April 18, 2016

Florida Parasailing Accidents and Pre-Injury Releases

parasailling-1168186.jpg
Florida parasailing operators often use liability waivers or releases to attempt to escape responsibility when customers are injured under their care. Another common defense parasailing operators try to use to escape liability is the assumption of risk defense, meaning that the customer "assumed the risk" and is liable for his or her own injuries.

Pre-injury releases do not always provide the defense that negligent parasailing operators rely on. Courts consider pre-injury releases to be against public policy in cases where an operator ignores laws that are meant to prevent accidents.

The Florida Board Certified Admiralty and Maritime Lawyers at Brais Brais & Rusak ("BBR") specialize in representing injured clients against parasailing operators and jet-ski rental companies that require their customers to sign pre-injury releases. When a tourist's parasailing adventure turns into a tragedy and he or she finds themselves in a trauma center with life altering injuries, parasailing companies and their lawyers are immediately preparing to defend themselves with pre-injury release forms, assumption of risk defenses, and even with old Maritime laws like the Shipowner's Limitation of Liability Act. A good Maritime attorney knows how to get around these common defenses in order to help injured clients and their families hold negligent business owners/operators liable so that they can start to heal and get their lives back on track.

Continue reading "Florida Parasailing Accidents and Pre-Injury Releases " »

March 12, 2016

Lantana Area Man Injured in Intracoastal Boat Accident

Danny-Pena.jpgNews outlets are reporting that Daniel Pena, a 33-year-old-man from the Lantana area, was knocked off his boat after making contact with a large wake cast from a passing boat in the Intracoastal Waterway. After entering the water, Pena's boat ran him over and the propeller of the outboard engine struck his head. The incident caused Pena to lose all his teeth and part of his tongue. He remains in intensive care at Delray Medical Center and his doctors opine that his injuries will require at least 20 rounds of reconstructive surgeries to his skull, mouth, nose and cheeks. He will be transferred to Jackson Memorial Hospital to undergo the additional surgeries.

Pena had his nephews, Daniel and David Garza, of West Palm Beach, ages 29 and 26, respectively, and their friend aboard his 18 foot center console Mako flats boat. Daniel Garza entered the water to save his uncle and pulled him back on to the boat. While rescuing his uncle, Daniel suffered a slight injury. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is investigating the incident.

Continue reading "Lantana Area Man Injured in Intracoastal Boat Accident" »

November 14, 2015

Cape Canaveral, Florida - Dredging Crewmember's Legs Cut Off By Boat Propellers

Barge_Paula_Lee.jpgIt is being widely reported that a crewmember suffered serious personal injury after he fell into the water while attempting to step from the aft of a crew boat to a dock, barge or other vessel engaged in dredging operations in Port Canaveral. Authorities are presently withholding the man's name. The dredging crew is deepening and widening the entrance to the port so that larger ships can come in.

The man fell from a barge PAULA LEE Tuesday night (November 10th) and was injured by a pair of spinning propellers that caused him to lose one leg below the knee as well as the foot on the other leg. News reports seem to indicate the Captain of the crew boat left the engines in gear in an effort to keep the stern of the crew boat up against the dock, barge or other vessel during crew changes that take place 24 hours a day. It is uncertain at this time if dock lines and buoys were utilized to secure the crew boat thus, eliminating the need to keep the crew boat's engine's in gear while crew stepped across at the stern of the boat. It's also unclear why the crew changes were not conducted from either side of the crew boat after securing the boat alongside. Paramedics credit the quick action by other crewmembers with stopping the bleeding and saving the man's life.

Continue reading "Cape Canaveral, Florida - Dredging Crewmember's Legs Cut Off By Boat Propellers" »

November 9, 2015

Families of the El Faro Victims Have Only Until December 21, 2015 to File Wrongful Death Claims

El_Faro_Claims_Must_be_Filed_by_December_21_2015.jpgIn a move that is both unfortunate but expected, TOTE Maritime and Sea Star Lines obtained an order from a Federal Judge requiring the families of the 33 crew members who died while serving aboard the El Faro to file their wrongful death claims by December 21, 2015. This means that the families through a personal representative of the crew members' estates must file their claims in the Federal Middle District of Florida by the December 21, 2015 deadline or risk losing the right to sue TOTE Maritime and Sea Star Lines for the deaths of their loved ones.

