The Source for Maritime Legal Information

Airboat-Flips-Killing-TWo-Men-300x161Two boaters were found dead Sunday night around 8:30 p.m. following their airboat flipping at around 5:00 p.m. near the Lone Cabbage Fish Camp in central Brevard.  Four men were on the airboat at the time of the accident; two were able to make it to shore without incident and two others went missing in the water.  Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and Brevard County Sheriff’s officials responded to the scene of the accident and spent several hours searching for the two missing men with the assistance of the Brevard Sheriff’s office agricultural unit and dive team as well as the agency’s helicopter.  The bodies of the two drowned men were located at approximately 8:30 p.m.  They are described as men between the ages of 70-80 and it remains unknown whether they were wearing life jackets.   The area where the incident occurred is a popular tourist stop for those interested in flat-bottom boat rides.  We extend our deepest condolences to the family and loved ones of these two men.

This incident is the second airboat incident in less than a month.  In late October, we wrote about another airboat incident involving an airboat that crashed head-on into a tree at a high rate of speed and which resulted in critical injuries to two of the fifteen passengers.  Florida law does not require boaters to obtain a license.  A boating safety course is required for anyone born on or after January 1, 1988 who operates a vessel powered by 10 horsepower or more.  Still, the law provides several exemptions.  Additionally, with respect to airboats, there are no separate education requirements.

Our board certified attorneys are highly experienced in handling wrongful death claims resulting from airboat collisions.  With accidents involving airboats, there are several important considerations such as whether the accident occurred on navigable waters, whether the airboat was properly maintained and inspected, and if a tour company was involved, whether the tour company and tour guide were properly licensed.

 

John Skylar Brogdon (Family Photo )Two boats collided on Saturday morning at Lake Talquin in Leon County, Florida resulting in the disappearance of a 10-year-old boy. According to reports, the collision occurred due to miscommunication between the two boats.  Two adults, a man and a woman, from one of the vessels were injured and were transported to Tallahassee Memorial Hospital.  The 10-year-old, John Skylar Brogdon, was reported missing following the accident.  According to a family member of the boy, they were fishing and had visited a few fishing holes when John wanted to use the restroom.  As the boat was headed to the landing for John to use the restroom, the accident occurred.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and the Leon County Sheriff’s Office are investigating the accident and jointly conducted a search and rescue operation for the boy starting at around 2:00 p.m. Saturday afternoon and continuing into Monday morning.  Per reports there are approximately 15 divers searching for the child.  Family members and friends are also helping, bringing their own boats to help with the search, which has unfortunately turned into a recovery operation.  As of Sunday afternoon, law enforcement was awaiting for the arrival of sonar equipment to assist in the search.

The cause of the accidents remains under investigation by FWC.

Tom_and_Jerrys_Airboat_Accident-300x200A Tom & Jerry’s Airboat Rides crash injured several passengers during a morning tour. The airboat tour boat operating out of central Florida lost control and crashed head-on into a tree at a high rate of speed. Out of the fifteen aboard, fourteen were injured, two of which sustained critical injuries.

The tour started at 10:00 A.M. on the morning of October 24th. There were three parties aboard, a father and son from the United Kingdom, a group of ten also from the United Kingdom and a family of three from the United States. The guide took the fifteen passengers to an area near the landing which contained cypress trees where he pointed out wildlife and provided historical information. The tour guide then operated the airboat down a narrow creek in the direction of Lake Panasoffkee at a fast rate of speed sweeping right then sweeping left in a serpentine type pattern. While sweeping left, the boat collided head-on with a tree on the bank. The collision with the tree was at such a force that many of the passengers were injured as they struck the railings and seats in front of them. After the collision, it was discovered that the tour guide did not have a radio and was unable to obtain a signal on his cell phone. It was one of the injured passengers who contacted Tom & Jerry’s Airboat Rides to report the accident and the need for help. The airboat tour company sent another boat that ferried the passengers back to the landing where first responders were waiting.

Our board certified lawyers have vast experience handling personal injury claims resulting from airboat collisions. There are several key factors that come into play when prosecuting airboat personal injury claims. These include whether the accident occurred on navigable waters, whether the tour company and tour guide were properly licensed as well as whether the airboat was properly maintained and inspected. Our lawyers also have success in obtaining court rulings invalidating the personal injury waivers typically used by such tour operators.

Passenger_Evac_Carnival_Sunshine-1The Jacksonville Command Center for the U.S. Coast Guard received a call Monday night that 31-year-old passenger aboard the Carnival Sunshine was in need of a higher level of medical care than the cruise ship medical staff could offer.  A 45-foot Coast Guard response boat was dispatched from Port Canaveral with emergency medical service personnel aboard and met the Carnival Sunshine off the Florida coast.  The passenger along with a nurse from the cruise ship boarded the response boat and were taken to Jetty Park where the Brevard County Fire Rescue took over and transported the passenger to Health First Cape Canaveral Hospital.  There is no word on the passenger’s medical status at this time.

Florida_Injured_Maritime_WorkerA Florida Federal court has recently found that an injured maritime worker has a right to a jury trial for his Jones Act negligence, unseaworthiness and failure to provide maintenance and cure claims asserted as counter-claims to his employer’s admiralty declaratory judgment action.

Facts of the Case

In this case, a maritime worker sustained a back injury while standing watch aboard a ship.  From this incident, he demanded that the ship owners provide him maintenance and cure benefits which is benefit owed to seamen who are injured while in call of the vessel regardless of fault. Two days after receiving the maintenance and cure demand, the ship owners filed a declaratory judgment action under the Declaratory Judgment Act seeking a Florida Federal court to determine that maintenance and cure is not owed because the maritime worker failed to qualify as a seaman.  In bringing the declaratory judgment action, the ship owners invoked the court’s admiralty jurisdiction which does not carry the right of a jury trial.  The injured maritime worker answered the declaratory judgment action and filed a counter-claim against the ship owners seeking damages under the legal theories of Jones Act negligence, unseaworthiness and failure to provide maintenance and cure.  Along with the counter-claim, the injured maritime worker demanded a jury trial.  The ship owners moved to strike the jury trial demand on the basis that jury trials are not available in admiralty proceedings.

