exceptions might allow for suits to be brought in Florida, Lipcon said.