Recently in Maritime Wrongful Death Category

July 9, 2014

Miami Boat Accidents and a Little Known Law

Miami Boating Accident Lawyer.jpgBoat accidents are nothing new in Miami. Sun, fun, inexperienced operators and alcohol all play a role in both recent and past boating tragedies. After such horrific events there is a public outcry for more law enforcement and tougher laws aimed to prevent more injuries and deaths. This is a normal and well intended reaction. However, flying under the radar from public scrutiny is an over 150-year-old Federal law that allows boat owners, or should it be said the boat owners' insurance companies, the ability to limit the amount of money damages paid to the victims of the boat accidents to the post-loss value of the vessels. This law, known as the Limitation of Liability Act, can be devastating to an already overwhelming situation. Imagine a situation where a boat passenger who one minute was enjoying a holiday weekend and the next cannot walk or the children left parentless after the accident. This statute allows the boat owners to ask a Federal judge to limit the amount they must compensate these victims to a few thousand dollars or less.

Given the extraordinary benefits to boat owners, the Limitation of Liability Act is applied regularly. Take for example the highly publicized case involving Ernesto Hernandez who died of propeller injuries after being backed over by a boat operated by popular Miami radio personality DJ Laz (whose real name is Lazaro Mendez). The boat Mendez was operating was owned by Voli Spirits - the Vodka brand he was promoting. Our law firm learned the boat owner is exploring its limitation options and most likely will file a limitation proceeding in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida. Our firm is currently handling a case where a deckhand was killed while working aboard a tug. Days after the complaint was filed, his employer (who also owns the tug) filed a Limitation Action in Federal Court. Another case our law firm is handling involves a personal watercraft collision where a rider suffered multiple facial and vertebral fractures, sustained a brain injury, and has a permanent facial disfiguration due to nerve damage. The rental concessionaire company filed a limitation proceeding seeking to limit its liability to only Three Thousand Dollars. In short, boat owners will take advantage of the Limitation of Liability Act at any opportunity.

In addition to allowing boat owners to limit their liability, the law provides various strategic advantages to boat owners. The first advantage is boat owners can initiate the litigation. This is the exact opposite of a traditional litigation where the victim starts legal proceedings. By being allowed to initiate proceedings, boat owners can set the tempo and even scare victims into not bringing a claim. In addition, if the victims had already brought a lawsuit in the local state court, the statute allows the boat owners to stay those proceedings in favor of a Federal Judge deciding the case. Part and parcel of staying the state court action, the victims loses the right of having a jury decide the case.

Despite providing multiple benefits to boat owners, the Limitation of Liability Act can be overcome in certain situations. For example the law carries a strict statute of limitations. This means if boat owners do not timely file limitation proceedings the Federal Court will dismiss the limitation proceeding. Additionally, boat owners cannot limit liability in situations where the negligent action or vessel unseaworthiness was within their privity or knowledge. Furthermore, in certain instances the Federal limitation proceeding could be stayed allowing victims to proceed in state court with a jury trial. However, once the state court jury trial concludes, the case will be reinstated before the Federal judge who will decide issues of limitation.

Though the Limitation of Liability Act has outlived its stated purpose of promoting American ship building, it is still a Federal law and will be enforced by the courts. Victims of boating accidents should be aware of its existence. A detailed explanation of the Act can be found in the linked article The Shipowner's Limitation of Liability Act: Pitfalls for the Unwary which was written and presented by our lawyers at the Southeastern Admiralty Law Symposium.



May 27, 2014

Weston Woman Killed in Boating Collision Near Elliot Key

Multiple news agencies are reporting on a fatal boating accident that occurred near Elliot Key late Sunday (May 25, 2014). The incident occurred between 10:30 and 11:30 p.m. when a 23' boat collided with larger 36' anchored vessel. Giovanna Patricia Santos of Weston, Florida and two men were aboard the 23' boat. The collision was so traumatic that Santos was airlifted to Ryder Trauma Center at Jackson Memorial Hospital and the men were airlifted to Kendall Regional hospital with serious injuries. Tragically Ms. Santos died from her injuries.

The operator of the boat, Felipe Escobar, is suspected of boating under the influence. Jorge Pino of Florida's Fish and Wildlife Commission stated, "Our investigators felt that there was enough probable cause based on the odor of alcohol that was coming from the operator's person for us to do a forced blood draw on him." The toxicology results are pending.

