A liability statement prepared by OceanGate asked customers to take “full responsibility” for the risk of death – even if the company was negligent, has emerged.
The release of liability agreement, drafted in April 2022, repeatedly mentions the risk of death from traveling in the company’s submersibles.
“I hereby assume full responsibility for the risk of personal injury, disability, death and property damage resulting from the negligence of a Released Party during the operation,” the document said.
Released parties include OceanGate, its staff and other members of the expedition.
Legal experts have said it could be extremely difficult for the families of the five victims to sue the company, as they have signed a waiver absolving the company of any responsibility in the event of a disaster. But some argue the exemption could be challenged based on suggestions that OceanGate ignored safety warnings.
Shahzada Dawood, 48, a UK-based board member of the charity Prince’s Trust, plus his son Suleman Dawood, 19, were killed in the tragedy
The victims include OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush, French Titanic expert Paul-Henri Nargeolet, British billionaire Hamish Harding, Pakistani businessman Shahzada Dawood and his son Suleman, who was just 19.
The last year’s copy of the exemption, obtained by TMZalso says, “The experimental submersible is not approved or certified by any regulatory agency and may be made of materials that have not been widely used in human-occupied submersibles.
“While diving below the ocean’s surface, this ship will be subject to extreme pressures, and any failure of the ship while I am aboard could result in serious injury or death.”
It is not clear whether it is the same document signed by the five victims of the Titan tragedy.
But other people who have taken trips with OceanGate have said they have signed waivers that contain similar references to the extreme risks.
The three-page document, obtained by TMZ, makes eight references to “death” and also asks the signer to take “full responsibility” for the risk of death — even if the company was negligent
OceanGate passengers signed waivers before making the journey in the Titan submarine
The newly unearthed document also states:
- “If I choose to assist in the maintenance or operation of the hull, I will be exposed to risks associated with high pressure gases, pure oxygen maintenance, high voltage electrical systems and other hazards that could result in property damage, injury, disability and death.
- “The operation will largely take place at a great distance from the nearest hospital or rescue personnel. If I am injured during surgery, I may not receive immediate medical attention. The first aid available on the ship may not be equivalent to what is available on land.
- “I recognize that all travel in or around the water on vessels of any type, including submarines, involves both known and unanticipated risks that may result in physical injury, disability, emotional trauma, death, harm to myself or third parties, or damage to my property…”
The document concludes that disputes over the exemption “are governed by the laws of the Bahamas,” where OceanGate Expeditions Ltd is registered.
Legal experts have said the victims’ families could struggle to sue because they signed a waiver.
Miguel Custodio, Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney, co-founder of Custodio and Dubey LLPtold DailyMail.com that the families of the missing would find it difficult to prove their case in court if the incident ended in tragedy.
He said, “Everyone on board knew that this wasn’t a vacation or sightseeing, that it was really an exploration into the unknown at one of the deepest points on Earth.
“The price tag itself is a clear indication that this is something big and serious. The journey itself was dangerous and there was a real possibility that things could go wrong.
“I don’t see much recourse for these families in court, or how this waiver can be challenged, unless it is discovered that someone on the ship’s crew who operated it was negligent in the way it was operated and caused that the submarine was lost. .
Miguel Custodio says relatives of the missing passengers may not be able to claim the company was negligent because their loved ones ‘knew it was big and serious’
If this turns out to be a tragedy, the families could consider pursuing legal remedies under a tort of “ultra-dangerous activity,” which requires that the activity they engaged in was uniquely dangerous and that the actions of the defendant were the were the cause of the injury.
“But the best defense for this is to show that the victims were fully warned and aware of the risks they were taking, which the waiver seems to have made clear.”
Ted Spaulding, an Atlanta-based personal injury attorney who founded Spaulding Injury Law, told Newsweek that the waiver issue was “nowhere near an open and closed or ironclad situation for the company.”
“Especially as more evidence comes out every day about other safety issues, including this ship that has been lost for a few hours,” he said.
“Those kinds of things are typical facts that help negate a waiver clause or document.”
Peter S. Selvinchairman of Beverly Hills-based business firm Ervin Cohen Jessup’s Insurance Coverage and Recovery Department, added that the waiver each passenger signed would also create problems if someone wanted to sue.
The wreck of the Titanic lies 12,500 feet underwater, about 370 miles from Newfoundland, Canada
Selvin told DailyMail.com: “The principle that generally applies is that a release of liability is enforceable with two possible caveats: The first is that you cannot plead guilty to willful misconduct.
“A waiver would not be enforced in cases where defendants are involved in reckless, willful activity, but negligence is different.”
The second exception, depending on the relevant jurisdiction of the court, is laws that waive liability “in connection with ultra-dangerous activities.”
“I would certainly think going to the bottom of the ocean in an experimental submarine qualifies as an extremely dangerous activity.
But that’s a question of law. In the context of a lawsuit, if the survivors were to sue the submarine’s operators and ask for a jury trial, it would have to be determined that this constituted an extremely dangerous activity. That decision would be up to the judge.’