Besides forcing grieving families to participate in a lawsuit which they may not be ready to emotionally address, the limitation proceedings initiated by TOTE Maritime and Sea Star Lines give the shipowners other distinct tactical advantages. First of which the limitation proceedings may entitle them to limit the total amount TOTE Maritime and Sea Star Lines have to pay the grieving families to $15,309,003.50. The order setting the December 21, 2015 filing deadline also stayed the various state court lawsuits brought against the El Faro's owners requiring them to refile their claims in the Federal limitation proceedings. The limitation proceedings also preclude the families from having a jury of their loved one's peers decide the case. Instead, a Federal Judge will be the sole fact finder.

Continue reading "Families of the El Faro Victims Have Only Until December 21, 2015 to File Wrongful Death Claims" »

November 6, 2015

A 35-year-old passenger has gone overboard from the Royal Caribbean cruise ship Oasis of the Seas

Oasis_of_the_seas_.jpg

A search by the Coast Guard is underway after a 35-year-old male passenger from Brazil fell into the ocean. It appears the man lost his grip while hanging from a davit used to raise and lower the cruise ship's lifeboat. The incident occurred at approximately 1:00 a.m. Friday morning when the ship was some 80 nautical miles northeast of Mayaguana, Bahamas.

According to the Coast Guard, it has received multiple reports of the man falling or jumping, but it has been unable to confirm whether he actually fell or jumped. Royal Caribbean released a written statement claiming that the man "was spotted by Oasis of the Seas crew members intentionally going over the side of the ship." A video posted by CBSMiami shows the man holding onto the davit and several people trying to help him before he loses his grip and falls into the ocean. It does not show whether the man jumped or fell into the lifeboat.

Continue reading "A 35-year-old passenger has gone overboard from the Royal Caribbean cruise ship Oasis of the Seas" »

November 3, 2015

TOTE and Sea Star Lines File Limitation Proceedings in El Faro Sinking Case

Tote Seeks to Limit Liability in El Faro Sinking.jpgAs predicted by our Florida Board Certified Maritime Attorneys, TOTE Maritime and Sea Star Lines have filed a Petition for Exoneration from or Limitation of Liability for any damages associated with the death of the 33 sailors aboard the El Faro. The lawsuit is pending in the Federal District Court for the Middle District of Florida. The aim of the offensive suit is to exonerate, or if that fails, cap the amount payable to the families of the merchant mariners who lost their lives in the service of the ill-fated cargo ship. The question for those following this catastrophe is why TOTE who publicly stated "Our focus has been on supporting and caring for the family members, loved ones, and friends of those aboard the El Faro" is now seeking a Federal Court to exonerate it from any responsibility or limit the amount it must pay the families? The answer is simple. TOTE and Sea Star Lines' marine insurer has taken control of the defense of the case and the shipping companies are required under contract to cooperate in this legal maneuver so that the insurance company could lessen the amount of money it has to pay the victims' families.

Typically, a shipping company obtains liability insurance in the case of an injury or death occurring aboard its ship. The shipping company self-retains a portion of the exposure. This self-retention amount could range between one thousand to one million dollars. After that money is exhausted (either by paying defense attorneys or paying claims), the insurance company is responsible to pay the balance of the damage up to the policy limits (if there is a policy limit). As such, TOTE and Sea Star Lines' exposure is already capped at their self-retention. Consequently, the Limitation of Liability lawsuit filed on their behalf really only benefits the insurance company.

