Kreindler Files Claim in Scuba Dive Boat Fire Case
June 24, 2020
Kreindler admiralty law attorneys Daniel Rose and Kevin Mahoney have filed maritime wrongful death claims on behalf of the family of Sunnyvale, California resident J.P. Ahopelto in California federal court.
The case arises from the September 2, 2019 fire on board a scuba diving vessel operated by California company Truth Aquatics, Inc., which killed 34 people in the one of the worst maritime disasters in California history. The claim alleges that Truth Aquatics failed to keep a night watch on board the vessel, in violation of Coast Guard Regulations, and utilized a vessel with inadequate emergency exits.
This event is so tragic because it could have been avoided through the use of basic safety precautions and regulatory compliance.
Although Truth Aquatics has invoked an arcane 1851 statute called the Limitation of Liability Act in an attempt to avoid paying compensation to the MV Conception victims, Rose plans to vigorously fight the defense. The case is presently pending in the United States District Court for the Central District of California.
Overnight, a 75-foot chartered scuba dive boat, the MV Conception, caught fire and sank off the coast of Santa Cruz Island, California on September 2, 2019. There were 33 passengers and one crew member sleeping below when the fire broke out close to 3:00 a.m. Four additional crew members and the captain were sleeping on the top deck and were able to safely jump overboard and survive the disaster.
In the Media
Three days after the tragedy, attorneys for the owner of the MV Conception filed a “Complaint for Exoneration from or Limitation of Liability” in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, California. In the complaint, vessel owner Truth Aquatics, Inc. cites the Limitation of Liability Act of 1851, a law almost two centuries old that can limit the boat owner’s liability to the value of the craft at the conclusion of the voyage, which the owner claims in now zero. Furthermore, the complaint asks the Court to “adjudge that Plaintiffs and the ‘CONCEPTION’ are to be completely exonerated from liability arising out of the Fire of September 2, 2019 … and that no liability exists on the part of Plaintiffs and ‘CONCEPTION’ from any injuries or damages or deaths resulting from the Fire …”
Kreindler will be involved in the prosecution of the case against the Conception owners and operators and will conduct its own investigation, which will focus on overcoming the legal hurdles to ensure a fair and substantial recovery for its clients.
In a case with egregious facts, shipowners don’t want to push too far because they risk raising the ire of the public and people in Congress who maybe take a look at the law anew.
Kreindler’s Experience with Boating and Maritime Cases
The law, the Limitation of Liability Act of 1851, has been used in the past by ship operators, including the owners of the Titanic, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig and the cargo ship, El Faro.
Kreindler attorneys have successfully litigated and won or settled cases involving a variety of vessels:
- El Faro Loss Raises Serious Legal and Safety Concerns
- Kreindler Settles Claim in High School Grad Snorkeling Trip Tragedy
- Kreindler Settles Case Involving Boy Thrown from Whale Watching Ship
- Deepwater Horizon BP Oil Spill Lawsuit
- Wrongful Death Suit Involving Navy Seaman
About Kreindler & Kreindler
Kreindler has represented hundreds of seamen during its 60-year history of prosecuting maritime cases. If you have specific questions regarding the Conception boat tragedy or about Kreindler’s maritime practice, please contact Kreindler partner and U.S. Navy veteran Dan Rose.