BlogUnderstanding Waivers A Year After the Oceangate Tragedy

June 19, 20240


The tragic implosion of the Titan submersible, operated by OceanGate, marks its one-year anniversary today. As we revisit this devastating incident, it’s important to understand the legal implications and the role of waivers signed by the passengers. Personal injury lawyer Miguel Custodio sheds light on this complex legal landscape.

The Legal Context: A Year After the Disaster

On its ill-fated journey to the Titanic wreckage, the Titan submersible imploded, claiming the lives of five individuals. OceanGate, the Everett-based company behind the sub, has since halted its operations. Despite the passage of a year, there have been no lawsuits filed by the families of the victims. According to Custodio, the delay is likely due to families awaiting the Coast Guard’s investigative findings. “Once they do that, I think they will go forward in a civil lawsuit,” Custodio explains, emphasizing that the statute of limitations still permits legal action.

Waivers and Gross Negligence: Legal Boundaries

One critical aspect of this case is the waivers signed by the passengers. Typically, waivers are designed to outline and mitigate the risks involved in activities. However, Custodio points out a significant legal nuance: “Generally, waivers are upheld by courts, but waivers, you can’t get out of gross negligence.”

The Wired report unveiled that OceanGate cut corners, skipped vital safety certifications, and conducted dives with known deficiencies. Such gross negligence, Custodio argues, can nullify any waiver signed by the victims. “Certifications that were just not done because of budget constraints… that can overcome any waiver that a plaintiff, a decedent, would have signed.”

International Waters and Jurisdiction

A question that often arises in such cases is the location of the incident—in this case, international waters. However, Custodio clarifies that the jurisdiction for any lawsuit would depend on where the waiver was signed. “It does not really matter that it was in international waters,” he asserts. This means the legal proceedings can still be anchored in the jurisdiction where the agreement was made, ensuring that the location of the tragedy does not hinder justice.

Pursuing Justice: The Role of Insurance Companies

With OceanGate out of business, a pertinent question is who the families can hold accountable. Custodio provides a clear direction: “They would go after the insurance companies that insured the company.” In any civil lawsuit, if the defendant company has closed or gone bankrupt, the insurance that was active at the time of the incident becomes the target of the lawsuit. This ensures that the families have a viable avenue to seek compensation for their profound loss.

Moving Forward

As the one-year mark of the Titan submersible disaster is observed, the path to justice for the victims’ families remains open. The anticipated findings from the Coast Guard’s investigation could catalyze legal actions. Despite the waivers, the documented gross negligence by OceanGate provides a robust foundation for potential lawsuits.

Personal injury attorney Miguel Custodio’s insights illuminate the intricate balance between signed waivers and gross negligence. As the legal landscape continues to evolve, the families of the Titan victims stand on firm ground to pursue justice and hold accountable those responsible for this preventable tragedy.


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