Recently in Maritime Wrongful Death Category

August 22, 2016

45-Year-Old Man Found Dead on Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship

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A 45-year-old American man was found dead in his cabin on board the Grandeur of the Seas on Saturday, August 20. No foul play is suspected at this time but Bermuda police continue to investigate the man's death along with ship authorities. We extend our deepest condolences to the man's family.

The Grandeur of the Seas was sailing an 8-night Bermuda and Bahamas cruise and is scheduled to arrive in home port in Baltimore, Maryland on August 27.

We will continue to monitor this story and report on any developments.

Sources and Photo Credit:

Photo: Tony Hisgett, Creative Commons

Police Confirm Death of Cruise Ship Passenger, Bernews, August 21, 2016

Cruise Ship Passenger Found Dead in Cabin, The Royal Gazette, August 21, 2016

August 16, 2016

Woman Survives Fall off Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship

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A 32 year-old woman traveling aboard a Royal Caribbean cruise ship fell overboard last Wednesday after leaning too far over the guard rail of the fourth deck while sightseeing. The height from the fourth deck to the water is estimated to be 65 feet. Her parents, reportedly traveling with her did not realize she was missing until hours later when she did not return from a stroll around the ship. Her family and more than 100 volunteers searched the ship to no avail. Police gave her parents little hope of her survival if she had fallen from the deck to the water.

Incredibly, the woman survived the fall into the icy water and drifted at sea for 38 hours without a life jacket. She reported yelling for help to other passing ships but was not heard. It was not until Friday morning that a fishing boat spotted her and rescued her. She was taken to the hospital to treat blisters on her arms from jellyfish stings and was released on Saturday.

The ship was on a five day cruise from Shanghai to South Korea and Japan.

Sources and Photo Credit:
AFP
Woman Survives 38 Hours in the Sea after Falling from Cruise Ship, The Telegraph, August 16, 2016.
Woman Falls Overboard on Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship, Starts at 60, August 16, 2016.
Woman Survives Fall from Ship Which Leaves Her Drifting At Sea for 38 Hours, Mirror, August 16, 2016.

August 15, 2016

Royal Caribbean Anthem of the Seas Returns to Port Due to Medical Emergency in Pool

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Royal Caribbean ANTHEM OF THE SEAS makes news again after a 72-year-old woman was reportedly having trouble swimming in one of the ship's pools. The woman was initially taken to the ship's infirmary but she required further medical treatment so the ship sped up to arrive into Cape Liberty, New Jersey for a medical evaluation.

According to the Jersey Journal, a Philadelphia man aboard the ship witnessed the incident and said that when he and his wife arrived in the area the woman had just been pulled from the water, was unresponsive and had a pale/purple look.

The woman's condition remains unknown.

Sources and Photo Credit:

Royal Caribbean Ship Returns to Bayonne After Woman's Medical Emergency in Pool
, The Jersey Journal, August 13, 2016.

August 4, 2016

Teen Injured After Jet Ski Collides With Channel Marker

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A 16 year-old teenager was airlifted yesterday after he was thrown off a jet ski when it struck a channel marker. The teenager was jet skiing near Fred Howard Park in the Intracoastal Waterway. His condition is not known at this time.

According to reports from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, a nearby boater assisted in getting the young man help. The FWC is currently investigating the accident. We sincerely wish the young man a speedy recovery.

This is the second accident of this type this week alone. On Sunday, a Miami man was killed when he was involved in a nearly identical accident near the Julia Tuttle causeway.

It is important to remember that personal watercrafts are not equipped with brakes and thus operators have to be extremely wary of objects on the water, such as channel markers, other PWCs and boats.

Additionally, the likely first instinct when encountering an object is to let go of the throttle and turn the handlebars in another direction to avoid the object. However, to turn the PWC you have to advance the throttle to provide the thrust necessary for it to turn. Thus, if a person lets go of the throttle, the PWC will continue to move in the direction it was going when the person released the throttle, regardless of the direction the person moves the handle bars.

We strongly recommend anyone engaged in recreational boating or watersport activities to obtain training prior to such activities. It can really mean the difference between life and death.

Sources:

Good Samaritan Pulls Injured Jet Skier Out of Water, Teen Airlifted to Hospital, ABC Action News, August 2, 2016.


August 1, 2016

Man Killed in Personal Watercraft Accident

0-417-green-marker.jpgA man was killed Sunday, July 31, 2016 when the personal watercraft he was operating slammed into a channel marker causing him to be thrown off the vessel and to hit the marker. Two women riding with him were also thrown off the watercraft. The accident occurred near Picnic Island, south of the Julia Tuttle Causeway. All three persons involved were rushed to Jackson Memorial Hospital where the man was pronounced dead. One of the women sustained serious injuries to one of her legs. The other woman suffered bruises and has already been released from the hospital.

According to reports from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, the man was going in circles at a high rate of speed and he lost control of the Jet Ski hitting the channel marker. FWC officials continue to investigate the crash.

