Honeymoon shark attack lawsuit

by Ted Frank on March 28, 2005

Nahid Davoodabadi, honeymooning in Hawaii in 1999, disappeared while kayaking. Her husband, Manouchehr Monazzami-Taghadomi, said she was killed by a shark, and set about suing the kayak rental company, Extreme Sports Hawaii, for the accident and the federal government for failing to rescue him. Extreme noted to a jury that the company had told the couple to kayak in an area close to shore protected from winds. Extreme also noted that Maui police found the kayak, its paddles, and a lifejacket–the latter without any tears or bites (though with all the buckles unbuckled). The police also found two paddles near the kayak, one leaning against rocks, though Monazzami said, among other fishy things, that he lost one of the paddles in the shark attack. (Police never charged Monazzami, who successfully petitioned a Hawaii court to have his wife declared dead, rather than missing.) The jury exonerated the company. The Ninth Circuit recently issued a ruling affirming on technical grounds the district court’s summary judgment for the government. It appears Extreme settled the case for some unknown amount rather than go through the expense of litigating the appeal. (Monazzami-Taghadomi v. United States (9th Cir. Mar. 22, 2005); Debra Barayuga, “Company not guilty in Maui kayak death”, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, May 9, 2003; “Kayak business cleared in 1999 death”, Honolulu Advertiser, May 12, 2003; Reuters, Mar. 23, 1999; Jaymes K. Song and Gary T. Kubota, “‘Unusual’: No blood on kayak”, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Mar. 26, 1999; Charles Memminger, “Shark tale now is part of our history”, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Mar. 26, 1999; Brian Perry, “Tourists wary in wake of latest shark attack”, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Apr. 1, 1999; Monazzami-Taghadomi v. 25 Knots Inc. (D. Hawaii, No. CV01-00171 ACK-KSC)). For legal scholars: one asks whether anything remains of the doctrine of “assumption of the risk” if a company called “Extreme Sports Hawaii” can’t invoke it without going through a trial and an appeal.