Shark-cage diving operators responsible for safety, court rules

2014-12-28 13:47

The High Court in Cape Town has ruled that shark-cage diving operators may no longer hide behind the indemnity documents they make their clients sign.

the Sunday Times reported that the court ruled this week that a defence based on the fact that someone had signed an indemnity document did not mean the operator was indemnified from litigation if something went wrong.

According to the report, US widow Sarah Tallman was now allowed to sue the owners of a Cape Town shark-diving vessel that capsized in 2008 off the Kleinbaai coast, killing her new husband Chris and his best man Casey Lajeunesse.

Tallman spent six years embroiled in litigation with the owners of White Shark Projects. She was suing skipper Grant Tuckett and the business for R25.5 million for loss of support, the newspaper reported.

Acting Judge Alec Freund found that the company and Tuckett were liable for her husband’s death and ordered they pay Tallman’s court costs.

Another court would determine the award.

Tallman accused the company of negligence for failing to notice a deterioration in sailing conditions.

Her lawyer, Gavin Fitzmaurice, said the judgment had profound implications for the shark-cage diving industry because it established clear safety regulations.

He said the owners of the vessels could no longer leave responsibility for the safety of their clients to the skippers of their boats.

Lawyer Michael Tucker, acting for Tuckett and the owners of White Shark Projects, told the paper: “We certainly expect to receive instructions for leave to appeal the judgment [on the grounds of the] court’s disregard for credible countervailing evidence of the sea and prevailing conditions.”

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