Truth Aquatics Inc. filed suit Thursday in Los Angeles federal court under a pre-Civil War provision of maritime law that allows it to limit its liability, saying that the company and owners Glen and Dana Fritzler “used reasonable care to make the Conception seaworthy, and she was, at all relevant times, tight, staunch, and strong, fully and properly manned, equipped and supplied and in all respects seaworthy and fit for the service in which she was engaged.”
Using the law, the company would serve anyone who could make a claim with notice that the firm was asserting it was not liable for damages and victims will have a limited time to challenge that claim. The law applied to the case has its origins in 18th century England and was designed to encourage the shipping business. Similar US law dates to 1851. Earlier the same legal loophole was successfully used by owners of the Titanic and countless other crafts, and many maritime law experts said they had anticipated such a move.
The 75-foot dive boat named Conception with 39 people on board started its excursion to the Channel Islands on Saturday and was expected to return to Santa Barbara on Tuesday.
At around 3:15 a.m. local time (10:15 GMT) on Monday, the boat sent out a mayday signal and was already engulfed in flames. All 25 people killed in the tragedy were sleeping below deck when the fire broke out. Only the captain and four crew members above deck survived.
Investigators said they were examining potential ignition sources of the deadly fire on the scuba diving boat, including electronics aboard the vessel. The cause of the fire has yet to be determined.