Jury Awards $1.68 Million to Abandoned Diver

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This is an amazing jury verdict. In 2004, Daniel Carlock was scuba diving with Ocean Adventures Dive Co. out of Los Angeles. During a dive near an oil rig, Carlock surfaced about 400 feet from the dive boat when he had trouble equalizing the pressure in his ears. As he tread on the surface of the water, and to his astonishment, his dive boat started to motor away.

As was established in his lawsuit, the dive-master on the boat marked Carlock as present, and then traveled to a different spot, where the group dived again and where (again) the dive-master marked Carlock as present. Meanwhile, Carlock was left floating alone in the foggy and sharky waters about 12 miles off the coast of Long Beach. He testified that he prayed to God to allow him to survive, and after about five hours bobbing in the sea, Boy Scouts passing in a nearby boat spotted him and he was rescued.

That’s the case. An obvious case of negligence that certainly warrants a measure of compensation., but $1.68 million?

In his lawsuit, Carlock claimed negligent infliction of emotional distress and fraud. It’s not clear what the basis for the fraud claims was, but he would certainly be entitled to damages for emotional distress. It doesn’t appear that he suffered any physical harm; although he did claim curiously that it caused him to develop skin cancer. How did the verdict get to be so high? We can only speculate that he had a very good lawyer – Scott Koepke of Los Angeles – and that the defendants were very unlikable. Such a huge award for emotional distress damages is very, very uncommon.

Carlock, of course, was very pleased. He told the LA Times, “It has been an ordeal, but I wanted to seek changes in the scuba industry. Others will benefit.”

Source: San Francisco Chronicle

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