Some recently interesting developments in the maritime law field.
It was reported that there was a large settlement reached in the case involving a Philadelphia duck boat that was involved in a collision in the Delaware River. The collision caused the boat to sink in the year 2010, killing two Hungarian students who drowned when the amphibious watercraft sank after being struck by a 250-foot barge that was being pushed by a tugboat. The case was pending in a federal court where the owners of the vessels were seeking to take advantage of an outdated and harsh maritime law called Limitation of Liability. The owners of the vessels were seeking to limit their exposure to the value of the vessels after the collision, which was reported to be approximately $1.8 million. However, the settlement is reported to have been $17 million.
The Limitation of Liability law was enacted more than 150 years ago, and remains part of the maritime law of the United States. This federal statute simply has no place in today’s maritime world. The Limitation of Liability Act (LOLA) was brought into focus after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion incident that killed nine maritime workers. This ancient and archaic law allows the vessels to limit their liability to the post-voyage value of their vessel. Transocean was relying on LOLA to limits its liability for the Deepwater disaster to $27 million.
In the case involving the duck boat, the amphibious vessel was plowed over by a 250-foot barge being pushed by a tugboat in Philadelphia, and the owners were trying to limit their liability to $1.7 million.
The application of the Limitation of Liability Act results in harsh consequences, and hopefully our Congress will recognize this at some point in time.