THE family of a ship's cook lost aboard El Faro cargo ship is seeking US$100 million in a negligence and wrongful death suit against the owners and captain.
The crewman was thrown over board during a hurricane that sunk his ship off the Bahamas recently.
The lawsuit on behalf of the estate of Lonnie Jordan, one of the 33 crew members presumed dead, was filed in Jacksonville, against Tote Services and Tote Maritime Puerto Rico, as well as the El Faro captain, Reuters reports.
Mr Jordan, 33, of Jacksonville, worked on the 1,200-TEU ship for 13 years as a cook, his family told the Jacksonville Times-Union.
"Tote Services, negligently permitted the El Faro to sail out to sea despite being in an unseaworthy condition to handle the conditions of a violent storm," the lawsuit states.
Flamboyant personal injury lawyer Willie Gary flanked by relatives of other crew members, told reporters outside the Duval County courthouse that "the ship should have never left dock".
Mr Gary said he would be seeking the ship maintenance records and had heard that it was undergoing mechanical repairs the day it departed as well as having other problems within weeks of the doomed voyage.
More lawsuits will follow on behalf of the other relatives, warned Mr Gary, who has taken on major corporations such as Walt Disney and Anheuser-Busch in the past.
John AC Cartner, lawyer and legal commentor, cited in New York's Maritime Advocate, had earlier said: “There wouldn’t have been a riding crew out there doing engine work if she hadn’t had engine problems before. She was an old ship, an old steam ship, and old steam ships often have riding crews going along to fix things."
But Mr Cartner has since withdrawn the statement having learnt that the riding crew was not there to repair but to prepare the ship for another role.
“In preparation for transferring to the west coast, contractors on board were carrying out preparation work, such as running electrical cable for modifications to meet the cargo needs for that trade. These modifications had no association with the integrity or propulsion of the vessel," he conceded.
Source : HKSG.