Family of Florida man lost on El Faro settles with ship owner Tote
By SEBASTIAN KITCHEN | The Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville | Published: February 23, 2017
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (Tribune News Service) — The siblings of a Jacksonville man who died on the cargo ship El Faro settled their wrongful-death claim this week.
Jill Jackson-d’Entremont and Glen Jackson, who lost their brother, Jack, settled their claim with ship owner and operator Tote Services Inc. The Jacksons become the 29th of the 33 El Faro families to reach a wrongful-death settlement.
The Jacksons and other families who have settled received $500,000 for pre-death pain and suffering, but each has also received an undisclosed amount for economic losses, according to a Tuesday filing in federal court.
While the total settlement amount is confidential and includes a clause prohibiting disparagement of Tote, the family’s attorneys said that does not affect the Jacksons’ commitment to finding answers and ensuring change.
“Jill and Glen, however, remain committed to seeing that the truth about Tote’s conduct with respect to the El Faro continues to come out and that safety changes are made in Tote operations, as may be recommended by the United States Coast Guard, so that a tragedy like the one that needlessly took the life of their beloved brother, Jack, never happens again,” according to the statement from attorneys Daniel Rose and Robert Spohrer.
Jack Jackson, a 60-year-old able seaman, and 32 other crew members died Oct. 1, 2015, when the El Faro sank during Hurricane Joaquin. The Coast Guard and National Transportation Safety Board are investigating.
“Since the loss of the El Faro, we have focused every effort on supporting the families of those on board,” according to a Wednesday statement from Tote mirroring others released when the company reached settlements with other families. “An important part of this support has entailed reaching fair and swift legal settlements for those who may choose them.”
The company noted settling with families “through a respectful, equitable and meaningful mediation process. … We stress that our support of all the families will continue. Out of respect for the legal process and the privacy of the families, we will not discuss the specifics of any individual settlements.”
The Jacksons were among the family members who sat through every day of six weeks of U.S. Coast Guard hearings into the ship sinking. They brought a photo of their brother every day. Glen Jackson kept detailed notes and has pored through available documents to find out more about the ship, sister ships, the crew and the company.
The Jacksons, who live in New Orleans, stayed in a Jacksonville hotel through the six weeks of hearings that concluded Friday.
Prior to reaching the settlement Monday with Tote, the Jacksons were not always quiet in their criticism of the company.
Glen Jackson, in previous comments, questioned why the 40-year-old ship was still sailing in its condition and said money was a motivating factor in the ship being in service, particularly during a hurricane.
When interviewed for CBS’ “60 Minutes,” Jackson placed the blame for the loss of the 33 mariners on Tote.
“You gotta understand commercial shipping. They gotta keep that ship moving to make money,” he said to CBS anchor Scott Pelley in the segment that aired more than a year ago. “…. The whole horror of this tragedy is that 33 people died so that frozen chickens could be delivered on time in Puerto Rico.”
He did back down from that criticism when the transcript of the audio recorded in the final hours aboard the ship was released by the NTSB in December.
Glen Jackson questioned how ships were operating without enclosed lifeboats and how the mariners could be expected to survive in an open lifeboat like those on the El Faro.
The Jacksons have said their brother, in phone conversations with each of them less than a month before the ship sank, told them about concerns he had about the El Faro. Glen Jackson said his conversations when his brother would return to Jacksonville from a voyage to Puerto Rico were generally brief, but they talked for more than 40 minutes on Sept. 8, 2015. He said he encouraged his brother to break his contract, but he refused.
Jackson-d’Entremont moved to Florida from Pennsylvania just weeks before the tragedy to be closer to Jack.
The Jacksons and Spohrer, their Jacksonville attorney, have said the legal process was not about money for the siblings, but about answers.
The testimony during the six weeks of hearings and the transcript of the recorded shipboard conversations make clear Jack Jackson was a diligent and respected worker.
As a military family, the Jacksons traveled from an early age. Jack Jackson never stopped. He explored. Jackson was an avid reader and an artist — a painter and sculptor.
The estates that have not settled are Anthony Shawn Thomas of Jacksonville, Joe Edward Hargrove of Orange Park, German Solar-Cortes of Orlando and Lonnie S. Jordan of Jacksonville. Three of those families are represented by Houston-based Arnold &Itkin LLP, which represented families in the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion that killed 11 workers.