Submersible Accidents

Charles R. Lipcon Handled the Ocean Ranger Accident Civil Suit, the Sinking of the Largest Submersible in the World at That Time

Charles R. Lipcon

Written by
Charles R. Lipcon is the firm’s founder and one of the preeminent maritime attorneys in the United States. Mr. Lipcon has been handling maritime lawsuits – including personal injury, wrongful death, sexual assault and rape – for over 40 years. In that time, he and his firm have recovered hundreds of millions of dollars for their clients.

oil drill

Since our establishment in 1971, we have successfully garnered more than $300 million in cruise ship, resort, and maritime injury settlements and handled more than 3,000 cases. One such civil case we’ve handled, and one we’re particularly proud of, is the Ocean Ranger accident. When the Ocean Ranger sank beneath the waves in 1982, it was the largest submersible in the world and touted as “unsinkable,” a moniker that was sadly untrue. Our firm’s founder, Charles R. Lipcon, successfully represented the surviving family members of this deadly maritime disaster, facing an uphill battle against a massive corporation. Mr. Lipcon is still an active member of our law firm and has been named as “Lawyer of the Year”® in Maritime Law by US News & World Report. 

The Deadly Ocean Ranger Accident

The Ocean Ranger was a semi-submersible mobile offshore drilling unit (MODU) that was owned by Ocean Drilling and Exploration Company (ODECO) and was being operated by Mobil Oil Canada in the Grand Banks off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada. The Ocean Ranger was built by Mitsubishi and at the time was the largest semi-submersible oil rig in the world. It was deemed “unsinkable,” the symbol of cutting-edge marine oil exploration technology.

On February 14, 1982, during a severe winter storm, the Ocean Ranger was drilling an exploratory well in the Hibernia oil field. At approximately 1:30 a.m., the rig reported a severe list (tilt) to one side, caused by a combination of factors including waves, wind, and equipment failures. The crew of 84 workers was unable to regain control of the rig.

Despite efforts to stabilize the rig and evacuate the crew, the situation quickly deteriorated. The severe weather conditions made rescue operations extremely challenging. Tragically, the Ocean Ranger capsized and sank at around 2:00 a.m., southeast of St. John’s, Newfoundland. All 84 crew members on board perished in the accident. In terms of the number of lives lost, it remains one of the worst disasters in the history of the offshore oil industry.

Charles R. Lipcon Represented the Family Members in a Wrongful Death Suit

In the wake of the devastating Ocean Ranger tragedy, surviving family members sought justice and compensation for their unimaginable loss. Maritime accident attorney Charles R. Lipcon played a pivotal role in representing those affected by the disaster.

Mr. Lipcon was chosen to represent the surviving family members through a rigorous selection process. A local committee of lawyers in Newfoundland interviewed various U.S. attorneys, and his extensive experience in maritime law distinguished him from the rest. Recognizing the importance of this case, he was entrusted with the responsibility of seeking justice on behalf of these clients.

Representing the Ocean Ranger families in the civil suit, Mr. Lipcon’s leadership as the lead attorney in the New Orleans court led to a confidential settlement for the surviving family members. Resolving the Ocean Ranger case was a protracted process that took approximately five years. The determination and perseverance of Mr. Lipcon and the legal team, coupled with the unwavering resolve of the surviving family members, resulted in a favorable outcome.

Unwavering in the Face of Unprecedented Challenges

Challenges emerged throughout the legal proceedings, as Mr. Lipcon encountered resistance from ODECO, the owner of the ill-fated rig. The first case, filed in the U.S., was unexpectedly dismissed, even though the Ocean Ranger was flagged under the U.S. jurisdiction. The judge’s decision to dismiss the case from federal court in New Orleans led to the refiling the cases in state court in Texas, where ODECO had offices. Even when faced with challenges, the lawyers at Lipcon, Margulies & Winkleman, P.A do not lose courage and determination. We’ll never stop fighting for you, just like Charles R. Lipcon never stopped fighting for the Ocean Ranger families.

Product Liability Claims and Complex Investigations

In the resulting investigation, several key details emerged. One crucial aspect was the compromised porthole that allowed water to seep into critical equipment areas. A thorough investigation, including a submersible examination, revealed that water damage disrupted the vessel’s control systems and led to a product liability claim involving Mitsubishi. ODECO blamed Mitsubishi, and a complex legal battle ensued, with extensive documentation and a series of blame-shifting by defense lawyers.

Lasting Effects of Charles R. Lipcon’s Fight for Justice

The sinking of the Ocean Ranger resulted in a massive wrongful death suit brought to court by Charles R. Lipcon, as well as a significant investigation and subsequent changes to offshore drilling regulations and safety practices. In fact, investigators took a submarine down to its final resting place in order to see, explore, and investigate every inch of the Ocean Ranger. While certainly tragic, the incident led to improvements in emergency response procedures, safety equipment requirements, and training for offshore personnel. It also highlighted the need for better weather forecasting and monitoring systems in offshore operations.

The loss of the Ocean Ranger had a profound impact on the Newfoundland and Labrador communities, where many of the crew members hailed from. The accident led to increased scrutiny and public pressure regarding offshore safety and the industry’s impact on the local economy. We’re proud to have been a part of not only getting justice for the surviving family members, but also ensuring better regulations are in place and enforced to keep this deadly tragedy from happening again.

As the Nation’s Leading Maritime Accident Lawyers, Lipcon, Margulies & Winkleman, P.A Handles Submersible Accidents and Sinkings

The Ocean Ranger tragedy of 1982 sent shockwaves through the maritime industry, leading to improved safety regulations and procedures. Attorney Charles R. Lipcon’s role in representing the surviving family members stands as a testament to his dedication and expertise in maritime law. Through his tireless efforts, justice was sought, and a confidential settlement was achieved, providing some solace to those who lost their loved ones aboard the ill-fated rig. The case serves as a reminder of the ongoing need to prioritize safety and accountability in offshore operations.

Calling a MODU “unsinkable” doesn’t make it so. Only fighting for justice and demanding change keeps crew members safe, and that’s something we’re incredibly proud to do. Our maritime accident lawyers at Lipcon, Margulies & Winkleman, P. A. have 8 office locations across the United States, including our headquarters in Miami, FL. If you or a loved one has suffered in a maritime accident, you need the nation’s top-rated accident attorneys to advocate for your rights. Lipcon, Margulies & Winkleman, P. A. was named as one of America’s “Best Law Firms” ® by US News & World Report since 2016 and have had multiple personal injury litigators selected as “Best Lawyers” ®. Charles R. Lipcon is one of our lawyers honored with this award.

Our extensive experience and knowledge of maritime laws make us the premier option when you or someone you love suffers from a tragic accident. Take steps to hold the guilty party accountable for their negligence when you contact our team for a 100% free consultation. As you can see from our battle with ODECO, we’re not afraid of big corporations and we’re not afraid of going to court either. We won’t shy away from rejecting a less-than-acceptable settlement and bringing our case all of the way to the finish line. Fill out our online contact form or call us at 877-233-1238 to get started on your maritime accident claim as soon as possible. Do not delay, as there are statute of limitations that apply.

Get Free

Contact Now