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Friday, June 23, 2023

The Limitation of Liability Act and the Titanic Submarine

Admiralty lawyers will be busy in the wake of the Titanic submarine tragedy. One issue that may arise if there are wrongful death actions filed against the submarine owners is limitation of liability. Most maritime nations provide that shipowners cannot be held liable for more than the value of the ship and cargo. There are different ways of calculating that total ($0 for the current value, for example) and there are some limited exceptions. The Act of 1851 was invoked by the owners of the Titanic in our courts and the submarine owners will probably do the same now, though how that would play out in foreign jurisdictions is less clear.

A complicating factor here is that at least one of the deceased passengers were very wealthy. An ordinary wrongful death suit involving a billionaire victim typically lead to massive liability for the tortfeasor. Here (assuming there was negligence by the submarine owner) the Limitation of Liability Act would cap liability at something way lower than the normal level of damages. (Plus, no jury trial). If there was a defect in the submarine itself, then it's a different story. There are no admiralty limits on product liability. 

Posted by Gerard Magliocca on June 23, 2023 at 09:42 AM | Permalink


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