Last Thursday, the U.S. Coast Guard confirmed the tragic loss of all five lives of the passengers on the Titan submersible owned by OceanGate diving company, which provides crewed submersibles for tourism, industry, research and exploration. The debris found on Thursday indicates a catastrophic implosion as the cause. The submersible disappeared on June 19, while en route to explore the Titanic shipwreck.
Following the incident, concerns emerged about OceanGate’s liability waiver, which requires passengers to acknowledge the possibility of death three separate times and is anticipated to present legal obstacles for the affected families.
To explain these obstacles, personal injury attorney and firm co-founder Miguel Custodio spoke to Radar Online, “I don’t see much recourse for these families in court.”
Additionally, Miguel observed that the waiver sufficiently warned about the possibility of such a tragedy, complicating potential lawsuits. “But the best defense to this is to demonstrate that the victims were fully warned and aware of the risks they were taking, which the waiver seems to have made clear,” he told the Daily Mail.
“OceanGate’s liability waiver appears to make pretty clear the risks involved, and points out that the vehicle wasn’t certified by anyone and included materials not previously used in submersibles that carry people, which likely refers to the carbon fiber,” said Miguel.
“The waiver could be challenged if it can be found that OceanGate was negligent in the way it was being designed or operated, and that caused the submersible to be lost,” he told Insider.
Miguel emphasized to the New York Post that the passengers were aware the trip could result in a tragedy. “Everyone on board knew this wasn’t a vacation or a sightseeing trip, and the disclaimer appears to have made the risk of death very clear multiple times.”
“’The price-tag itself is a clear indication that this is something big and serious. The trip itself was dangerous and there was a real possibility that things could go wrong,” Miguel told the Daily Mail.
In addition to the waiver, the registration location of the Titan is pivotal in potential legal proceedings.
“The Bahamas is a very popular place for vessels of all kinds to be registered in. In this case, it’s a matter of forum shopping – looking for a nation where the courts are considered more favorable to the businesses registered there. Companies know that distance itself also presents a hurdle to the average person who, say, gets injured on a cruise ship. How many people have the means to hire representation in the Bahamas?” Miguel told the Daily Mail.
“That’s where this case could be different,” he added. “The passengers were people of significant means: Two billionaires whose heirs have significantly more resources than OceanGate. And let’s not overlook a man France considered a national intellectual treasure. So they can fight hard, if they choose to.”
“Even if they win a lawsuit against OceanGate, what could they really get? It’s doubtful OceanGate had much liability insurance, because any high-risk insurer would have required certification and an independent review before signing off,” added Miguel.
He predicted that OceanGate will shut down following this disaster. “This tragedy likely also spells the end for OceanGate, which might be the only solace these families may find.”