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Scuba Gear Defects Class Action Still Has Air

SAN DIEGO (CN) - A federal judge refused to dismiss a class action claiming that a scuba equipment manufacturer's underwater computers are dangerously defective.

Lead plaintiff Ralph Huntzinger sued Aqua Lung America, claiming the company's underwater computers - used by scuba divers to track dive depth, temperature, air tank pressure and estimated air time - can malfunction and cause injury or death. He also says Aqua Lung should have disclosed bugs in the program to users.

Aqua Lung moved to dismiss the class action, arguing it was inappropriate to litigate nationally based on Huntzinger's experience with the model he purchased, since individual state laws would overwhelm any chances of commonality.

The company also argued that Huntzinger purchased his dive computer from a third-party retailer, not Aqua Lung directly, and that the statute of limitations has passed regarding some of the 18 models listed in the suit.

But on Dec. 10, U.S. District Judge William Hayes of the Southern District of California denied Aqua Lung's bid to dismiss, finding first that although Huntzinger never experienced problems with his dive computer he had standing to bring the case because he never would have bought the $700 computer if Aqua Lung had disclosed the defects.

As for the 17 other dive computers at issue in the case, Hayes found it was premature to dismiss or apply California consumer law to the nationwide claims ahead of discovery and that Huntzinger sufficiently alleged that Aqua Lung knew of the defects and did not disclose them "while continuing to market and distribute the dive computers," the ruling said.

However, Hayes denied Huntzinger's claim of implied warranty of the dive computer because he purchased the device from a third-party retailer - nonparty Leisurepro.com - and not directly from Aqua Lung.

As for the statute of limitations, Hayes found that at this point Huntzinger made enough of a case that Aqua Lung knew about the defects as early as 2005 to toll the clock.

Huntzinger cites at least one death related to a faulty Aqua Lung dive computer, claiming that the computer told the diver she had a substantial amount of air left in her tank when it was in fact empty.

Aqua Lung has been a dive equipment manufacturer for more than 60 years.

Timothy Blood, Huntzinger's attorney, said his client is happy with Hayes' ruling to allow most of the case to move forward.

"We're very pleased with Judge Hayes' carefully reasoned ruling and look forward the next steps," Blood said.

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