The two people aboard the anchored 36' boat vessel were sleeping at the time of the accident and weren't injured. Investigator found the anchored boat was properly lit.

WSVN-TV - 7NEWS Miami Ft. Lauderdale News, Weather, Deco

March 26, 2014

Brais, Brais & Rusak Files Wrongful Death Lawsuit on Behalf of Florida Deckhand's Family

Shaun Cheney.jpgThe Florida maritime attorneys of Brais, Brais & Rusak brought a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of a family whose loved one drown after falling overboard from the tug boat. On the morning of September 13, 2013, Shaun Cheney was preparing the tugboat Brittany Beyel and barge for a crossing to the Bahamas. As part of his duties, Shaun was required to participate in the repositioning of the tug and barge from the Beyel Brothers' Merritt Island facility across the Canaveral Barge Canal. While crossing the canal, it was noticed that Shaun was missing. He was last seen by a fellow deckhand securing a line to a stern cleat. Although being aware Shaun was missing, the decision was made to first dock the tug before starting a search and rescue mission. When the search of the area did occur, Shaun could not be found despite being a good swimmer. Tragically, Shaun's body was found on the bottom of the canal the next afternoon.

Beyel Brothers Accident Lawyer.gifMarine employees are protected by the federal Jones Act and maritime law for the negligent acts and unseaworthiness of the vessel they are tasked to work aboard. Under this law, Shaun's employer, Beyel Brothers, was required to develop safety protocols, post a lookout to alert the captain and crew of an accident, have a sufficient amount of life vests aboard the vessel and immediately effect a search of the area when it becomes known that crew member fell overboard. Based upon our investigation, Beyel Brothers failed to comply with the law. Maritime law recognizes seamen work is hard and often times dangerous. As such, unlike land-based law, marine employers are liable no matter how slight the connection between the wrongful act and death of a worker.

If you have information about this tragedy, we like to hear from you to better assist Shaun's family. You may call us toll free at (800) 499-0551 or click this link to write to us.

February 6, 2014

Holland American Cruise Passenger Dies after Accidental Fall

Holland American Trip Injury Lawyer.jpgA Hawaiian medical examiner ruled the death of a passenger who fell aboard a Holland American cruise ship an accident. James Harte of Salt Lake City, Utah died last week at hospital in Oahu, Hawaii four days after falling aboard the Veendam cruise ship. The autopsy revealed the fall caused a cranial cerebral injury which resulted in the passenger's death. No foul play is suspected. It is unknown at this time what caused the man to fall or the area of the cruise ship the accident took place. The Veendam is currently making Panama Canal crossings between San Diego, California and Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

January 7, 2014

Princess Cruise Worker Falls off the Grand Princess

Fall on Grand Princess.jpgThe Coast Guard reports a worker for Princess Cruise Lines has fallen off the Grand Princess cruise ship. The 34-year-old Filipino national was last seen Monday alive Monday night at 10:25 and is said to have gone overboard later that night or early Tuesday morning. The Coast Guard was notified and preformed a search along with the cruise ship and nearby cargo vessel. At this time, he has not been found. The cruise line claims the on board CCTV footage shows the crew member jumping off the ship. The Grand Princess was on a 15 day Hawaiian cruise leaving from San Francisco, California.

This instance is the latest in a recent rash of people falling from cruise ships. The Maritime Law Blog has previously reported on a 26-year-old man fell off the Royal Caribbean Adventure of the Seas on December 28th, a 65-year-old man fell off the Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas on December 31st, a 88-year-old passenger fell off the Holland America Veendam on January 3rd. If you know anything about these incidents, feel free to contact us or leave a comment.

January 7, 2014

Canadian Passenger Falls off Holland America Cruise Ship

Fall on Veendam.jpgA Canadian passenger has fallen off the Holland America cruise ship Veendam last Friday. Reports state the 2,000 passenger Veendam was 300 miles off the San Diego, California coast when a woman was spotted going over the side. The rescue searchers ultimately located the passenger but it was too late. The Medical Examiner ruled the death as suicide. However, the ABC television news station in San Diego interviewed a witness who claims he observed the passenger on her balcony leaning over the rail to jump, but when she turned around to go back inside, she slipped and fell. The Holland American cruise ship was on a 7 day Mexican Rivera cruise. The name of the passenger has not been released. This is third incident in three weeks of a Canadian passenger falling off a cruise ship. The Maritime Law Blog has previously reported a 26-year-old man fell off the Royal Caribbean Adventure of the Seas on December 28th and a 65-year-old man fell off the Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas on December 31st. If you have any information about these deaths, feel free to contact us or leave a comment.

