Posted by on Oct 24, 2015 in Law, Whistleblower Law |

Audiences around the world followed the search for the El Faro cargo ship and her crew. The ship, which was carrying cars and other vehicles from Jacksonville, Florida, was believed to have been damaged in Hurricane Joaquin and subsequently sank. There were 33 crew members on board, and though some debris, and the wreckage of a lifeboat and an empty survival suit were found, all of the crew of the El Faro are presumed to have perished at sea. 

$100 Million Lawsuit

Funding-for-Lawsuits-GavelThe family of one of the people who was working on board the El Faro have come together to file a $100 million lawsuit against the companies who owned and ran the El Faro. Joanna Johnson, who is the executor of crew member Lonnie Jordan’s estate, has hired notable attorney Willie E. Gary to file the lawsuit on her behalf. Gary, who works for leading Florida law firm Gary, Williams, Parenti, Watson & Gary, P.L.L.C., bases his case on the fact that the El Faro should not have been sent into the storm, claiming that the company in charge of shipping the cargo was putting profit before the lives and safety of its employees. 

The lawsuit also claims that the ship was too old, and not structurally sound enough to withstand the stormy seas she was headed into. Some reports since the tragedy have included former employees who had worked on the El Faro saying that this was indeed the case, though the ship had passed all recent required safety inspections, though recommendations had been made for the boilers on the ship to be serviced – this was scheduled to be carried out in November. 

The Company Behind El Faro

How-to-Protect-Your-Property-From-LawsuitThe El Faro is owned by TOTE Services and TOTE Maritime, Puerto Rico. As yet, spokespeople for this company have not commented specifically on the Willi E. Gary lawsuit, stating that it is their policy not to talk about any individual lawsuit filed against them. However, Michael Hanson, one of the spokesmen for TOTE Services, did say that “The company remains fully focused on supporting the families and their loved ones”.

As with any high profile tragedy, new information and speculation is coming to light all the time about the El Faro disaster. The latest reports say that the captain of the El Faro did in fact report a breach before the ship lost communications. With so much interest in this case and public sympathy for the crew and their families this lawsuit adds more drama to an already huge story.

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It will be interesting to see how the lawsuit from Joanna Johnson and Willie E. Gary plays out and what the wider implications are for shipping companies and the protocols for ensuring ships are sea worthy and that people are not required to send them into conditions they may not be able to weather. The media is certain to be keeping a very close watch on further developments in the El Faro story.