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Liability... Where?

Discussion in 'Scuba Related Court Cases' started by klausi, Mar 17, 2016.

  1. klausi

    klausi Barracuda

    # of Dives: 2,500 - 4,999
    Location: Dumaguete, Philippines
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    I as someone without formal legal training have a question ... and no, nothing happened or went wrong, this stems from a discussion among instructors.

    I work as an instructor in the Philippines, as an Austrian citizen. In the event of an accident, I assume I & the dive shop I work at could be sued in the Philippines, and only the Philippines? Isn't the location of an event determining which country has jurisprudence over it (with the exception of crimes against humanity)? How could that even be otherwise, since different things are illegal in different countries?

    Some of my fellow instructors claimed that I could be sued 1. in my home country 2. in the US, since "it's so easy to sue there". But how would these court rulings even be enforceable, if I don't own anything in these countries (and don't even travel regularly to the US)?

    Divers with a legal background, thanks for clarification!
     
  2. KWS

    KWS ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: SE TEXAS
    3,504
    677
    113
    You would be sued at different levels. criminal and civil are two animals. No one cares if yo have nothing. If you are sued you never will have anything. Most likely you have little to worry about. It is the shop you are attached to that will be gone after. In america lawyers probably keep 2/3 of the suit winnings. As travel goes you would not be able to come to the US , probably be a warrant for your arrest to answer charges would be in place.
     
  3. chrisch

    chrisch Solo Diver

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    Is there an agreement between Philippines and US? If so it is possible to litigate cross border. Would be expensive though.
     
  4. Steve_C

    Steve_C Divemaster

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Raleigh, NC USA
    3,671
    2,292
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    Typically in the US the attorneys keep 1/3 + expenses which is usually less than 2/3.

    All parties are sued to avoid an empty chair that can be pointed to as responsible by other parties.

    Cannot get blood from a stone. So main target is usually the deep pockets.

    But lawyers are restricted somewhat by what the client wants and clients are not always logical or reasonable.
     
  5. KWS

    KWS ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: SE TEXAS
    3,504
    677
    113
    Yes they keep any where from 1/3 to about 45% for their charges plus other expences incurred. Locally it is about 40% plus expences. Expert witness costs are OTHER expecnes. 40% is what the firm clears. I'm sure not all firms are like this but but it varies from area to area.
     
  6. John A Lewis

    John A Lewis Scuba Media & Publications

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: DFW
    360
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    That great technical answer "It depends" rears it's head here.

    I am not a lawyer. This answer is based on conversation with real lawyers I've had over the years. Your experience may vary or differ wildly.

    You can be sued anywhere, at any time, by any one if they can make a good legal argument for jurisdiction in the cause brought before the court. In recent years, for example, there have been suits brought in US courts for incidents in Mexico, and one well-known criminal case for a fatality that occurred in Australia which had already been adjudicated in that country. The reason that this seems to happen is lack of trust in foreign court systems, so attempting to bring the suit into a 'friendlier', more familiar venue/environment happens.
     
    EvaFin likes this.
  7. Rhone Man

    Rhone Man Divemaster

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: British Virgin Islands
    11,072
    10,122
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    It won't surprise you to hear that which courts you can be sued in is a massive branch of the law. It also will not surprise you to hear that the rules vary from country to country.

    In most countries, the courts will assume jurisdiction over any defendant who is physically present within the country. So if you are in the Philippines, and can be served with proceedings in the Philippines, I would guess that the Philippines courts would likely take jurisdiction over you. Similarly, if you moved back to Austria, I suspect they would be able to sue you there. However, this is subject to a general discretion in most legal systems to "stay" proceedings which can be more appropriately dealt with by a foreign court. So if, for example, you moved back to Austria and someone tried to sue you there, your lawyers might try to argue that the Austrian courts should decline to exercise jurisdiction and the case should be heard by the Philippines courts (being the place where the accident happened, and where all the witnesses are located).

    The second dynamic is that lots of countries have what is sometimes called "long arm" jurisdiction, ie. the ability to take jurisdiction over ostensibly foreign cases. As you might suspect, America is quite big on this, although pretty much all countries have them to some degree. In particular the state of Texas has a particularly unpleasant statute called the Wrongful Death Act, which vests the Texan state courts with jurisdiction to hear and determine any claim relating to wrongful death anywhere in the world. The named ambition of the statute is to provide work for Texas personal injury lawyers.

    However, being sued somewhere is only half the battle. If your insurers choose to fight and/or pay up in the foreign court that is their choice. But quite often they may simply allow judgment to be entered by default, and rely upon the fact that other countries will not normally recognise "long arm" jurisdiction cases (especially those where judgment is entered by default). Accordingly, provided you have no assets in the US, not defending a case might be a reasonably strategy.

    All of which is to say: it's complicated. Best to leave it to your insurers to worry about.
     
    klausi likes this.
  8. klausi

    klausi Barracuda

    # of Dives: 2,500 - 4,999
    Location: Dumaguete, Philippines
    282
    152
    43
    Thank you very much for your insightful replies! Especially the " "long arm" jurisdiction " I did not know about. The world is a funny place.
     
  9. ZzzKing

    ZzzKing Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Dallas
    2,407
    86
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    Here in Texas,pretty much anythig you've done or thought about doing is gong to be a hangin' offense. :)
     
  10. John A Lewis

    John A Lewis Scuba Media & Publications

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: DFW
    360
    99
    28
    I'm not afraid. Torture does not frighten me.

    I've been married before.

    TWICE!

     

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