LEWISTON, Maine, and JACKSONVILLE, Fla., Dec. 15, 2015 — Attorneys Benjamin Gideon and Steven Silin of the Berman & Simmons law firm filed papers today in federal court in Florida, opposing TOTE Maritime’s attempt to limit its liability and financial responsibility arising out of the El Faro disaster.
Berman & Simmons represents the families of Danielle Randolph, 34, and Dylan Meklin, 23, who were among the 33 crew members killed when the cargo ship El Faro sank during Hurricane Joaquin in October. Randolph and Meklin were graduates of Maine Maritime Academy. They were both from Rockland, Maine, a tight-knit coastal community with a long seafaring history.
Since the disaster, attorneys from Florida, Texas and throughout the country have filed lawsuits in Florida’s state and federal courts on behalf of the victims. TOTE Maritime filed its own lawsuit, commonly referred to as a “Limitation Action,” in federal court in Jacksonville, seeking to limit its liability and responsibility for paying claims.
In today’s filings, lead counsel Benjamin Gideon lodged his clients’ objections to TOTE’s attempts to limit its liability and financial responsibility. Gideon asserts that the owner was responsible for allowing the ship to navigate into the path of the hurricane, while in an unseaworthy condition and overloaded with cargo. The El Faro lost propulsion, took on water and capsized in the storm, resulting in the deaths of all crew members, including Randolph and Meklin.
“This tragedy has been felt in Maine, Florida, and throughout the Maritime community. We do not think it is appropriate for any court to impose limitations on the shipowner’s liability or financial responsibility,” Gideon said. “Our role is to protect the rights of the Randolph and Meklin families. Today’s filings are the first step in the process.”
Randolph was second mate on El Faro, and was a role model for women in the male-dominated Merchant Marine. She graduated from Rockland District High School in 2000 and from Maine Maritime Academy in 2004. Randolph was remembered at a memorial service for her love of the sea, steadfast friendship, and hobbies including retro fashion, photography, Zumba, and cooking. She was a parishioner of the Advent Christian Church in Port Clyde, Maine.
El Faro’s planned cargo run from Jacksonville to Puerto Rico was Meklin’s first-ever trip as a professional mariner. A standout three-sport athlete, Meklin graduated from Rockland District High School in 2010 and Maine Maritime Academy in 2015. After an internship with Alion Science and Technology Corp., he took his first job as an assistant engineer with TOTE.