TOTE Settles With Remaining El Faro Families
TOTE, the operator of the wrecked con/ro El Faro, has now reached settlements with all of the families of the 33 crewmembers who were lost with the ship.
In court filings first reported by ABC, TOTE subsidiary TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico said that it had reached out-of-court settlements with the final remaining families. The amount of the recent settlements was not disclosed; earlier settlements included $500,000 in damages plus an additional undisclosed sum for economic losses.
23 out of the 33 families had settled as of October last year. If the remaining families had not reached an out-of-court agreement, their pending lawsuits against TOTE would have had to wait until 2018 for a hearing on whether the company's liability would be limited under maritime law.
In court, TOTE has maintained that the El Faro was fully seaworthy at the time of the sinking and that she went down due to the unforeseen severity of Hurricane Joaquin.
The El Faro's sinking was the most significant American marine casualty in recent memory, and the Coast Guard launched a high-level Marine Board of Investigation to look into the accident. The board held a series of three public hearings, with testimony from dozens of company executives, former crewmembers and subject matter experts. In addition, after an extensive search, a Navy team found and recovered the ship's voyage data recorder, providing the Board with vital information on the vessel's final hours.
The Board inquiry continues, and the Coast Guard has not yet announced a date of publication for its final report. The National Transportation Safety Bureau (NTSB) is conducting a separate, parallel investigation.