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Titanic sub: Lawsuit possible? A lawyer’s take

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. –

A maritime law professor at Louisiana’s Tulane University says the owner of a small submersible that imploded Sunday on its way to the wreck of the Titanic will likely seek court protection — and soon.

Martin Davies says he expects OceanGate Expeditions will try to limit its financial liability if families of the five crew members who died aboard the Titan decide to sue.

Davies said in an interview that the company would first have to decide which country’s liability laws would be most favourable.

Such laws allow a vessel owner to cap the amount of money it could be ordered to pay out, but only if the owner can prove it was far enough removed from any wrongdoing.

Twain Braden, a maritime lawyer in Maine, says he suspects OceanGate could have a difficult time proving it had no knowledge of the circumstances that may have caused the Titan to implode nearly four kilometres beneath the sea.

He says a letter signed by subsea engineers in 2018 flagging concerns about the vessel’s lack of certification could become a problem for the company.

“In this case, they’re on notice — very specific notice — about potential problems with the submersible,” Braden said.

He said the situation and is sad and complex, adding that while “maritime law nerds” like himself are watching with keen interest, they’re also heartbroken for the families of those who died.

Representatives from OceanGate Expeditions say they have no comment beyond a statement issued Thursday announcing the Titan’s passengers were presumed dead. The company’s CEO, Stockton Rush, was among them.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 23, 2023.

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