January 2, 2014

Police Fear Another Canadian Cruise Passenger has Fallen Off a Royal Caribbean Ship

Passenger Accident Independence of the Seas.jpgJust 5 days after Canadian passenger Tien Phuoc Nguyen reportedly fell off the Adventure of the Seas, there are news reports of a second Canadian tourist has fallen off a Royal Caribbean Cruise ship.

Cayman Islands police have issued a statement that they suspect a 65-year-old Canadian man may have fallen off the Independence of the Seas cruise ship. The missing passenger's wife told investigators that the couple went to bed around 1 a.m. but when she woke up 6 hours later, the man vanished. The 15 deck, 1,112 foot long Independence of the Seas was searched and the on board CCTV video was reviewed. Unfortunately, it could not be determined what happened to the passenger and the investigation continues. Police suspect that the accident happened while the ship was approaching Grand Cayman. The Cayman Port Authority has requested all marine traffic be on the lookout for the missing passenger. The Independence of the Seas was on a 6 night voyage leaving from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

December 18, 2013

NCL Passengers Beware: Illness Outbreak aboard the Norwegian Gem

Cruise Illness Lawyer.jpgThe CDC has issued a cruise ship illness outbreak alert for the Norwegian Gem. The report states that during the November 13-25 voyage 111 passengers and 3 crew members reported being ill with vomiting and/or diarrhea. In response to the outbreak NCL, the operator of the Norwegian Gem, increased cleaning and disinfecting procedures as well as collected stool specimens for testing by the CDC. The cruise ship currently makes weekly voyages from New York City.

How Cruise Ship Illness Spreads

Being that thousand passengers and crew members interact for extended periods of time in confined spaces aboard the cruise ships like the Norwegian Gem, gastrointestinal illness can spread rapidly. In cases of Norovirus, a person can remain a carrier for two weeks after the symptoms have passed. Cruise line practices also fuel outbreaks. It is routine procedure for many cruise lines to send their crew members back to work after illness symptoms have disappeared. This means crew members who are still carrying Norovirus often times unwittingly pass the virus along to passengers while serving food and handling objects in the cabin and common areas.

Our Law Firm's Experience Representing Ill Cruise Passengers

Besides becoming violently ill, some people experience other serious health issues that stem from being infected with Norovirus. This law firm has represented passengers who suffered heart attacks, significant infections and even death caused by the taxation to the body Norovirus causes. If you had a life altering event caused by Norovirus contracted from a cruise, our cruise illness attorneys would like to speak with you.

December 3, 2013

U.K. Passenger Dies Aboard a Thomson Cruise Ship

Cruise Ship Death.jpgThere are reports that a United Kingdom passenger died aboard the cruise ship Thomson Dream while sailing to the Caribbean island of Tortola. A Police Information Officer stated that, David James Hughes, 59, was complaining of difficulty breathing and was pronounced dead by the ship's doctor at 9:18 a.m. on November 30th after being treated overnight. The cause of the death is currently unknown. The case is being treated as a sudden death.

December 3, 2013

Tarpon Springs Man Dies After Boat Capsized Off Palm Harbor

Sad news is coming from Pinellas County, Florida. The law enforcement division of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reported Stephen Chadwick of Tarpon Springs died early Monday when the 10 foot aluminum jon boat sank in the Gulf of Mexico. Investigators said Chadwick and Joseph Citro of Indianapolis were heading to meet friends at the nearby spoil islands on Sunday afternoon when their boat sank less than an hour into the trip.

The men initially held on to the boat's hull but eventually decided to swim to shore. Chadwick reportedly lost consciousness as the men approached shore. Citro performed CPR while a nearby Palm Harbor resident called 911. Both men were taken to the hospital where Chadwick later died. Citro was treated and released.

Below is a local television news report about the boat accident.

