Conception Boat Owner Files Lawsuit to Limit Liability
Vessels owned by Truth Aquatics (Photo: Truth Aquatics)
By edhat staff
The owners of the dive boat that caught fire Monday where 34 people lost their lives near Santa Cruz Island have filed a lawsuit to potentially limit their liability, reports the Associated Press (AP).
Santa Barbara-based Truth Aquatics Inc., which owned and operated the Conception, filed an action Thursday in U.S. District Court of Los Angeles claiming it was not liable for any damages from the victims' families because the vessel was seaworthy when it caught fire.
Owners Glen and Dana Fritzler are named as plaintiffs in the filing which states, "At all relevant times, Plaintiffs used reasonable care to make the CONCEPTION seaworthy, and she was, at all relevant times, tight, staunch, and strong, fully and properly manned, equipped and supplied and in all respects seaworthy and fit for the service in which she was engaged."
The investigation is ongoing and agencies involved, including the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office, NTSB, ATF, and the FBI, have not released any information suggesting criminality.
Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown stated in a press conference on Friday that all investigations are looking at the cause of this fire and a criminal element is always a possibility, but at this point, no one is being charged. He confirmed additional agencies have been brought on because of their expertise and at this point, it has not turned into a criminal investigation.
Victims families, who are not named in the filing, will have six months to challenge Truth Aquatic's motion to clear itself of negligence or limit its liability to the value of the remains of the boat, which is a total loss, reports AP.
The NTSB reported a final determination of the cause of the fire will take 12-18 months.
The Limitation of Liability Act was instituted in 1851 has been used in previous maritime tragedies such as the sinking of the Titanic and the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
This move by Truth Aquatics has prompted some backlash from loved ones of victims and legal experts.
“They’re forcing these people to bring their claims and bring them now,” said attorney Charles Naylor to the AP, who represents victims in maritime law cases. “They have six months to do this. They could let these people bury their kids. This is shocking.”
However, Tulane University Professor and maritime law director, Martin J. Davies, said the cases always follow accidents at sea and always look bad, but they are usually initiated by insurance companies to limit losses, reports AP.
Fritzler released an official statement to edhat on Friday saying they've been working tirelessly with NTSB to find answers. Below is the full statement:
“My family and I are speaking today with extremely heavy hearts. No words will ease the pain that loved ones are feeling. We extend our deepest condolences to all those involved in this horrific tragedy.
We have not yet made a public statement because we have been working tirelessly with the NTSB to find answers. As a member of the NTSB task force committee, we are prevented from commenting on details of this active investigation. We are committed to finding accurate answers as quickly as possible.
Yet, we can speak to our emotions. We are utterly crushed. We are devastated. We are a small, family-run business that has taken this event entirely to heart. Our customers are like family to us, many returning for decades. Our crew is family.
Our lives have been irreversibly changed by this tragedy and the sorrow it has caused. The families and friends of the victims and survivors are now, and forever, in our thoughts and prayers.”