Conception Dive Boat Scrambles to Avoid Liability and Accountability: Tragedy Strikes us in Anaheim Hills ⁠— A Note from Wylie Aitken

Aitken Aitken Cohn, through Megan Demshki and I, have been working on a boating tragedy where “The Attessa IV,” a 337 foot mega yacht, struck a fishing boat, “The Prowler,” just outside of the San Diego Harbor on October 26, 2018 injuring 21 fisherman. This collision also caused the death of an Orange County resident Richard Neff. We represent the Neff Family and a number of additional individuals who were on “The Prowler.”

On September 2, 2019 the “Conception Boat Fire,” off Santa Cruz Island, a dive boat suddenly became engulfed in flames causing the death of all passengers aboard including one of our own residents of Anaheim Hills Justin Dignam.

What do these two tragedies have in common? The insurance companies for both of the owners of the boats filed legal actions called a “limitation action” against the victims to limit their liability. They are relying on an archaic law first enacted in pre-Civil War days which limits liability to the value of the boat post-incident, both of which are now worthless.

As noted three days after the fire on the Conception, this tactic was employed by the insurance company for the dive boat when they filed for protection in the Federal District Court of the Central District which includes Orange County.

Setting aside the issue of it being tasteless and insensitive to the victims’ mourning families, this filing will require the boat owners to quickly serve “notice’ of claiming non-liability on the victims’ families leaving a limited time to challenge this claim.

What they don’t tell you is that the boat must have been “seaworthy” which includes any acts of simple negligence or questions regarding the condition of the boat, ingress and egress, and several other important matters which are yet to be determined. Shouldn’t our focus be on the victims and their families rather than scrambling to avoid responsibility and accountability?

-Wylie Aitken