Trials & Litigation

Salvage company that lost $600M sunken ship case must pay $1M to Spain for 'abusive litigation'


First, a Florida-based marine salvage company lost a lawsuit over $600 million of sunken treasure it found in 2007 in a Spanish vessel that was shipwrecked more than 200 years earlier.

Now Odyssey Marine Exploration Inc. has been ordered by a federal judge to pay $1 million to the Kingdom of Spain for “bad faith and abusive litigation,” the Tampa Bay Times reports.

Spain had sought $3.3 million to cover its litigation costs in the case. It argued that the salvage company knew from the outset that the sunken vessel most likely was a Spanish Royal Navy frigate, but concealed its identity and improperly seized some 17 tons of treasure, Courthouse News explains.

A magistrate had previously awarded a little over $158,000 in legal fees. But U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday upped the ante in the Tampa, Fla., case, ruling that Odyssey must pay $1,072,979.

“This action presented from the outset not merely the dicey prospects of a damages action; this action presented a claim to ownership by a party holding-in-hand an enormous, historic trove of treasure, holding-in-hand riches ‘beyond the dreams of avarice,’ ” the judge wrote in his Sept. 25 ruling. “A contest for $600 million—winner take all—is plenty sufficient to endanger any boundary, to awaken any frailty, and to excite any temptation.”

Odyssey was not happy about the decision.

“Although the award is only one-third of the amount requested by Spain, it’s disappointing that the court was apparently swayed by statements presented by Spain’s witnesses during the merits portion of the case that we believe could have been proven false during cross examination of those witnesses in a trial,” Greg Stemm, Odyssey’s CEO, told the Times.

See also:

ABAJournal.com: “11th Circuit Nixes ‘Finders Keepers,’ Says Massive Treasure Trove from 1804 Shipwreck Goes to Spain”

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