El Faro Owners To Testify In Civil Case

Feb 8, 2017

Credit NPR

Executives who ran the company that owned and operated the cargo ship El Faro will testify about the ship’s operation as the company seeks to limit its liability in federal court.

That’s after a judge’s ruling Wednesday.  

The company has already settled wrongful death claims by the families of 28 crewmembers, but five families are holding out for the right to sue for more money.

TOTE is suing to limit its liability, citing a maritime law from the 1800s that caps damages at what a ship and its cargo are worth, which is about $15 million in this case.

The multinational shipping company then asked the court to assign a judge to mediate talks between TOTE and the families.

Jacksonville attorney Bob Spohrer is representing Glen Jackson and Jill Jackson-d’Entermont. He was in the courtroom during the status hearing.

“Of the five pending cases involving the deaths of people onboard the El Faro, the court has ordered a mediation to be conducted by a magistrate judge for three of those. The other two are proceeding with private mediation,” he said.

In a letter to TOTE to this week, the National Transportation Safety Board said it will prohibit the company from sharing draft reports related to its open investigation as part of the case.

Still, Spohrer said, a judge’s ruling Wednesday makes it clear that doesn’t mean TOTE executives can’t give recorded testimony.

“The parties are proceeding with depositions of TOTE executives, which will begin on February the 28th and be conducted here in Jacksonville and will run for approximately two to three months into the spring,” he said.

A final decision on whether TOTE should be able to limit its liability isn’t expected until May 2018.

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Reporter Ryan Benk can be reached at rbenk@wjct.org, 904-358-6319 or on Twitter @RyanMichaelBenk.