José Fernández’s estate goes to federal court

The wrongful death law suit brought against the estate of deceased Miami Marlins pitcher José Fernández has taken a turn to a federal court, with the estate seeking exoneration under maritime laws.

The suit, filed in March by the families of José Fernández’s boating passengers on the night of their deaths, argues that Fernández would have been charged with homicide had he survived, and thus they are entitled to damages. José Fernández’s estate is taking the case to federal court seeking relief from the suit.

This new petition was filed by Maria Arias and Maritza Gomez as co-executors of the Fernández estate. If it is successful, it could exonerate Fernández from any liability or limit the damages which could be awarded. That premise is based on the court finding that Fernández and his vessel were in compliance with federal maritime laws.

Fans should take note that this petition doesn’t refute any of the findings made in the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission report. That was the report that determined Fernández was in operation of the vessel at the time of the impact which resulted in the deaths of Fernández, Emilio Macias and Eduardo Rivera. The autopsy of Fernández’s remains later determined that he was under the influence of alcohol and cocaine at the time of impact as well.

Instead of refuting any of those facts as reported by the state authorities, the petition seeks a potential exoneration of Fernández by invoking federal laws which state that Fernández’s upkeep of “Kaught Looking” and compliance with maritime standards at least limit the liability that his estate can be saddled with for the deaths of Macias and Rivera.

If the court determines that these federal statutes exonerate Fernández posthumously, the wrongful death suit against his estate will be essentially dismissed, as the case for the families of Macias and Rivera rests on the argument that Fernández would have had criminal charges levied against him if he had survived. If the court determines that the maritime laws invoked only limit the liability of Fernández’s estate, it’s likely that the estate and the families of Macias and Rivera will reach settlement out of court.

Even if the court determines that the federal standards neither exonerate nor limit the liability of Fernández, an out of court settlement of this suit is still a strong possibility. The petition of Arias and Gomez is simply an attempt to gain the upper hand in this legal dispute.