The owner of the El Faro cargo ship that sank, killing all 33 crew members, settled wrongful death cases with four more families this week and has now reached an agreement with all but five estates.
El Faro, a 790-foot freighter, sank last October after getting caught in Hurricane Joaquin.
According to a Tuesday filing in federal court, the companies Tote Services Inc. and Tote Maritime Puerto Rico settled with three of the families for $500,000 for pre-death pain and suffering damages “plus they have all agreed upon amount for pecuniary (economic losses) damages covering the estate’s full economic loss”.
The agreement with the families of Carey Hatch of Jacksonville, Sylvester Crawford II of Lawrenceville, Ga., and Jeremie H. Riehm of Camden, Del., mirror the sequence reached with the other families.
The family of Louis M. Champa Jr. of Palm Coast reached have agreements which are consistent with the prior settlements reached in this matter but was not more specific.
Other families refuse to budge:
Attorneys for the remaining families have said, for their clients, the legal process is not about money, but about answers about what happened to their loved ones and the circumstances surrounding the ship leading to its sinking on October 1st, 2015, during a hurricane Joaquin. The ship was en route from Jacksonville, where many of the crewmembers lived, to San Juan, Puerto Rico, when it was overtaken by the storm. The ship sunk after it was directly placed in the path of the hurricane killing all its crew members’ onboard.
Attorney Jason Itkin, whose firm Arnold & Itkin represents the families of Anthony Shawn Thomas of Jacksonville, Joe Edward Hargrove of Orange Park and German Solar-Cortes of Orlando conveyed, “These widows deserve justice. Tote still refuses to take responsibility for the El Faro disaster and has not learned from their deadly mistakes. Our clients want to know the truth about what happened, and they want Tote to acknowledge that their husband’s lives had to mean. We are committed to helping these widows on their quest for justice”.
The other families who have not settled include those of Jack Jackson and Lonnie Jordan, both of Jacksonville.
Company looking for amicable settlement:
Tote, in each settlement filing, seeks for the settlements to be credited as part of its total liability, which the company is seeking to limit to about $15 million through a law from the 1800s.
Tote insists the company has focused on supporting families, including reaching fair settlements.
A federal judge set a May 2018 court date to determine whether to limit the company’s liability.
The U.S. Coast Guard will begin its third and final hearing on the ship sinking Feb. 6 in Jacksonville. The National Transportation Safety Board is also investigating.
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