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February 2017    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 43, No. 2   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Wes Skiles Verdict Unlucky for Some

from the February, 2017 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

The trial seeking $25 million for the drowning death of famed underwater photographer Wesley Skiles "was closely watched by underwater explorers throughout the world," says the news organization Courtroom View Network. It says the win by defense attorney David G. Concannon representing Dive Rite, the manufacturer of the rebreather used by Skiles and scored against some of the most accomplished plaintiff attorneys in Florida, is one of America's "ten most impressive defense verdicts in 2016."

Skiles, a diver and cinematographer with more than 7,000 dives and 100 films to his credit, died during a dive off Boynton Beach, Florida in July 2010 while filming a documentary for National Geographic. His widow, Terri Skiles, claims her husband drowned when oxygen sensors and electronics on the Dive Rite "O2ptima" brand rebreather failed.

But jurors took less than five hours to find the rebreather was not defective and to clear Dive Rite of negligence, product liability, and failure-to-warn claims.

Opposing sides debated during the 10-day trial whether a defective rebreather or diver error caused Skiles' death. His widow's attorneys claimed the O2ptima sensors were defectively designed and subject to malfunction when covered with water.

The defense countered there was insufficient evidence proving a design defect caused Skiles' O2ptima to malfunction during his dive. Instead, it argued Skiles was an inexperienced rebreather diver swimming on little sleep who made fatal errors during the dive.

Besides losing her husband and her lawyer's fees, under Florida law, Terri Skiles and her attorney are unfortunately liable for $670,000 in defense costs.

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