Florida has the most coastline out of any state in the contiguous United States, with nearly 8,500 miles of coastline on the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. Most Florida residents have likely heard the term “maritime law” or “admiralty law,” and many correctly assume that this area of law has to do with the issues that arise on the navigable waters of the United States. However, maritime law is a unique and esoteric area of the law that only a select few partitioners, attorneys who regularly specialize in the field of maritime law, truly understand. This post will explain a few of the basics of maritime law.
On December 9th, 2019, the volcano on White Island, New Zealand, erupted while 47 tourists were visiting the Island at the time. Of those, 18 have officially been declared dead, 17 sustained serious burns, and 8 people are missing and presumed dead per publicly available reports. The small Island volcano is privately owned by an Auckland family trust, and as such, only operators with permits were authorized to accompany tourists on guided tours of the Island. White Island Tours was reportedly one of the main authorized tour companies on White Island at the time. The only way to and from the Island is via small inflatable dinghies with tour costs ranging from $229 per adult by boat, to $730 a passenger by helicopter. Tourists on the Island at the time were from Germany, Australia, the UK, China, Malaysia and New Zealand – and 9 people from the United States. New reports indicate that an estimated 38 guests and crew from of the mega cruise ship, Royal Caribbean’s Ovation of the Seas, were on the Island at the time of the disaster. Last week a New Zealand police Commissioner announced they had launched a criminal investigation into the disaster.
A tragic boating accident in Biscayne Bay near Miami Beach took the life of Raul Menendez. Menendez of Hialeah, Florida and his friends chartered the luxury yacht Miami Vice for a day of sun and fun in Biscayne Bay. The 91 foot Miami Vice is offered for half day, full day as well as overnight charters via its owner’s website. The yacht ran aground on April 1, 2018 in an area near Monument Island. At some point Menendez entered the water. It is unknown at this time if he fell or jumped into the water. As he was behind the yacht, the operator, 49-year-old Mauricio Alvarez, put the engines in reverse in order the free the yacht from its strand. Menendez was sucked into the propellers and was killed. The yacht was towed to the Miami Beach Coast Guard station pending investigation.
Our lawyers are often contacted by maritime workers who were injured on the job who wish to know what legal rights they have and what type of recovery they may be entitled. The first question that must be addressed is whether or not the maritime worker is a seaman entitled to recovery under the federal Jones Act or a non-seaman entitled to recovery under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act. Court opinions from time to time provide guidance as to the facts necessary to make this decision.
A former cruise ship worker for Seabourn was allowed to proceed with her Jones Act negligence and unseaworthiness case in state court. The injured crewmember filed a lawsuit in Florida state court against her cruise line employer for injured sustained while working. The case concerns a blister the crewmember developed on a toe on her left foot. The shipboard physician treated the crewmember aboard the cruise ship, but seven months from the onset of symptoms, her toe showed signs of gangrene and was ultimately amputated.