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Plaintiff Counsel Sees Gratton Settlement As Victory

Though the week-old wrongful death jury trial of the lawsuit brought by Priscilla Gratton on behalf of her husband, Joey Gratton, against Super Boat International and several other defendants ended abruptly this morning with a settlement for an undisclosed amount, attorney Michael Allweiss, the co-counsel for Gratton, said he sees the ending of the case as an “absolute victory” for the plaintiff. According to Allweiss, the defense “made it known” that they were interested in settling the case after last Friday’s trial session in the 17th Judicial Circuit Court in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. concluded. Allweiss said that he and his co-counsel “made a demand, and they met the demand.”

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Three years after Gratton’s accident in Key West, Fla., the lawsuit on his behalf was settled today. Photo courtesy/copyright Pete Boden/Shoot 2 Thrill Pix

“Point blank, we won the case,” said Allweiss. “I say that with total confidence. It was the right and just result for Joey and his family.”

Among the more dramatic elements of the case was—as streamed live in its entirety online by Courtroom View Network—the testimony of Steve Page, the driver of the Page Motorsports catamaran, on the day it overturned during the 2011 SBI World Championships in Key West, Fla. Publicly silent for the most part since the accident, Page wept openly while he testified that he pleaded with the first responders on the scene to “cut Joey out” of his safety harness. Shown primarily in videotaped despotions carried in CVN’s coverage, defense testimony maintained that Page was out of his harness and seated on the catamaran’s ceiling when the first responders arrived. Allweiss said he is offended at suggestions, many of which have been made online at offshoreonly.com—a popular offshore powerboating community—that Page “abandoned” his racing partner.

“This is about justice for Joey, but it’s also about justice for Steve,” he said. “He did everything humanly possible to save Joey and really risked his own life to save his friend. I don’t think he would have ever left the boat had he know about the qualifications of the ‘rescuers.’ Joey should be alive. It was a simple rescue. There was no damage to the boat. The hatch wasn’t ‘taped’ shut or anything like. Steve didn’t ‘abandon’ Joey. If the Stars group had been doing the rescue, Joey would have been sharing a beer and a laugh with them that night.

“This sport is dangerous enough, and that risk is assumed,” he continued. “But one risk you don’t assume as an offshore racer is having a tattoo artist acting as a safety diver, paramedic or fireman. The racers were led to believe there was a high degree of safety in place, when in reality there was almost none. The competent people weren’t deployed until it was too late.”

Attorneys from both sides, as well as the vice president of claims from SBI’s insurer, reportedly met this morning to reach an agreement. The settlement includes no admission of liability on the part of the defendants, which is “standard” according to Allweiss. The terms of the settlement dictate that amount of award to plaintiff will remain undisclosed. Allweiss added that previous settlement efforts on behalf of the plaintiff during the past three years had come to no avail.

SBI president John Carbonell had no comment on today’s settlement, and William Milliken, the attorney for the defendants, could not be reached when this story went live. Priscilla Gratton also could not be reached for comment.

Allweiss said he’s proud of the job done by his co-counsel and their legal team. He also said he’s angered by much of the commentary attacking the Gratton family that he’s seen online.

“I don’t want any armchair quarterbacks trying to twist this settlement into something it’s not,” he said. “From our perspective, the Gratton and Page families were completely vindicated. People who think the win is ‘just for the lawyers’ should ask the Grattons how they feel.

“In the early days of this country, people settled their disputes with duels,” Allweiss continued. “Like it or not, we live in a civil society, which is why it’s called ‘civil justice.’ If people didn’t have an advocate in the form of a good lawyer, who would advocate for their rights in front of a jury? Our job is to secure civil justice for our clients. That’s the job we have, and that’s what we did.”

Editor’s Note: Speedonthewater.com gratefully acknowledges Courtroom View Network for complete access to its online coverage of this story.

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