Three days after the U.S. Navy located the ill-fated the cargo ship the El Faro on the bottom of the ocean off the Bahamas, attorneys in Miami filed suit against the ship’s owner and the estate of its captain, Michael Davidson.
The El Faro went down in 120 mph winds 20 miles from the eye of hurricane Joaquin on October 1.
The suit filed Monday is on behalf of the families of five Polish crew members. They were among 33 who perished. The remaining crew members were Americans.
The primary claim of the lawsuit is that the captain kept sailing even after warnings that Joaquin would rapidly intensify into a strong hurricane.
“The ship owners and operators were in intimate contact with Capt. Davidson throughout this voyage,” said attorney Jason Margulies. “They had many opportunities to tell him to pull back, or change route to a safer route.”
The lawsuit alleges the El Faro was an aging, corroding hulk in need of repairs, with a history of prior, shoddy repair work.
“It defies logic to think that a 40-year-old ship would be able to withstand the kind of force that hurricane Joaquin had,” said attorney Mike Winkleman.
Attorneys for the lost crew members’ families say it was nothing short of insanity to steam ahead into what was a category three hurricane.
“Other crew members that were on this vessel as late as this year have described this ship as a rust bucket,” said Margulies. “They have described the ship as having leaks on the calmest days.”
Attorneys for the plaintiffs are confident with the ship being located, and the pending recovery of the black box, alleged negligence of the owners and captain will be spelled out in excruciating detail.
A spokesperson for the ship’s owners declined to comment Monday, saying their focus is on the needs of the lost crew members’ families.
On Friday, the company filed an action in federal court seeking to limit its liability to the value of the ship and its cargo.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs are confident the company will be unsuccessful in getting that limitation imposed, given what they characterize as the gross, knowing negligence on the part of the firm and its captain.
Thanks to CBS Miami for the update.