While the second rounds of racing at the 2013 Super Boat International Key West Offshore World Championships were underway on Friday, November 7, a wrongful death lawsuit was filed on behalf of Jeffrey Tillman, a 46-year-old offshore racer who died, along with his 76-year-old cockpit teammate, Bob Morgan, when Morgan’s 46-foot catamaran raceboat flipped during the 2011 Super Boat International Key West Offshore World Championships. Superboat International Productions, Superboat owner/founder/president John Carbonell and several other persons associated with SBI’s safety and medical programs have been named as defendants in the suit.
The case is being brought by Tillman’s uncle, William Tillman, who represents Jeffrey Tillman’s estate and has retained Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based attorney William R. Scherer, III. The attorney petitioned the case as a jury trail to be heard in the Circuit Court in the 17th Judicial Circuit, In and For Broward County, Fla.
Tillman and Morgan died two years ago on Wednesday, November 7. Had the suit not been filed by last Wednesday, Florida’s two-year statute of limitation for wrongful death lawsuits would have expired and William Tillman, the plaintiff and representative of the deceased, would not have been able to file suit in this case.
Among the key allegations in the suit are:
• That Tillman died of “saltwater drowning” per the coroner’s report—not “blunt trauma” or “severe internal injuries” as was initially reported by first responders—and drowned while awaiting rescue.
• That Bob Morgan, the boat’s driver, reportedly did not pass the “dunker test” required under SBI safety rules and not have been allowed to race.
• That Bob Morgan could not pass a current Class II FAA Physical Examination of CDL Physical Examination required under the SBI safety rules and should not have been allowed to race.
• That the boat’s SBI-inspected canopy, which collapsed on contact with the water, did not comply with industry safety standards including “Lavin” guidelines referred to in SBI rules and posted on its website.
The plaintiff is seeking damages “above $15,000” from the defendants. The suit also alleges gross negligence on the part of SBI. Neither attorney William Scherer, III, nor representatives from Super Boat International could be reached when this story went live.
With last week’s filing of the Tillman complaint, Super Boat International now has two wrongful death lawsuits pending against it. The Joey Gratton wrong death suit—Gratton drowned in an incident two days after the Morgan/Tillman incident—reportedly is in its final discovery phases. Representing plaintiff Priscilla Gratton, Joey Gratton’s widow, is attorney Michael Allweiss of St. Petersburg, Fla.