El Faro court case heats up

Tote, the American owner of the ill-fated El Faro, is being attacked for its move to limit its payouts to families of victims of the sunken 40-year-old vessel. Tote has moved to use a limitation of liability law as it seeks to avoid suits to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars from many of the families of the 33 seafarers who perished during a storm in the Atlantic on October 1.

Attorney Stephen Pajcic, representing two of the families, has filed a motion with the courts to remove the limitation, a law that dates back to the 19th century.

“They are relying on an 1851 [ruling], when maybe shipowners didn’t know what happened to the ship when it got out to the sea and maybe didn’t have any connection to the negligence, but here, we know for sure that the ship owners knew exactly what the plan was going to be, where the ship was going, exactly where it was at all times, where the hurricane was and where it was at all times,” Pajcic said.

“The shipowners are involved in this and as they admitted at the press conference but now they’re claiming differently in a federal court, but they have final responsibility,” he told local media.

Tote has offered the bereaved families what it terms as a reasonable offer, which no one has accepted.

Tote has 14 days to respond to Pajcic’s motion.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.
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