Arnold & Itkin LLP Files Second Lawsuit for El Faro Case
On Tuesday, November 3, our Jones Act and maritime lawyers at Arnold & Itkin LLP filed our second lawsuit for the tragic sinking of the El Faro. In this case, we are representing Patrick John Smith who is the son of Howard John Schoenly—one of the thirty-three men and women who lost their lives in this horrific offshore accident.
TOTE Files to Limit Their Liability
Last week, TOTE Maritime (the owner of the El Faro) filed a complaint in U.S. District Court to limit their liability. In their filing, they stated that they had “exercised due diligence” in ensuring that the cargo ship was seaworthy and well-equipped for what ended up being its final voyage. They claimed that they should be "(exonerated) from liability for any and all losses or damages sustained during the voyage ... and from any and all claims for damages that have been or may hereafter be made." This aggressive legal maneuvering is an attempt to limit how much the family members of the lost crewmembers would be able to recover should they file a lawsuit.
“TOTE has tried to shield itself from taking responsibility for the loss of many lives by hiding behind the arcane Limited Liability Act of 1851,” said Maritime Attorney Kurt Arnold. “In effect, by filing for this limitation, TOTE is suing the families of those lost on the El Faro with the hopes of capping their liability before any litigation begins. Normally, a family would have three years to decide whether to bring a claim against TOTE, but now these families will likely have to respond to Tote's petition within six months or forever lose their claims.”
The Limitation of Liability Act is more than 150 years old—and it is not only antiquated, but it is highly unfair. It comes from a time when the maritime industry was brand new and needed legal protection as there was no insurance. However, times are different, and the booming maritime industry no longer needs such protection. Now, all the law serves to do is keep families from recovering what they are owed after horrific accidents.
“They are relying on an old law—a law that was enacted back when we had wooden ships, wooden sailboats transferring cargo. The family feels betrayed.” – Attorney Jason Itkin
TOTE Files to Freeze New Lawsuits
Yesterday, a federal judge released a court order stating families who lost a loved one in the El Faro disaster must file their claims before December 21—and they must file their claim in Jacksonville. This new court order prevents families from filing any claims against TOTE outside of that 45-day deadline or in a different venue.
"We will be fighting TOTE and their claim of limited liability. We're going to show that TOTE knew the El Faro was a defective ship that they knowingly sent into the path of a hurricane. And we'll be fighting to expose the Limited Liability Act of 1851 as the backward and arcane law that it is." – Attorney Kurt Arnold