News Update: Deadline Extended for El Faro Claims
On Monday December 14th, various insurance companies representing organizations that suffered cargo losses in the El Faro sinking requested a filing date extension from a U.S. district court. Originally, the court had given all parties until December 21st to file their claims regarding the losses incurred by the tragic incident.
However, the court recognized on Wednesday that the filing date did not give enough time for claimants to prepare their claims. As a result, the court granted the filing extension request and made the new deadline February 19th, 2016. This allows a two month window in which all claimants can begin pursuing compensation on behalf of their losses.
Though filed by cargo loss underwriters, the court order applies to “all persons asserting claims for any and all losses in this proceeding.” That includes families who lost their loved ones when the El Faro sank a little over two months ago while sailing through Hurricane Joaquin. Evidence indicates that the ship captain and the owners knew they were headed into a hurricane.
For families that have yet to pursue damages on behalf of the crew that perished on the ship, this is the final chance to file suit against TOTE Maritime and the captain of the vessel. Once the deadline passes, the court may not allow any further claims. If there is a time to hold TOTE liable for the deaths of its crew members, that time is now.
TOTE Seeking Limited Liability
Only three weeks after the search for the crew was called off, TOTE Maritime filed an action that would prevent any families from seeking lawsuits against the corporation based on its decisions regarding the El Faro. While any families that filed a lawsuit prior would have their day in court, the court action prevents any lawsuits until a judge rules on the court action.
The action was filed by TOTE under the Limited Liability Act, a maritime law from 1851 that exonerates a maritime company from liability under circumstances outside of its control. However, Attorney Kurt Arnold argues that the law is no longer relevant—after all, the law was written in a time before ship owners could remotely communicate with and keep track of their vessels. The decision to sail into Hurricane Joaquin may yet rest on the shoulders of TOTE Inc.