We extend our deepest condolences to his family and a speedy recovery to the two women injured.

Florida boating safety laws differ as to the requirements for operating a personal watercraft making a distinction based upon age, residency, and whether the person owns the watercraft or is renting it from a livery. However, we strongly urge anyone operating a personal watercraft to participate in a boating safety course to learn about navigation rules, reckless operation, environmental concerns, propulsion, steering, etc.

Sources:

Personal Watercraft Accident in Picnic Island Leaves 1 Dead, 2 Injured, Miami Herald , July 31, 2016.

1 Killed, 2 Injured in Personal Watercraft Accident Off Miami, WSVN 7 News, July 31, 2016.


July 19, 2016

74 Year Old Passenger Medevaced Off Carnival Breeze

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Defense Imagery and Video System reports that the U.S. Coast Guard medevaced a 74 year old passenger from the Carnival Breeze on July 18, 2016. The Coast Guard Command center received a call around 3:20 p.m. reporting that a man was unconscious and had been revived by Carnival medical staff. The cruise ship was approximately 379 miles southwest of St. Petersburg, Florida.

The helicopter crew arrived at approximately 8 p.m., hoisted the man and flew him to Tampa General Hospital where he arrived at about midnight. According to reports, the man was in stable condition upon arrival.

Cruise lines often tout that their medical facilities provide similar quality standards to medical facilities ashore. However, more often than not, passengers have to be medevaced to hospitals for further treatment. The incident above underscores how crucial it is for shipboard medical staff to timely evaluate patients as the process for emergency medical evacuations can take many hours, time which could be crucial if a person is critically injured or sick.

Source and Image Credit:

Coast Guard Medevacs Man 379 Miles Southwest of St. Petersburg, July 19, 2016

July 14, 2016

Law Enforcement Investigating Florida Boating Accident Wherein Child Died from Injuries

Florida Law Enforcement Boat Accident.jpgLaw enforcement is conducting an investigation into a boating accident that killed a 7-year-old child in Charlotte County, Florida. The incident occurred about 9 a.m. on the morning of July 9th near the Stump Pass area of Placida. The boy was in a 20-foot boat with his father and 11-year-old brother. Reports indicate that the boy was sitting at the back of the boat when his father turned on the engine. Unfortunately, the father applied too much throttle which caused the boy to fall off the back of the boat and into water. The boy made contact with the engine's propeller severely injuring him. The child was transported to the Englewood Emergency room where he later died from his injures.

Officer Stuart Spode of the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission stated "at this time we believe it was just an unfortunate accident.". No charges are pending against the father.

June 6, 2016

Maritime Law Found to Apply to Recreational Boating Personal Injury Claim

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Background of Case

Matthew Ficarra was a guest on Bruce Germain's 38-foot motor boat, Game Day during an recreational excursion on the shore of Lake Oneida near Brewerton, New York. Mr. Ficarra, Mr. Germain and three others headed to Three Mile Bay, a shallow popular recreational swimming spot. After a day spent on the water, the decision was made to return to Brewerton. While Mr. Germain and others prepared the vessel for the return trip, Mr. Ficarra dove off the port side into the water. He climbed back on board and entered the water again, this time doing a back flip from the back of the boat. Mr. Ficarra struck his head on the lake floor and sustained severe injuries including serious spinal cord injury causing paralysis and quadriplegia.

Mr. Ficarra sued Mr. Germain in New York State Supreme Court, asserting claims of negligence under New York law. Mr. Germain, through his insurance company's appointed lawyers, removed the law suit to the United States District Court for the Northern District Court of New York and filed a Petition for Exoneration from or Limitation of Liability under the Limitation of Liability Act of 1851. Mr. Ficarra moved to remand the action to state court and dismiss the limitation proceedings for lack of matter jurisdiction. He argued that the claims alleged in his complaint were not within the scope of federal admiralty jurisdiction.


Trial Proceedings

The trial court judge dismissed Mr. Germain's petition for lack of subject matter jurisdiction "holding that a recreational injury occurring on a recreational vessel anchored in a shallow recreation bay of navigable waters could not disrupt maritime commerce and did not bear a sufficient relationship to traditional maritime activity" and remanded the case back to New York state court.

Appellate Proceedings

The remand and dismissal was appealed. The appellate court rejected the emphasis that the trial judge placed on the recreational nature of the vessel and its passengers as well as the location of the incident in shallow waters noting that "the Supreme Court has never indicated that it matters whether the navigable waters at issue were shallow or deep." Instead, the appellate court focused on the fact that the incident occurred on a vessel and in open water. The appellate court recognized that there are many instances where vessels sail along shallow waters and they may still effect maritime commerce, for example fishing boats or boats taking paying passengers to shallow, hard-to-reach bays for snorkeling, diving, and countless other situations. Applying the multi-part inquiry test for admiralty tort jurisdiction stated by the Supreme Court in Sisson v. Ruby, the appellate court held the underlying claim fell within the scope of admiralty tort jurisdiction because it met the location test, as it occurred on navigable waters.