Continue reading "TOTE and Sea Star Lines File Limitation Proceedings in El Faro Sinking Case" »

October 30, 2015

60-year-old crew member arrested for molesting 15-year-old girl aboard Costa Diadema

Crew_member_molests_15_year_old_girl_aboard_Costa_Diadema.jpg

LA SPEZIA, Primocanale, an Italian news station, has reported that a cleaner working aboard the Costa Diadema sexually molested a 15-year-old-girl on October 23, 2015. The crew member's name was not released by the Italian news station. However, he was identified as a 50-year-old man from Honduras. According to the Italian news station, the minor girl was traveling aboard the Costa Diadema with her aunt and uncle. On the day of the assault, she apparently returned alone to her cabin after dinner. Once inside the cabin, the crew member somehow entered her cabin and allegedly began touching and kissing the girl. She was thankfully able to escape and reported the assault to her aunt and uncle. The Costa Diadema was in port at the La Spezia terminal when the assault occurred. The crew member was arrested after Costa notified the police of the assault.

Continue reading "60-year-old crew member arrested for molesting 15-year-old girl aboard Costa Diadema" »

October 29, 2015

El Faro Lawsuits and the Limitation Act

Fatal Course of the El Faro.pngOur maritime lawyers have recently been contacted by the media to provide legal insight on how the Shipowner's Limitation of Liability Act may impact the lawsuits filed in the El Faro disaster. It is important from the outset to note that the Limitation Act is an over 150-year-old statute designed to encourage United States shipping enacted in a time when insurance was rarely extended to American shipowners. The reasoning behind the Limitation Act was to provide shipowners with a safety net to lessen their financial exposure should a maritime disaster strike. Congress hoped this, in turn, would encourage businesses to invest in shipping and operate vessels within the United States. In modern times, however, every shipping firm has marine insurance to protect them financially from a catastrophic loss such as a ship sinking. Given the common use of insurance, many courts have commented that the Limitation Act is outdated and no longer serves its intended purpose. Congress, however, has not removed the law from the books and a judge must apply the Limitation Act if invoked. The purpose of this post is to discuss how the Limitation Act may be used in the El Faro lawsuits.

Continue reading "El Faro Lawsuits and the Limitation Act" »

October 21, 2015

56-Year-Old Cruise Passenger dies after falling during a Zip-Line Excursion in Puerto Rico

Police have just released information on the October 15, 2015 death of a cruise ship passenger during a shore excursion in Puerto Rico. The passenger, identified by police as Marsha Boekeloo, was a 56-year-old woman from New Mexico. According to police, she fell 20 feet from a zip-line at the Hacienda Campo Rico, located east of Puerto Rico's capital city, San Juan. Media reports state that immediately after falling, Boekeloo complained of chest pain and was unable to move her legs. She tragically passed away hours later at a hospital.

The zip-line tour was run by a San Juan based tour company named Ecoquest Adventures & Tours. According to the company's owner, the park where the zip-line tour was conducted was certified by the Association for Challenge Course Technology ("ACCT"), based out of Illinois. The tour company owner has also been quoted saying that all tour guides are trained in first aid, rescue and risk management and that the park is regularly inspected by the tour guides. The ACCT's executive director James Borishade has said that the company's membership with the ACCT actually expired last year. According to Borishade, adventure parks such as Ecoquest, should have yearly third-party inspections. Unfortunately, there is no agency or body to monitor and ensure that yearly inspections are in fact done. It remains unknown what caused Boekeloo to fall and whether the park had undergone a previous third-party inspection. The name of the cruise ship aboard which Boekeloo was traveling also remains unknown.

Continue reading "56-Year-Old Cruise Passenger dies after falling during a Zip-Line Excursion in Puerto Rico " »

October 11, 2015

Was the El Faro Unseaworthy?

Was_El_Faro_Unseaworthy.jpgAs was widely reported, the Coast Guard has suspended its rescue mission for the crew of the 40- year-old El Faro which sank off the coast of the Bahamas during Hurricane Joaquin. Since this incident made international news, stories are being shared about life aboard the ill-fated cargo ship. CNN reported that Kurt Bruer, a former quartermaster with six months of experience aboard the El Faro, stated that the ship had holes in its deck. Marvin Hearman who sailed on the ship as late as last August said there was rust everywhere. Hearman also revealed to CNN that the areas of the vessel such as the chief cook's room leaked water and that the ship has issues with drainage. Chris Cash, another former crew member, told CNN that the ship's owner Tote Services just bandaged the ship rather that preforming a proper repair. Tote disputes these claims and states the ship was properly maintained.