(Matthew Hinton/Advocate via AP)An oil platform on Lake Pontchartrain, Louisiana exploded on Sunday night injuring seven workers and resulting in the disappearance of 44-year-old Timothy Morrison of Katy, Texas.  US Coast Guard conducted a search for the missing worker for close to 24 hours until announcing Monday night that the search would be suspended.  Per officials, the platform is a natural gas storage location that feeds from other nearby rigs and is located approximately a mile and a half from the Kenner Boat Launch in Jefferson Parish and is owned by Clovelly Oil Co.

According to preliminary investigations, it appears that cleaning chemicals ignited on the surface of the oil rig platform leading to the explosion.  A cause of the blast has not yet been identified.  Arson investigators are expected to determine the cause once the fire has been extinguished.  Nearby residents described the sound of the explosion as a “sonic boom” coming from the lake.

Eight workers were aboard the platform at the time of the explosion. Seven were rescued and taken to hospitals with blast-type injuries and burns. Four of the workers have since been discharged.  We extend our sincerest condolences to Mr. Morrison’s family and loved ones and wish all survivors involved a speedy recovery.

The law applicable to these type of incidents is particularly complex and highly dependent on the type of platform involved, whether fixed or floating.  If the platform is a floating platform found to be a “vessel,” an injured worker may be considered a Jones Act seaman and thus entitled to damages for medical costs, physical pain, mental anguish, loss of earning capacity, etc. Notably, practically any type of equipment that can be used for transportation over water qualifies as a “vessel.” See Stewart v. Dutra Construction Co., 543 U.S. 481 (2005). In contrast, if it is determined that the platform was a fixed offshore platform, the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA or OCS Lands Act) makes the law of the adjacent state applicable as surrogate federal law and the worker will not be allowed to bring the usual seaman claims unless he is independently associated with a vessel.

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Boat-Crash-Kills-1-2-injured-300x163A personal watercraft crashed into a boat on Sunday at approximately 8:00 p.m. on Lake Louise in Windermere, Florida. Larry Marin, 37, the operator of the personal watercraft was pronounced dead upon arrival at a nearby hospital.  Glorimar Correa, 40, the passenger on the personal watercraft and William Bryant, 39, the operator of the boat were both transferred to Orlando Regional Medical Center with serious injuries.  Per reports, the watercraft crashed into the boat with such force that it sank the personal watercraft.  Witness, Carina Lee Rodriguez said her friends rescued the victims from the water and took them ashore.  She reported the female victim could not breath and couldn’t feel her legs and the man, presumably Marin, was bleeding.  Orange County Sheriff’s Office Marine Unit responded to the scene and continues to investigate.

 

 

Florida_Maritime_Death_Remedies-300x235Florida maritime death claim remedies for non-seamen vary depending upon whether the death occurred in territorial waters or the high seas.

Deaths Occurring on Territorial Waters

Territorial waters are generally considered as rivers, bays, lagoons, estuaries and nearshore. Florida declares a territorial sea nine miles off its Gulf coast and the farther of three miles off its Atlantic coast or to the western edge of the Gulf Stream. See, Fla. Const., Art. II, Sec. 1.  The United States declares a twelve-mile territorial sea. See, Proclamation No. 5928.  Deaths which occur in territorial waters are governed by Federal maritime common law and supplemented by Florida’s wrongful death statute.

Child_Falls_Carnival_Glory-300x225A Girl has died after a fall from a Carnival cruise ship at the Port of Miami.  Reports reveal that the 8-year-old girl fell two stories from the interior atrium aboard the Carnival Glory Saturday morning.  Shortly after the incident, a retired paramedic started preforming resuscitation efforts.  The ship contacted Miami-Dade Fire Rescue which took over resuscitation efforts and transported the child to Ryder Trauma Center at Jackson Memorial Hospital, where she was pronounced dead hours later.  The Carnival Glory had just returned to the Port of Miami after completing a 7-day Caribbean voyage when the incident occurred.   This is the third incident in recent times were a child has fallen over a railing aboard Carnival cruise ship.  On August 4th, a three-year-old girl fell from the balcony onto the lido deck aboard the Carnival Breeze.  In June, 2016, another three-year-old girl slipped through the rail of a Carnival Liberty ship from the 14th deck to the 12th deck.  Thankfully, both children survived those falls.

 

Injured_Fisherman_ClaimA Federal court recently found determined that a jury is to resolve an injured fisherman Jones Act negligence and unseaworthiness claims .

Facts of the Case

This case involves a personal injury sustained by a professional fisherman aboard a vessel engaged in scalloping.  When fishing for scallops, the vessel the fishermen worked aboard drags along the sea floor two dredges, one on the starboard side and one on the port side.  Every hour, the dredges are winched up and their contents (which includes scallops, bycatch, rocks, and other debris) are dumped on the aft deck in what is known as “the pile.” The dredges are then lowered back to the seafloor, and the crew uses the next hour to pick the scallops out of the pile, deposit them in the shucking house, and return the rocks and bycatch to the sea.  Although the vessel has a non-skid surface on some of the deck, there is an area of the stern deck where the dredges and chain bags are regularly landed that does not. According to the defendants, that is due to the heavy abuse that part of the deck takes, which would cause the coating to wear off in a matter of days.