El Faro Loss Raises Serious Concerns
- On October 1, 2015, during Hurricane Joaquin, the cargo ship El Faro sank, taking the lives of all 33 crew members.
- Kreindler & Kreindler has often
continued where government investigations have left off, finding additional,
very favorable information for our clients.
Our client remains committed to seeing that a tragedy like the one that needlessly took the life of their beloved brother never happens again.
Faro, a Jacksonville-based cargo ship, sank on October 1, 2015 during Hurricane
Joaquin off the coast of the Bahamas. There were 33 crew members on board, most from
Jacksonville, Florida, but others were from Maine and Poland. The ship was
en route from Jacksonville to Puerto Rico. All 33 crew members perished in
Some of our thoughts
as we worked on the case:
November 16th, the NTSB suspended its search for the El Faro’s data recorders.
This is no doubt a setback for the investigation, and therefore the families,
but it is not insurmountable.
action will still focus on questions concerning why the 790-foot, single-screw ship set sail with a hurricane looming. Virtual real-time weather information
available to the vessel owner, TOTE, and the Captain certainly would have
given enough indication of the potential dangers of the severe storm. Family
members of the crew on board are joined by maritime experts in questioning why
the El Faro left port heading into what was then a growing tropical storm, even
though other vessels were pulling into port to wait out Joaquin. Indeed, we
have interviewed Captains who decided to go into port in southern Florida
rather than transit northbound along the eastern seaboard even though Joaquin
was not even forecast to track to the West.
president of TOTE, the company that owns the El Faro, told reporters they
felt the conditions were favorable and that the Captain “was
very confident the ship was doing well, the crew was quite up to date.”
The last contact with the ship was while Joaquin was considered a category 4
hurricane with winds in excess of 140 miles per hour and more than 40-foot
Guard and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) are continuing to conduct
The El Faro loss raises numerous serious safety concerns about how the voyage was conducted and what was the condition of the El Faro.
- The decision-making process to undertake the voyage
- The company’s knowledge of the weather conditions
- Communications between the company and the El Faro
- The influence of the company and scheduling pressures on the decision-making process
- The maintenance and integrity of the El Faro including the conditions of the following:
- The engine and its component parts
- The ship’s hull, including waterproofing
life raft lowering system
6. Any third parties that were involved in the maintenance and seaworthiness of the El Faro and its engine or other critical equipment.
the NTSB or Coast Guard don’t address these issues sufficiently, the legal
action by the families can. Kreindler has often continued where NTSB and Coast
Guard investigations have left off and have found additional, and very favorable,
information for our clients which was used in prosecuting their claims in
Because the El Faro was lost at sea, unique maritime laws apply to any claims that may be made on behalf of crewmembers. These laws are not “run of the mill” negligence laws, such as those involved in automobile accidents. They are complicated and unique Federal maritime laws which require specialized maritime lawyers to prosecute.
The Jones Act: All the El Faro crew members are
considered “seamen” under the Jones Act, which provides the primary
legal avenue of recovery for the crew against the vessel’s owner, TOTE. The
Jones Act allows for an action based on negligence by the owner for the
“pecuniary value” of the loss which essentially covers lost earnings
and lost earning capacity, past and future medical expenses, pain, suffering and mental anguish.
The Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA): DOHSA may apply to certain crewmembers. Like the Jones Act, DOHSA is a “pecuniary loss” law.
General Maritime law may also apply to provide a supplemental recourse for
recovery and provides for claims based on the unseaworthiness of the El Faro.
such as engine manufacturers and maintainers, may be liable to the crew members
for their negligence. Those claims, importantly, may not be limited by the
Jones Act and may provide a more generous avenue for compensation.
complex legal nature of the case is already evident by TOTE’s filing of a
Limitation action to try limit their liability to only $15,000,000, which is
much less than the claims are worth. This is, unfortunately, a common practice
among ship owners and can be a very challenging legal hurdle to overcome for
the families. Fortunately, Kreindler has significant experience in taking on
maritime owners who raise this defense and a proven track record of overcoming
the Limitation of Liability action so that its clients can recover fully under the law without limitation.
& Kreindler LLP has represented hundreds of seamen over its 60-year history
of prosecuting maritime cases. Kreindler partner Dan Rose has successfully
tried two recent maritime cases in Federal Court in Virginia and New
York. Those cases were affirmed by the Federal Court of Appeals.
& Kreindler LLP has offices in New York and Boston.
If you have any questions, please contact
Kreindler partners Dan Rose at 212.973.3414 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or Anthony Tarricone at 617.424.9100 or through his email at email@example.com.