Continue reading "Was the El Faro Unseaworthy?" »

October 8, 2015

30-Year-Old Female Passenger aboard Norwegian Breakaway is Medevaced by U.S. Coast Guard

Coast_Guard_Medevac_NCL_Breakaway.jpgThe United States Coast Guard ("USCG") medevaced a 30-year-old woman sailing aboard the Norwegian Breakaway earlier this week. The USCG reported that the medevac took place approximately 165 miles east of Virginia Beach. The woman was reported to have been suffering abdominal pain.

Continue reading "30-Year-Old Female Passenger aboard Norwegian Breakaway is Medevaced by U.S. Coast Guard " »

October 6, 2015

Cargo Ship El Faro with 28 American Crew Members aboard Sunk Off the Bahamas

El_Faro_Sinking_Law.jpgThe United States Coast Guard confirms that the 790 foot cargo ship El Faro went down off the Bahamian coast with 28 American crew members aboard. The 41-year-old vessel was sailing from Jacksonville, Florida to San Juan, Puerto Rico to deliver cargo. It is reported that the vessel lost power while trying to sail around the approaching Hurricane Joaquin near Crooked Island. With no power the crew took a direct hit from a weather system which had estimated 140 mile per hour winds producing waves up to fifty feet. The Coast Guard found a 225 square mile debris field from the El Faro days after communication was lost. Within it was the awful discovery of a deceased crew member in his survival suit. At the time of this blog entry, no survivors have been found. The Coast Guard is continuing its search. The El Faro's owner, Tote Maritime, has set up a website providing periodic updates.

Continue reading "Cargo Ship El Faro with 28 American Crew Members aboard Sunk Off the Bahamas" »

October 2, 2015

Coast Guard Rescues 80-Year-Old Woman Sailing aboard Carnival Pride

medevac_rescue_ 80_year_old_woman_aboard_Carnival_Pride.jpgThis past Saturday, the United States Coast Guard ("USCG") rescued an 80-year-old woman sailing aboard the Carnival Pride. The USCG, Sector North Carolina, received an emergency call that the woman was experiencing health complications.

Continue reading "Coast Guard Rescues 80-Year-Old Woman Sailing aboard Carnival Pride" »

September 23, 2015

Fatal Boating Collision off Watch Hill Light, RI

Krupinski Peggy K Death.jpgThe U.S. Coast Guard has reported that a 60-foot Princess yacht collided with a 25-foot commercial fisherman's vessel, southwest of Watch Hill Lighthouse. The collision occurred early Tuesday morning at approximately 10:00 a.m. The collision caused the fisherman's vessel to capsize, and the 81-year-old fisherman aboard the vessel sadly died.

Authorities have not yet released the identity of the deceased fisherman. However, the WesterlySun.com has reported that the fisherman's friends at Walker's Dock have identified him as Walter Krupinski, a commercial rod-and-reel fisherman who apparently sold his catch at Stonington Town Dock. The identity of the yacht operator has also not been released, but the operator was reportedly not injured. The Coast Guard escorted the yacht away from the collision scene.

Continue reading "Fatal Boating Collision off Watch Hill Light, RI" »

September 22, 2015

Operator Who Left the Scene of a Biscayne Bay Boating Accident Wanted by Law Enforcement

FWC Biscyane Bay Accident.jpgThe Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is looking for a boater who left the scene of an accident last Sunday after his boat injured a man in Miami's Biscayne Bay. According to law enforcement, the victim was helping the other person push their boat off and was badly cut by the propeller. The boat operator then left the scene. The victim was brought by fireboat to Sea Isle Marina and then transported to Jackson Memorial Hospital. The boat is described as white, 20 feet long with a different color Bimini top.

Continue reading "Operator Who Left the Scene of a Biscayne Bay Boating Accident Wanted by Law Enforcement" »