A lawyer representing the family of Lonnie Jordan, an El Faro crew member, has filed a $100 million lawsuit against TOTE Service Inc. and TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico, as well as the El Faro captain. The ship sank off the Bahamas on October 1st, and search and rescue ended after eight days. On October 5th, the U.S. Coast Guard found a body of a crewmember in a survival suit.
The lawsuit was filed family by attorney Willie E. Gary. Gary has accused the company of negligence and putting profit ahead of the lives of its employees. “We hope to get to the bottom of this,” Gary said. “We are at war now.”
“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.
Gary, flanked by relatives of other crew members, told reporters outside the Duval County courthouse, “the ship should have never left dock.”
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 trip.
More lawsuits would follow on behalf of the other relatives, warned Gary, a flamboyant Florida-based personal injury lawyer who has taken on major corporations such as Walt Disney and Anheuser-Busch.
Jordan worked for the company as a cook for more than 13 years. The 790-foot El Faro sent a distress call about 36 hours into its voyage saying it had lost power and was taking on water and was in the path of Hurricane Joaquin.
Tote Maritime declined to discuss the lawsuit and a spokesman said the company was “fully focused on supporting the families and their loved ones.”
Tote executives have previously said the captain sailed with a sound plan and blamed the sinking on engine failure.
Tote Maritime announced it has create a relief fund for the crews’ families. There were 28 Americans and five Polish nationals aboard the vessel. A National Transportation Safety Board investigation is under way and is coordinating the search for the missing ship.