November 14, 2013

Passenger Disappears from Princess Cruise Ship off Hawaii

Princess Cruise Injury Lawyer.jpgSeveral news agencies report a passenger went overboard from the Princess Cruise Line's GRAND PRINCESS on November 13, 2013 off the Hawaiian coast. Eyewitness accounts indicate the passenger intentionally went overboard North of Hawaii. The cruise line stated the witness' accounts were confirmed by closed-circuit television. The ship was on a 15-day round-trip cruise from San Francisco to Hawaii. The Coast Guard is currently searching for the passenger.

October 21, 2013

Carnival Conquest Crew Member Crushed to Death in the Port of New Orleans

Carnival Conquest New Orleans Death.jpgSad new coming from New Orleans. Carnival Cruise Lines acknowledges a Carnival Conquest crew member died Sunday morning at the Port of New Orleans while working on the cruise ship's exterior. The accident occurred when the crew member was performing maintenance work on the side of the vessel while the cruise ship was in port between voyages. Reports state he was working in a cherry picker and became wedged between the machine and a platform holding one of the cruise ship's lifeboats. The ship's medical team responded along with local paramedics. Unfortunately, the crew member died. The Coast Guard is currently investigating the incident.

October 15, 2013

Florida Boy Drowns in Carnival Cruise Ship's Pool

Cruise Pool Drowning Lawyer.jpgUnfortunate news is coming out of Carnival Cruise Lines' Miami headquarters. A 6-year-old boy has drowned in a pool aboard one of its cruise ships. The boy has been identified as Qwentyn Hunter of Winter Garden, Florida. The CARNIVAL VICTORY was on the last leg of a four-day Caribbean cruise Sunday when the tragedy happened.

Investigators stated the boy was in the pool with his 10-year-old brother at the time. Most interesting, reports indicate that passengers, not Carnival personnel, pulled the boy from the water and began CPR. For the large part, cruise ship pools and hot tubs are not guarded leaving passengers to fend for themselves in an emergency. Given many families with children cruise with Carnival, this practice falls below the hospitality industries' safety standards.

The cruise and pool injury lawyers of Brais, Brais & Rusak are very experienced will pool accidents occurring on land and on cruise ships. If you or a loved one suffered an aquatic accident any would like to learn more about your rights, feel free to contact our law firm at 800-499-0551 for a free consultation.

September 27, 2013

Beyel Brothers Barge Worker Found Dead in Florida Canal

Beyel Bros Accident Lawsuit.jpgBeyel Brothers barge worker Shaun Cheney was found dead in the Canaveral Barge Canal. Cheney is believed to have fallen off the barge near Dover Avenue on Merritt Island on September 13th. Authorities stated Cheney was on the barge with co-workers when someone noticed he was missing around 10 a.m. No witness to Cheney's accident has come forward. Mr. Cheney's brother told media reports that Shaun, "worked on the barges for the last few years, been around boats his whole life, loves the water, never wanted to move away."

Maritime law requires employers to take reasonable steps for a seaman's safety as well as provide a seaworthy vessel for the seaman to work aboard. It is not uncommon for maritime employers to fail in their responsibilities in providing a safe barge. The maritime lawyers of BBR are very family with barge accidents and have represented crewmembers against Beyel Brothers in the past.

February 1, 2012

Cruise Passenger Falls to Her Death in an Accient aboard the Royal Caribbean Liberty of the Seas

Liberty of the Seas Accident Attorney.bmpIt has been widely reported a passenger aboard the Royal Caribbean Liberty of the Seas died early morning on Monday, January 30, 2012 after falling down a flight of stairs. The Broward Sheriff's Office states the passenger, Barbara Wood, a 47-year-old Massachusetts woman, fell on a flight of stairs and struck her head. Royal Caribbean confirmed the woman died aboard its cruise ship. The accident occurred approximately at 1:48 a.m near the Catacombs nightclub. At the time of the death, the Liberty of the Seas was traveling from the Bahamas to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

This is the second reported falling death of a passenger on a Bahamian cruise within a week. As reported in our article Carnival Cruise Passenger Falls to his Death Aboard the Fantasy, the first death involved a 26-year-old South Carolina man who died aboard the Carnival cruise ship Fantasy on January 28, 2012 while at dock in Nassau.