A wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of offshore powerboat racer Joey Gratton against Super Boat International will be filed next week, according to Michael Allweiss, the St. Petersburg, Fla., attorney representing the Gratton family. Gratton died after a crash on Friday, November 11, during the Super Boat International World Championships in Key West, Fla.
“We have tried for the past few weeks to work behind the scenes to get two things,” said Allweiss in a telephone interview earlier today. “One is to get the SBI’s insurance company to resolve the Gratton family’s claim. The other is work with the SBI safety and rescue folks to make sure nothing like this ever happens again. Unfortunately, the other side has not responded appropriately or quickly enough so we are going to file suit and pursue this through the court system.”
According to Allweiss, the lawsuit will accuse SBI of “gross negligence” in its safety and rescue operations during the Gratton incident and the entire 2011 SBI event.
“One of the most of upsetting things about this entire scenario is that Joey Gratton would absolutely, positively be alive today but for the gross negligence of SBI,” said Allweiss. “Joey Gratton didn’t die ‘of injuries sustained in the crash,’ as (SBI head) John Carbonell has said. He had no injuries. He drowned waiting to be rescued by people on the rescue boat who were not adequately, competently trained as first-responders. It took three and a half minutes for the trained divers in the helicopter to deploy after the crash. I have been told that’s because the divers in the angel ship (helicopter) were told they were to act as second responders and to allow the personnel in the rescue boats to act as first responders.”
Allweiss did not disclose the amount of monetary damages that will be asked for in the lawsuit.
“The insurance policy for the event was $5 million,” said Allweiss. “I can tell you this: That won’t even come close, and the Grattons have absolutely nothing to do with that.
“This is the angriest I have ever been about this sport, and the one thing I never want to hear again, and the one thing the Gratton family never wants to hear again, is that Joey Gratton ‘died doing something he loved,’” Allweiss continued. “Joey Gratton died fighting for his life, scared to death, literally. Joey Gratton drowned, and there was no reason whatsoever for him to drown.”
Two phone calls to the Super Boat International offices in Key West, Fla., for a response to the upcoming lawsuit had not been returned when this story went live.