Fourth lawsuit against El Faro owners attacks law passed in 1851

The fourth lawsuit connected to the sinking of the Jacksonville container ship El Faro has been filed against the ship’s owners.

TOTE Maritime, along with several of its entities, INTEC Maritime Offshore Services Corp. and Ship or Land Operations Agency Inc. are all listed on the lawsuit filed by the Houston law office of Arnold & Itkin.

This lawsuit, filed in Broward County, comes on behalf of the family of Anthony Shawn Thomas, who was a Navy veteran and spent the last 17 years as a merchant mariner. He leaves behind his widow and five children.

A definitive dollar amount isn’t expressed in the lawsuit yet, only that they are seeking more than $15,000.

“(TOTE Maritime) should have never let El Faro go to sea,” Attorney Kurt Arnold told WOKV. “They’ve tried very hard to blame it on the captain exclusively, as if they had no role in it.”

Arnold alleges that TOTE Maritime was aware of El Faro’s problems taking on water before it went into Hurricane Joaquin, and says, in his experience, companies always make the last call before a ship heads into bad weather.

GALLERY: Remembering the 33 El Faro crew members

What makes this lawsuit different than previous ones is the explicit targeting of a maritime law, passed in 1851, which states a company can only be liable for the value of the ship and cargo. With El Faro somewhere at the bottom of the ocean, that’s pretty much nothing.

“As a maritime lawyer that’s done this a long time I know this is where the company is going next,” Arnold said. “You don’t have to hide behind this old antiquated law; you’re out there saying you want to take care of all these families, then do it.”

Arnold says he’ll try to get the law repealed in the process.

TOTE has declined to answer questions on any pending legal issues, and have expressed their will to help the families of El Faro’s crew.

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