Feb. 22, 2019 – Hilo, Hawaii – – The law firm of Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman filed a personal injury lawsuit on behalf of six people who suffered injuries after lava bombs rained down on them and others aboard a lava tour boat last July.
Boat accident attorney Clay Robbins III filed the complaint in the Third Circuit Court for the State of Hawaii on behalf of Erin Walsh and William D. Bryan, Jr., a married couple from Oregon, and Dr. Ka Ming Li, his wife, Dawn Li, their adult daughter, Erica Li, and their minor son, Christopher Li, who reside in California.
The lawsuit names Lava Ocean Tours Inc. and Shane Turpin, captain of the lava boat “Hot Spot,” as defendants. This is the second lawsuit against the defendants stemming from the July 16, 2018 incident; a 20-year-old Illinois woman who sustained broken bones in her legs and pelvis filed suit last month.
Lawsuit Against Lava Ocean Tours Alleges Negligence and Deceptive Practices
On the morning of July 16, 2018, the passengers embarked on a boat tour to view lava flows in the vicinity of Kapoho Bay. During the excursion, the Lava Ocean Tours vessel proceeded dangerously close to an entry point where lava eruptions reach the bay.
At approximately 6:00 a.m., a portion of lava exploded, sending large rocks and lava flying onto the tour boat and its passengers. Authorities reported that 23 people sustained injuries.
“We were pelted with the rocks, and it’s embedded in your scalp and everything and the heat and the steam — you could feel it,” Dawn Li told the media shortly after the incident. Dawn Li and her husband, Dr. Ka Ming Li, were situated at the front of the boat when the incident occurred. Their children were both in the back.
Christopher Li suffered severe burns to his leg. “I got covered in really hot rocks, and I stayed there for maybe two seconds and got third-degree blistering burns on my legs,” he said in a media interview.
According to attorney Clay Robbins III, Dr. Ka Ming Li helped attend to a woman’s serious injuries even as his children were suffering from injuries of their own.
“The children are not just going through medical treatment for their burns, their parents are also receiving therapy for the emotional distress they endured from watching their children being injured on a family vacation in the islands,” Robbins said. “William Bryan and Erin Walsh are also receiving treatment.”
Before this incident, the United States Coast Guard (USCG) analyzed the hazards associated with conducting boat tours in close proximately to lava entry points, and in doing so, expressly noted the danger of lava explosions.
The lawsuit alleges that based on the USCG analysis and other information available, the defendants knew or should have known that lava explosions were a recognized hazard at lava entry points, and approaching too close to a lava entry point would make it impossible for them to protect passengers if a lava explosion occurred.
According to the complaint, Lava Ocean Tours and Mr. Turpin knowingly violated their obligations to maintain a safe distance from the lava and recklessly exposed their passengers to an unreasonable risk of physical and emotional harm.
“They failed to provide appropriate warnings of the dangers associated with going out on lava boat tours, including the possibility of lava bombs, the explosions when the lava hits the water and the explosions of the lava underneath the water,” says Robbins.
Based on the defendants’ negligence and failure to warn, the plaintiffs seek a permanent injunction against Lava Ocean Tours and Mr. Turpin, prohibiting them from conducting any lava boat tours within 300 meters of lava entry points.
About Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman
The national law firm of Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman represents victims harmed by catastrophic boating accidents, fires, structure collapses, and commercial transportation crashes. Attorneys for the firm have resolved thousands of cases, securing over $1.9 billion for clients across all areas of practice.