Families of El Faro’s Polish crew sue ship’s owner

Lawyers representing the families of the five Polish crewmembers of the sunken El Faro cargo ship have filed suit against the ship’s owner Tote Services and the estate of the vessel’s captain, Michael Davidson.

The El Faro, a 735-foot ro-ro cargo ship owned by TOTE Maritime, carrying 33 crew members onboard, sank on October 1st succumbing to the harsh winds of Hurricane Joaquin. The crew consisted of 28 U.S. citizens and five Polish nationals.

The primary claim of the lawsuit, filed by Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman lawyers on Monday, is that the captain resumed sailing despite warnings that Joaquin would rapidly intensify into a strong hurricane, CBS news reports.

“The ship owners and operators were in intimate contact with Capt. Davidson throughout this voyage,” attorney Jason Margulies is cited as saying. “They had many opportunities to tell him to pull back, or change route to a safer route.”

According to the lawsuit, the ship, built in 1970, was too old and unable to withstand the strength of the hurricane.

The announcement comes following Tote Services Inc’s seeking of court protection from legal claims regarding its liability for the deaths of the ship’s 33 crewmembers.

Tote claims that it had “exercised due diligence” to ensure the 40-year-old vessel was seaworthy, properly manned and well-equipped for its September 29 trip from Jacksonville, Florida, to San Juan, Puerto Rico, and should therefore be “exonerated from liability for any and all losses or damages sustained during the voyage … and from any and all claims for damages that have been or may hereafter be made.”

The sinking of the cargo ship converted into a genuine legal conundrum gaining on complexity on daily basis.

The NTSB has confirmed that wreckage found at the bottom of the ocean on the 31st of October is the ill-fated El Faro cargo ship.

A search team on board the USNS Apache found the wreckage at a depth of about 15,000 feet in the vicinity of the ship’s last known position.

The target identified by Orion appears to be in an upright position and in one piece, based on the findings.

Survey of the area and vessel continues, NTSB said.

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