North Carolina residents may remember hearing about the fire that erupted on a dive boat off the coast of Santa Barbara, California, in September 2019. It claimed 34 lives and has given rise to three lawsuits. In the third lawsuit, the boat’s owners and the captain stand accused not only of being negligent but also of callously trying to limit their liability for the fire.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is still looking for the cause of the fire itself. It is believed that some lithium-ion batteries, used to power diving equipment, were being charged in an area without adequate fire protection.
An initial report from the National Transportation Safety Board says that all crew members were asleep at the time of the incident, violating the federal law that requires at least one crew member on a commercial boat to be awake at all times. The defendants were also aware, according to attorneys, that the boat, which only had two exits, was unsafe for so many passengers.
Immediately after the fire, the boat’s owners filed a lawsuit in federal court, invoking a maritime law from 1851 in the effort to limit their liability. They did this before all the bodies had even been recovered. Attorneys claim this act has inflicted further pain on victims’ families.
When such fatal accidents occur, as this one most likely did, through another’s negligence, then the family may file a lawsuit under wrongful death law. A successful lawsuit usually covers losses like funeral and burial expenses, loss of support and consortium and any pre-death medical bills. Families may want to work with a lawyer, though, who, in turn, might hire investigators, medical experts and other third parties to build up the case before striving for an out-of-court settlement.