Offshore InjuryBlog

Florida Times-Union Article Focuses on El Faro Families

In a recent article on Jacksonville.com, on the 1-year anniversary of the El Faro tragedy, the Florida Times-Union took a look at the El Faro investigation, its progress, and the fact that there may still be some time before the families (including our clients) get answers about what happened that stormy night on October 1st. Thankfully, there has still been progress.

If you remember, early last October the El Faro and its 33-member crew lost power while sailing through Hurricane Joaquin. The ship’s wreckage was not found for weeks, while the crew’s bodies were never recovered. It was several months until the VDR (the Voyage Data Recorder) was found, allowing investigators a much closer look at the crew’s final hours.

However, while investigators know much more than they did a year ago, legal progress is a different story. TOTE Maritime (the owners of the El Faro) has motioned to limit its liability under the Limited Liability Act of 1851—a law that was relevant in a time where “long-distance communication” required pigeons or a horse. They have also settled with all but 10 of the El Faro’s surviving families—four of which are Arnold & Itkin clients. Because court dates have been pushed back to 2018, none of the families will get the closure they crave for over a year, perhaps more.

Case Complexities

The sinking of the El Faro has been difficult to pin on any one factor—Captain Jason Neubauer, the chairman of the Coast Guard board appointed to investigate the tragedy, said “I don’t believe there is one certain factor that stands out more than the others,” saying the team is “exploring several factors that seemed to combine together” that resulted in the ship’s loss.  

The Coast Guard has initiated several studies examining the ship’s condition in the hours leading up to the incident. The goal is to model how the vessel might have responded to the environmental conditions that night.

Refusal to Accept Less Than Our Clients Deserve

So far, TOTE has settled with 23 of the El Faro crew’s families. Meanwhile, we have continued to pursue trial. Our firm believes that what’s important is getting closure for our clients, not settling for less than what they deserve. As Attorney Kurt Arnold is quoted in the article, “We are not interested in piecemeal settlement… [our clients] want to know the truth.”

This month, we are scheduled for mediation with TOTE Maritime, though we are determined to ensure our clients get what they’re entitled to: the truth of what happened a year ago. We believe that TOTE owes our clients more than the $15 million limit they're hoping for. If TOTE successfully motions to subtract their previous settlements from the total liability, that number becomes even smaller. As we've said before, they hide behind a law that is far past its expiration date.

While TOTE clearly seeks to delay the case, our firm hopes to pursue action against other responsible parties. As we continue to seek justice for the families of the El Faro crew, our hope is to contest TOTE’s maneuvers to absolve itself of liability.

To read the full article, visit the Florida Times-Union site today.

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