The tourism industry makes up a significant part of Florida’s economy, producing hundreds of thousands of full and part-time jobs for workers in our state. Additionally, the money spent by tourists supports other areas of the economy and contributes to the state budget through tax revenue. The tourism economy can be fickle, however, as weather events or other unexpected factors can eliminate tourism-based income streams with little warning. Tourism-related businesses may be tempted to continue operating, even if the weather has made the activity unsafe. A Florida boat captain was recently charged with criminal manslaughter after a parasailer was killed in a weather-related accident that occurred while he was captaining the boat.
According to a recently published local news report discussing the developments in the case, the defendant was operating a parasailing business in the Florida Keys, and he was hired to captain his boat for a tandem parasailing excursion for a woman and her child. According to the report, the weather appeared ominous and questionable before the excursion, and the family suggested to the captain that they could wait to go parasailing another day. The defendant ensured the family that it was safe to proceed, and the parasailing commenced. During the excursion, witnesses stated that the weather quickly deteriorated and winds picked up to dangerous speeds. Attempting to alleviate the danger, the defendant cut the line connecting the parasailers to his boat, which sent the parasailers careening into a bridge. The mother was injured in the collision and ultimately drowned in the water before a rescue could be completed. The child survived the accident with moderate injuries.
According to the article, prosecutors chose to charge the captain with criminal manslaughter because his conduct in proceeding with the trip despite the ominous weather was reckless. Furthermore, prosecutors claim that the defendant’s decision to cut the line was “gross and flagrant,” and that a safer course of action should have been taken. Manslaughter is a serious felony in Florida, and the defendant may be looking at 20 or more years in prison if he is convicted of the crime.
In addition to the criminal case that has been filed, a civil wrongful death claim was also filed against the captain in June of this year. The civil claim was based upon the same allegations, and the proceedings will carry on with similar offers of evidence by the parties. The biggest difference between the civil and criminal cases filed after the accident will be the plaintiff’s burden of proof. In the criminal case, the state of Florida will need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed all of the elements of the manslaughter offense. For the civil case, the victim and her family will only need to prove that it is more likely than not that the captain violated a duty to the family, and that the violation caused injuries or death. Because the standard of proof for a civil case is lower, civil plaintiffs often have a better chance of prevailing in such a case compared to criminal prosecution by the government.
Contact an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer to Schedule a Free Consultation
If you or a loved one has been injured or killed while participating in recreational activity in Florida, you may be entitled to compensation for your loss. Businesses have a legal duty to only facilitate activity on their watch that is reasonably safe considering the circumstances. The experienced Florida personal injury and wrongful death lawyers at Friedman, Rodman, Frank, and Estrada can help you choose the best course of action to obtain the compensation that you deserve. Our Florida injury attorneys accept clients statewide. Call our office at 877-448-8585 or contact us online to schedule your free consultation.