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Limitation of Liability in Maritime Lawsuits
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The Law of Limitation of Liability
The law is codified under federal law as 46 U.S.C. §§ 181 to 196 (United States Code) and
states that a shipowner may limit liability for losses from negligence or unseaworthiness
arising without his privity or knowledge, to the value of the vessel or his interest in the vessel
and freights pending. What this means is that lawsuits and claims for wrongful death,
personal injury and property damage could be limited to the residual value of a vessel if the
owner did not have knowledge or participation in the negligence or unseaworthiness that
caused the accident.
In Maritime Law , there is a legal concept known as limitation of liability. Basically, it
works like this. A vessel owner can limit the payout to the plaintiffs suing him for wrongful
death, personal injury and property damage in an accident if he did not have a hand in the
factors causing the accident.
Back to Maritime Law page , dealing with general law topics.
These lawsuits included It has been invoked in a number of large scale wrongful death
and personal injury lawsuits, namely the RMS Titanic, SS Morro Castle and the Staten
Island Ferry Andrew Barberi.
Limitation Denied....
When the City of New York attempted
to limit its payout on the wrongful
death and personal injury lawsuits
following the accident with the Staten
Island Ferry Andrew Barberi (11
people were killed in the
catastrophic accident and over 60
were injured), it did not succeed. In
federal court, the judge did not allow
limitation of the plaintiff’s total
awards to be capped at $14.4
million, the post-accident value of the
ferry. This was largely due to findings
made by the National Transportation
Safety Administration in its
investigation of the accident.
The photo above shows the horrific manner in which the steel plating of the Staten Island
Ferry was torn open by the concrete and steel of the maintenance pier at St. George
Terminal. The vessel is estimated to have struck the pier at approximately 17 knots.
united states coast guard photo
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C.G.  Limitation of liability is a legal tactic used in accident or injury lawsuits.  Under U.S.
law, the statute is known as the Limitation of Shipowners’ Liability Act of 1851. It has been
invoked in wrongful death and personal injury lawsuits.
Back in 1934....
When the loss of the SS Morro
Castle in 1934 led to a major change
in limitation law. Until then, the law
held that a vessel owner could limit
losses to the post-accident value of