Conception Boat Owner Files Lawsuit to Limit Liability

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Conception Boat Owner Files Lawsuit to Limit Liability
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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.”

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18 Comments

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Bodyboarder73 Sep 08, 2019 07:42 AM
Conception Boat Owner Files Lawsuit to Limit Liability

Most night shift workers are paid more than day shift workers. He was required by law to have a night watchmen and he was too cheap to pay for one. I have no sympathy for the owner. I hope he get's sued by every family that died on his boat. This tradgedy was completely unavoidable. God bless all the souls that were lost. We all love you.

LocalMatt Sep 07, 2019 09:54 PM
Conception Boat Owner Files Lawsuit to Limit Liability

Barry cappello looks in the mirror and then looks down at all of us from his hill top mansion on the very top of campinil dr. Then he walks next door to dr Laura slessinger for his therapy.

a-1569215915 Sep 07, 2019 11:34 AM
Conception Boat Owner Files Lawsuit to Limit Liability

Why are anonymous law enforcement sources leaking supposed details of the investigation??? These law enforcement people with no authorization to comment are contaminating the investigation . Law enforcement needs to investigate who on their respective forces are leaking confidential information from a federal investigation.

Lucky 777 Sep 06, 2019 09:46 PM
Conception Boat Owner Files Lawsuit to Limit Liability

It is a tragedy for everyone. Laying blame with speculation and rumor is only making it worse, as if that could be possible. This is an honorable local family run business, and without some kind of legal protection they'll go bankrupt. Then the only ones who will win will be the government minions who will start legislating changes like bigger escape hatches and cause more tour operators whose boats cannot be retrofitted to comply to also go bankrupt.

macpuzl Sep 07, 2019 03:22 PM
Conception Boat Owner Files Lawsuit to Limit Liability

I would think unemployment in the case of being unable to adhere to improved safety regulations is a bit less of a disaster than death. I'm not saying this particular accident was easily preventable, but the constant dirge from the egotarians and profiteers against safety regulation is a bit self-serving, don't you think?

a-1569215915 Sep 07, 2019 10:57 AM
Conception Boat Owner Files Lawsuit to Limit Liability

People over profit? Huh? What do you think companies are made of? People - they employ people. If they cannot do so b/c overregulation puts them out of business or makes it impossible to profit, then they cannot pay people to work and people are unemployed. So, not sure what you mean here.

Z Sep 07, 2019 08:42 AM
Conception Boat Owner Files Lawsuit to Limit Liability

08:23 Double poster: a) only hit the SEND button once; be patient; b) highlight (left button and swipe) the mysterious black bar to view its contents; c) good sentiments, but a bit ahead of the evidence on the battery speculation. :-)

a-1569215915 Sep 07, 2019 08:23 AM
Conception Boat Owner Files Lawsuit to Limit Liability

Black strip person with no visible handle - tell me, how many accidents like this have there been? By my count, not any or at least not many. This company has been in business for a long time with stellar safety record. Unfortunately, accidents happen. This was a freak accident and personally I will not be surprised if it turns out to be a lithium ion battery explosion considering the crew reported that many, many devices such as: cameras, laptops and phones, were charging overnight at the time. So if that is the case, a larger escape hatch would likely not matter (I don't know if you've seen a lithium ion battery explosion but you can YouTube the videos - there is a reason you are not allowed to check baggage with those batteries). So it's not about favoring profit over people it's about realities of life, and fighting against ridiculous overregulation in response to freak incidents. Perhaps a better solution would be to ban lithium ion batteries OR, to prohibit charging them overnight when there is less supervision.

Red Creek Sep 06, 2019 08:08 PM
Conception Boat Owner Files Lawsuit to Limit Liability

This is the LA Times article regarding the crew on watch requirements: https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2019-09-05/california-boat-fire-victims-crew-members-passengers

a-1569215915 Sep 07, 2019 08:25 AM
Conception Boat Owner Files Lawsuit to Limit Liability

Incorrect. It is a maritime law that was used in Titanic disaster, and Deepwater Horizon. IT limits liabiltity to the value of the boat if the boat was seaworthy at the time of the incident unless it is challenged within 6 months of the filing. It is standard procedure and the insurance companys attorneys would be committing malpractice if they did not file this.

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