Additionally, the claim met the connection test: 1) that the general type of incident has a potentially disruptive effect on maritime commerce; and 2) the general character of the activity giving rise to the incident bears a substantial relationship to traditional maritime activity. Based upon this legal analysis, the appellate court found that the underlying negligence claim falls within federal admiralty jurisdiction.

This opinion highlights the fact that many injuries which occur on navigable waters are considered maritime claims. It is imperative that people injured while boating are aware that their negligent claims could be governed by maritime law as opposed to state law. Often times different damages can recovered, there could be shorter time for which claims have to be filed in court, and the boat owner may seek to limit liability under federal law.

If you were injured while recreational boating and would like to learn more about your legal rights under maritime law, feel free to contact our firm. We are an established maritime and admiralty firm exclusively focused on protecting the rights of people injured by the negligence of boat owners and operators.

May 16, 2016

Woman Goes Overboard from Galveston, Texas Based Carnival Cruise

Samantha Broberg Carnival Liberty.jpgThirty-three year old passenger, Samantha Broberg, was reported missing by friends on the Galveston, Texas based Carnival Liberty Friday morning. Upon being notified that Ms. Broberg, a mother of four, was missing, Carnival performed a ship wide sweep and review of CCTV footage. The cruise ship's CCTV system captured video footage of a female passenger falling overboard at approximately 2 a.m. It is reported that approximately 10 hours later, Carnival notified the Coast Guard that Ms. Broberg went overboard. The Coast Guard began a search but on Sunday night, after a 20 hour operation covering over 4,300 square miles, the Coast Guard announced that the search operation was suspended. The Carnival Liberty was approximately 195 miles from Galveston, Texas when Ms. Broberg went overboard. The ship was sailing on a four-day Mexican cruise.

The Federal Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010 requires cruise lines to integrate technology that can be used for capturing images of passengers or detecting passengers who have fallen overboard. It is uncertain why it appears that Carnival took 10 hours to confirm Ms. Broberg went overboard. Notwithstanding the Federal law requiring cruise ships to have technology which will alert and confirm that a person went overboard, cruise ships also have a duty to perform a search and rescue operation, and to notify the U.S. Coast Guard in a timely fashion once it is discovered that someone has fallen overboard. Such search and rescue procedures are required for all overboard occurrences, whether involving a passenger or crew member.

Passengers and crew falling overboard from a Carnival ship departing Galveston is nothing new. In March of 2015, a male passenger's body was recovered after falling overboard from the Galveston based Carnival Triumph. In February of 2012, a Carnival crew member slipped and fell from a Galveston based cruise and was later rescued. In September of 2011, a man went overboard from the Carnival Conquest. The full circumstances surrounding how and why Ms. Broberg ended up overboard are still under investigation. It is not uncommon for cruise lines to issue press releases stating that passengers went overboard intentionally. In numerous instances, however, the excess service of alcohol is linked to a passenger's disappearance. The service of alcohol is a major profit center for the cruise lines. We will continue to monitor this incident and report of any additional information learned.

Photo Credit: New York Daily News

May 4, 2016

Florida Panhandle Diving Accident Leaves One Commercial Diver Dead

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A Florida panhandle diving accident leaves one commercial diver dead and one injured in an accident last month near Tyndall Air Force Base near Panama City, Florida. The accident occurred on April 7th, 2016, but very few details of the accident have emerged. Media report that four divers were operating out of an inflatable zodiac boat when the accident occurred around 2:00 in the afternoon causing the death of one diver and another diver to be hospitalized with injuries. The Coast Guard is investigating.

Commercial diving is a high risk career which involves all of the risks of recreational diving such as drowning, hypothermia, decompression sickness, air embolism, and equipment failure but commercial divers often face additional hazards of underwater construction zones which include power tools, welding, cutting and demolition. When accidents happen it can leave the diver with disabling injuries or, in the event of death, the diver's family may not only lose their source of support, but they may also be left with many unanswered questions about what caused the accident that took their loved one.


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May 3, 2016

Commercial Diving Accidents and Injuries

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Commercial divers injured during diving accidents may have legal rights to recovery under federal admiralty and maritime law. While a non-maritime legal expert may be familiar with state negligence or wrongful death law, a maritime attorney will best be able to determine whether maritime law applies. This could mean the difference between the amount of recovery for your injury, the time period in which you must file your injury or wrongful death claim, and even whether recovery is possible at all.

What to do if you are injured in a diving accident

It is important to know your rights and to know what benefits you may be entitled to if a diving injury or tragedy happens to you. The Board Certified Admiralty and Maritime Law Attorneys at Brais Brais Rusak represent diving accident victims and their loved ones with over 70 years of combined experience. Brais Brais Rusak have recovered for victims under maritime law through the Death on the High Seas Act, the Jones Act, failure of employers to provide maintenance and cure, and unseaworthiness among other maritime or state law based causes of action.

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April 18, 2016

Florida Parasailing Accidents and Pre-Injury Releases

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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