Attorneys for Key Bridge victims say ship owner using 'archaic' law to limit liability for collapse

Multiple investigations are being opened into the deadly collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore.

The city is partnering with two law firms to determine what led to the collision with a shipping container that caused the bridge to come down. 

Attorneys working on behalf of three of the victims of the Key Bridge collapse, one of whom is the sole survivor of the incident, expressed support for these investigations — including a criminal one opened by the FBI. 

A representative for the FBI confirmed that agents were on the ship Dali Monday morning but did not specify what exactly they were investigating.

During a press conference Monday, attorneys for the family called out the companies that own and manage the Dali — Grace Ocean Private Ltd. and  Synergy Marine Pte Ltd., both based in Singapore.  

On April 1, a joint court petition was filed seeking to limit their legal liability for the deadly collision by capping the companies’ liability at roughly $43.6 million.

Attorneys say the company filed for protection six days after the collapse, relying on a "173-year-old archaic law to shield them" that the families believe is "unfair, unjust, and serves no purpose." 

READ MORE: Body of fourth Baltimore Key Bridge victim found in submerged construction truck

"This law was used to protect the owner of the Titanic. That’s how ridiculous this is. As the bodies of our clients were still under the bridge, the owner of this boat was in court trying to protect their assets. That’s the state of affairs we’re here for," said attorney L. Chris Stewart with Stewart Miller Simmons Trial Attorneys, the firm now representing the families of Alejandro Hernandez Fuentes and Jose Maynor Lopez.

They're two of the six people who died in the collapse.

The attorneys also represent the sole survivor – Julio Cervantes Suarez. Stewart said Cervantes Suarez, who can’t swim, was plunged into the frigid water but was able to escape the car he was in because it had a manual window that he was able to roll down. He then hung onto debris until he was rescued. 

Stewart says Cervantes Suarez will share his story with the public soon but at this time, understandably, he’s grieving the loss of the other workers who were sitting in their cars on break — some of whom were related. 

"Grace Ocean has temporarily lost a ship. Baltimore has temporarily lost a bridge. But six families have permanently lost fathers, uncles, brothers, irreplaceable loved ones," Stewart said. 

The attorneys tell FOX 5 that the families were pleased to learn of the additional investigations and they specifically want to look into the alleged prior issues with the ship Dali before the collision.

"They were living the American dream fixing America’s infrastructure, out there filling potholes. Not knowing it was going to be their last day on earth," attorney Stewart said. "They died while pursuing the American dream, but this was all preventable. That’s why we have been brought in to investigate and give these families a voice. The thing that is getting lost right now is the voice of the victims."

READ MORE: FBI boards ship in Baltimore bridge collapse, reportedly opens criminal investigation

According to Stewart, the victims were in their cars during a break and were given no warnings the cargo ship Dali was about to collide with the bridge.

On Monday, Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott announced the city was taking legal steps to "proactively and aggressively" address the catastrophic impact of the collapse by partnering with the law firm DiCello Levitt and Philadelphia-based law firm Saltz Mongeluzzi Bendesky to launch legal action against those responsible and to mitigate both immediate and long-term harm to Baltimore city residents.

"This unthinkable tragedy has taken Marylanders from their loved ones, and risked the livelihoods of thousands of Baltimoreans who rely on the Port of Baltimore," Mayor Scott said in a prepared statement. "We are continuing to do everything in our power to support everyone impacted here and will continue to recognize the human impact this event has had.  Part of that work needs to be seeking recourse from those who may potentially be responsible, and with the ship’s owner filing a petition to limit its liability mere days after the incident, we need to act equally as quickly to protect the City’s interests."

The firms representing the victims’ families are not involved with the city of Baltimore’s legal action, but they indicated they would be open to working together.

"What does justice look like? We don’t know, because what is the value of six lives that have been destroyed? There’s no measure. There’s no price you can put on it. We can ask for changes. We can pray no other family faces something like again, but there is no value we can set on it, because it’s priceless.," Stewart said Monday.

FOX 5 received a response from a spokesperson for the ship manager.

"Firstly, we again extend our deepest sympathy to all those impacted by this incident. Due to the magnitude of the incident, there are various government agencies conducting investigations, in which we are fully participating. Out of respect for these investigations and any future legal proceedings, it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time," said Darrell Wilson, a spokesman for Synergy Marine.