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Tuesday, May 21, 2024 | Back issues
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Strange Shark Bite Case Sails to Settlement

SAN DIEGO (CN) — A bizarre case involving a diver-filmmaker, mako shark and an allegedly drunk San Diego diving instructor whose customer was bit while under his supervision was settled Thursday.

Elke Specker sued Michael Kazma, Mako Shark Diving, Yellow Charter Boat and the vessel Cetus Specula this past November in Federal Court. She claimed she went on a diving trip organized and operated by the defendants that was advertised as a "safe out-of-cage experience with mako and blue sharks in San Diego."

Specker paid for the excursion to film the sharks for a project for her creative media studio IN2 Focus Media, which has garnered awards for the short films "Diver's Backyard," Shadow Reef" and others that have been featured at film festivals and conservation summits.

On June 13, 2015, Specker went on the dive excursion with instructor Kazma. She claims Kazma was drunk while he was feeding the sharks and "chumming" the water — where chum, including fish parts and bones are used to lure sharks to the area - so the divers could observe the creatures.

Specker said Kazma held the bait so it "led the shark directly" to her, and she was bitten on the calf. Her attorney, Jorge Lopez with Jorgensen & Salberg, previously told Courthouse News Specker was wearing a 7-millimeter thick wetsuit when she was bitten, "so you can imagine how sharp and strong the bite was."

The request to dismiss the case was agreed to by all parties and stipulates that each party will bear its own costs and attorney's fees. Lopez told Courthouse News in an email the parties reached a settlement, the terms of which are confidential.

Specker's case survived a motion to dismiss this July when U.S. District Magistrate Judge Nita Stormes found the woman's claims passed the locality test required by maritime law, as she was attacked while scuba diving in navigable waters off the coast of California.

Stormes found the shark bite had the potential to disrupt maritime commerce if another boat had to be diverted to offer first aid. She also found the vessel Cetus Specula was engaged in "traditional maritime activity," so all defendants would be subject to maritime jurisdiction.

Kazma's attorney Adam Jaffe previously told Courthouse News his client was not drunk and that Specker was not bitten by the shark, but "sustained a laceration" when her leg was sliced after the shark's mouth got caught on her wetsuit when it tried to escape.

"She had an interaction with a wild animal that turned bad, but she was not bitten," Jaffe said.

The trial originally set for next August will be vacated.

Stormes signed the dismissal order Friday.

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