In a story that captivated the country, five men went missing after their touring submersible sank into the ocean on its way to view the wreckage of the Titanic. After a massive search, rescuers confirmed that the vessel had imploded and killed all of the men on board.
Now, allegations that the submersible wasn’t safe are surfacing. Do these allegations mean lawsuits could be coming? Who could be charged?
What Happened To the Titan?
On June 18, 2023, five men boarded the Titan submersible run by OceanGate Expeditions. Their mission was to travel 12,500 feet below the surface to view the wreckage of the Titanic.
Just two hours into the dive, the Titan lost communication with its control ship. Hours later, a massive search began looking for the 22-foot-long vessel. For four days, international ships, surveillance aircrafts, and undersea drones searched for the Titan. Finally, the vessel was found. Debris from the sub was found on the seafloor around the Titanic wreckage.
The remains of the sub indicated that Titan had imploded at some point in its descent. All five passengers were pronounced dead.
Passengers Signed Waivers Before the Trip
The five men aboard the Titan presumably knew there were risks involved with their journey. When they signed up for the trip, each paid as much as $250,000 and signed a lengthy liability waiver.
While details of the exact waiver signed by the men haven’t been made public, a passenger who made the trip with OceanGate Expeditions in July 2022 shared details about the waiver he signed before his trip.
Mike Reiss said the waiver mentioned the possibility of death three times on the first page alone. “You sign a massive waiver that lists one way after another that you could die on the trip,” Mike Reiss told the BBC.
Does this mean lawsuits can’t be filed in the case? Not exactly.
Is There a Case for Wrongful Death?
In cases where the negligence of a person or a company leads to the death of a person, there is an option to sue for wrongful death. Survivors can seek financial compensation for losses and damages experienced as a result of the death.
Wrongful death lawsuits are typically dictated by the rules and guidelines in state statutes. In Florida, wrongful death lawsuits are dictated by Florida Statute 768.21. In the case of the Titan, the accident happened in international waters, so it is not clear which jurisdiction would manage a potential case.
In most wrongful death cases, plaintiffs must typically prove two things.
- The death was a result of the negligence or maliciousness of an at-fault party.
- The death led to financial and/or emotional damages for surviving members of the deceased.
In an effort to avoid potential wrongful death lawsuits, companies or individuals seek protection through the use of liability waivers, as was the case with the Titan voyage. It appears that all passengers signed liability waivers.
But waivers don’t always offer unlimited protection against wrongful death lawsuits.
Related: How Do You Sue for Wrongful Death?
What Potential Lawsuits Could Arise?
The families of the men who died in the Titan could possibly sue for wrongful death if there is evidence of gross negligence or hazards that were not fully disclosed to the passengers.
Since the Titan went missing, allegations that the submersible wasn’t safe are coming to light.
In 2018, a former employee of OceanGate warned company leaders that the sub’s safety could be compromised, according to Insider.
In a lawsuit, the employee said he was worried about poor “quality control and safety” protocols that “paying passengers would not be aware of.”
If there were dangerous aspects of the construction of the vessel that were kept from the passengers, it could potentially open the door to litigation against OceanGate.
OceanGate is not the only company that could face potential litigation. The companies that designed, built, or made parts for the Titan could also face potential lawsuits if they are found to be negligent or the cause of the implosion.
Many details of the case are still being investigated, and as more details come to light, we will see if lawsuits will also follow.
Seek Justice If Injured by Negligence
If you or a loved one have been injured due to the negligence of another individual or company, you deserve to be made whole. To hold a negligent party accountable, talk to a personal injury attorney or a wrongful death attorney right away. Discuss the details of your situation to find out if you have a case to seek damages and justice.
Discuss your case with attorney TJ Grimaldi. All consultations are free so share your story today. Schedule your free consultation or call 813-226-1023 now.