NEW ORLEANS – Millions of dollars of lawsuits are expected to be filed by the survivors, families who lost loved ones and the families of those still missing following the Seacor Power disaster.
One expert believes it will also be a matter of time before Seacor Marine, the owner of the vessel, also files suit.
Walter Leger, Jr. has decades of experience in major maritime disaster cases, the BP Deepwater Horizion Oil Spill and class action litigation against the tobacco industry. When he saw the news of the Seacor Power disaster, he said his first thought was the families.
“These men that died, the men that were injured and we don’t know the extent of their injuries were, they were the bread winners,” Leger said. “Suddenly, these families, wives, children, maybe even parents or relatives who needed support are going to be without.”
Leger believes although it’s difficult, it’s important for families to seek legal counsel.
“It will be important for them to have their lawyers involved in learning the facts, developing the facts and investigating otherwise and of course, the companies have some of the finest lawyers you can find,” Leger said.
He expects Seacor Marine to file suit in Federal court claiming “limitation of liability.”
Leger said, “If they can show it was purely navigational error of the captain and there was no involvement on shore, they can limit their liability to the value of that vessel. That vessel having sunk has a relatively small value and may not be sufficient to fully compensate the families.”
On Monday, John Gellert, President of Seacor Marine said, “The go, no go decision is entirely the captain.”
Leger said, “The questions will be made what was the captain being told by his boss. How urgent was it and was business so important it couldn’t wait a few hours for conditions to improve?”
Some members could also file a “death on the high seas act” lawsuit because the Seacor went down more than three miles offshore. Leger said compensation would then be based of a formula.
“No award for pain and suffering of a person pre-death, loss of the relationship or the emotional losses. Only the actual pecuniary damages which is difficult and in many ways unfair,” Leger said.
The investigation into what went wrong is just getting started. The NTSB said it could take one to two years to complete.
*At the time of our interview with Walter Leger, Jr. he said he is not representing any of the victims, families or the companies involved.