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

November 3, 2015 Maritime Wrongful Death

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.

El Faro Lawsuits and the Limitation Act

October 29, 2015 Maritime Wrongful Death

Not every company named as a defendant in the El Faro lawsuits will be able to invoke the protection of the Limitation Act. As discussed above, the Act was designed to promote United States shipping. As such, only the ship’s owner (and perhaps a charterer) may invoke the Limitation Act. The Coast Guard lists Sea Star Line as the El Faro’s owner. The Limitation Act clearly allows Sea Star Line to invoke its protection. However, the ill-fated cargo ship appears to be operated by TOTE Maritime. In fact, TOTE Maritime’s President Tim Nolan told reporters that his company had the authority to veto the Captain’s decision to leave in advance of the storm. TOTE, not being the owner, has no right to seek Limitation Act protections unless it occupies the status of the vessel’s bareboat charterer. Nothing has come to light in the thousands of reports on the El Faro that TOTE was the ship’s bareboat charterer. As such it does not appear that TOTE will be able to seek limitation protections. Also, there were five Polish nationals who were a part of was what is known as the riding crew. Their employer will likewise not be able to take advantage of the Limitation Act.

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

October 21, 2015 Cruise Ship Passenger Injury Law

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.