It has been a month since Florida Marlins’ pitcher Jose Fernandez and his friends Eduardo Rivero and Emilio Macias lost their lives in a tragic boating accident in Miami Beach. Shortly after the tragedy, law enforcement reported the boat involved in the crash with the north jetty of Government Cut did not belong to Fernandez. It was later confirmed that Fernandez did, in fact, own the vessel. It has been also confirmed that hours before the accident, Fernandez was drinking at American Social, a Miami area restaurant and bar. A toxicology report recently released indicates that Fernandez had a blood alcohol level of 0.147 which is nearly twice Florida’s legal boating limit of 0.08. The same toxicology report concluded that he also cocaine in his system. Though Fernandez was legally intoxicated, it is now being suggested that he was not operating the boat at the time of the accident. This theory is based upon a witness telling law enforcement that he was on the phone with Fernandez near the time the boat struck the jetty.
Though this the accident occurred on a private boat mere yards from shore, a civil case concerning who is labile will be governed by maritime law. Maritime law is an amalgamation of decisional law dating back to ancient Greece supplemented, at times, by non-conflicting state law. From the facts known to date, there are four potential sources of liability: the boat owner, the boat operator, the alcohol server and the government.