Stockton Rush Lawsuit: A Dive into Risk and Regret

We all know that it is always fascinating to explore the deep ocean. On the contrary, it comes with significant risks. Likewise, OceanGate faced a heartbreaking tragedy. This shows just how delicate the line between innovation and safety can be.

Unfortunately, OceanGate’s Titan submersible imploded in 2023. This incident not only raised questions about the company’s safety practices but also led to legal battles.

In this article, we will learn about the background of OceanGate and the Stockton Rush Lawsuit. We will further discuss how Rush and OceanGate ignored expert warnings.

Background of OceanGate

OceanGate is an American privately held company. On top of that, it specializes in crewed submersible expeditions. The Stockton Rush (company’s CEO) was known for his bold approach to innovation.

It was believed that he had a dismissive attitude toward safety regulations. OceanGate’s quest for adventure and innovation ended in tragedy in 2023.

The Titan submersible collapsed during the trip to the Titanic wreck. This disaster resulted in the deaths of CEO Stockton Rush and four others on board.

Stockton Rush Lawsuit

Attitude Toward Safety

Stockton Rush was known for his notoriously casual attitude toward safety. In a 2022 podcast, Stockton Rush spoke with CBS reporter David Pogue. He disliked excessive safety measures.

He said,

“At some point, safety is just pure waste. If you want to be safe, don’t get out of bed, don’t get in your car, don’t do anything. At some point, you’re going to take some risk.”

He assumed that breaching the rules would provide him with the same level of safety. This attitude in turn foreshadowed the eventual disaster.

Expert Warnings

Experts issued many safety warnings about the Titan, but Rush ignored all. It is stated that submersible expert Karl Stanley, a friend of Rush, heard a cracking sound during a dive. Therefore, he urged thorough testing on the hull.

Rush brushed off Stanley’s advice, telling him to “keep his opinions to himself.” Likewise, when expedition leader Rob McCallum raised concerns, Rush threatened him with legal action if he continued to criticize the corporation.

David Lochridge Case

David Lochridge former director of marine operations at OceanGate and chief submersible pilot. You must be shocked to hear that he was fired after raising safety concerns about the Titan. His detailed inspection report highlighted serious defects. Consequently, this led to his termination.

When Lochridge filed a complaint with OSHA, OceanGate threatened to sue him. They also warned they would ruin his professional reputation unless he withdrew the complaint. Unexpectedly, legal pressure was applied to Lochridge.

In court filings from August 2018, Lochridge claimed he was wrongfully terminated. This was not just but the case was settled out of court in November 2018. Ultimately, this settlement effectively silenced his warnings.

Stockton Rush Lawsuit by Marc and Sharon Hagle

Now let us talk about a prominent couple who filed a lawsuit against the Stock Rush. Marc and Sharon Hagle belong to Winter Park, Florida. They are known for their commercial real estate business and philanthropy. They sued OceanGate for fraud. In addition, they alleged that their scheduled trips to the Titanic were frequently canceled without reimbursements.

Despite spending a total of $210,258, their journey was repeatedly postponed. Besides, they were unable to get a refund. Rush allegedly deceived the Hagles about the submarine’s readiness and safety. Surprisingly, he visited them in Florida in September 2017 to reassure them.

However, the planned trip in June 2018 was canceled due to insufficient testing. Subsequent trips in 2019 and 2020 were also canceled. This led to a Stockton rush lawsuit in February 2023. Moreover, Hagles made a statement on 26 June 2023, following the Titan’s demise.

Notably, Hagles announced they were dropping their case against OceanGate. They also offered their sympathies to the families of those who died. Furthermore, he emphasized the value of honor, respect, and dignity over financial worries.

When asked for comment by the Daily Beast, Mr. Hagle said:

“My thoughts go out to the owners of OceanGate and everyone on the submersible, both crew and guests. We are hoping for a miracle and that everyone comes home safely.” He further added:

“I think the pleadings speak for themselves.”

Timeline of OceanGate Expedition and Legal Proceedings

This timeline details events related to the OceanGate expedition and legal proceedings involving CEO Stockton Rush and the Hagles. Moreover,  it covers the initial contract signing, expedition cancellations, and legal actions taken.

  • February 2018: Lawsuit filed against Stockton Rush for failure to refund a couple for a Titanic wreck expedition.
  • September 2017: Rush visited the Hagles’ home to convince them to continue their investment in the trip.
  • 28 November 2016: The Hagles signed a contract with OceanGate for a Titanic wreck expedition, each paying a $10,000 deposit.
  • January 2018: The Hagles received new contracts. These contracts required full payment for the trip, which was different from the original staggered payment schedule.
  • October 2017: Hagles expected the first scheduled dive of Cyclops 2, but it did not happen.
  • February 2018: Hagles wired $190,258 to OceanGate after signing new contracts.
  • June 2018: The planned expedition aboard the Titan was canceled due to insufficient testing.
  • August 2018: Lochridge filed a lawsuit claiming wrongful termination.
  • November 2018: David Lochridge’s Case was settled out of court.
  • June 2019: The trip was canceled again due to a contracted support vessel’s refusal to participate.
  • 19 June 2019: Hagles received a cancellation notice citing “equipment failure”.
  • July 2020: The trip was rescheduled for sometime in 2020.
  • 24 October 2019: July 2020 trip cancellation for unspecified reasons.
  • July 2021: OceanGate demanded the Hagles go on a trip, but they refused and were denied a refund.
  • February 2023: Lawsuit filed against Stockton Rush for failure to refund the Hagles.
  • 26 June 2023: Hagles dropped their lawsuit against OceanGate. This decision came after the death of Rush in a sub-implosion in the North Atlantic Ocean.

Stockton Rush Lawsuit

SLAPPs and Free Speech

You must be wondering how Rush suppressed safety concerns. Ok, let us make you understand. Rush used Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs) to silence critics. SLAPPs are baseless lawsuits. They are meant to stop criticism by making defendants pay high legal costs.

Thirty-two states and Washington, D.C., have such laws, but their effectiveness varies. In addition, there is no federal anti-SLAPP law. This subsequently allowed Rush to suppress safety concerns that might have prevented the tragedy.

Ari Cohn is a First Amendment and defamation attorney. He works as a Free Speech Counsel for TechFreedom. TechFreedom is a non-profit, non-partisan research tank focused on technology law and policy. Follow him on Twitter (@AriCohn) and Bluesky (

Anti-SLAPP Laws

In 2015, Washington state’s Supreme Court ruled its anti-SLAPP law unconstitutional, leaving individuals like Lochridge vulnerable. However, a revised law was passed in 2021 to address this gap. In addition, the absence of a federal anti-SLAPP law means powerful interests can still exploit the legal system to silence dissent.

Consequently, the OceanGate tragedy highlights the urgent need for stronger legislative measures. These measures are needed to protect free speech and ensure valid safety concerns are not silenced.


Ultimately, the OceanGate episode serves as a clear reminder of the consequences of prioritizing ambition over safety. Moreover, it highlights the dangers of using legal means to silence critics.

Stockton Rush’s disregard for safety regulations led to a tragic loss of life. His aggressive legal tactics revealed significant gaps in legal protections for whistleblowers and critics. This tragedy highlights the necessity for solid legal systems.

In fact, these mechanisms are required to prevent strong entities from withholding crucial safety information. They also ensure that the quest for innovation does not result in the loss of human lives.

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