b'LEGISLATIVE REPORTLEGISLATIVE Liability Changes Proposedfor Certain Small Passenger VesselsED WELCH // PVA LEGISLATIVE DIRECTORL egislationcurrentlybeforetheU.S.perishedinthetragicConceptionboatfirefinancial liability. A successful petition brings Congress,ifenactedintolaw,wouldhavefiledclaimsagainsttheownersoftheadvantages, procedural and substantive.deprivetheownersofcertainsmallboat for violating federal safety rules, but they passengervesselsoftheabilitytoinvokemaynotreceiveanycompensationbecauseFirst, the owner can choose the federal court theprotectionofthefederalLimitationofofa170-year-oldlawthatdoesntaccountto consider litigation of financial claims arising Liability Act as currently on the books. for modern tourism such as commercial divefrom the casualty, including those for death boats. Our bill would make the law consistentand personal injury. All financial claims will Thelegislationwaspromptedbylegalwith the modern economy and technology andbe consolidated in that one court (a concept developmentsfollowingthefatalM/Vallow the families to receive recompense fromknown as concursus). In addition, individuals Conception casualty that occurred in the watersthe boats owner. must submit their claims within a designated of southern California on Sept. 2, 2019. Thirty- time period set by the court.three passengers and one crew member perishedCongressfirstenactedtheLimitationof when the dive boat caught on fire in the middleLiabilityActin1851,basingitonpriorAlso, the potential total financial exposure of of the night. Within days of the casualty, theshippinglawsinEnglandandelsewhere.the owner for personal injury or death will be vessel ownerTruth Aquaticsfiled a petitionTherationalebehindliabilitylimitationthe vessels residual value following the casualty in federal district court under the Limitation ofwastoencourageinvestmentintheriskyor $420 times the vessels tonnage, whichever is Liability Act to limit its financial liability toocean shipping industry. In those days, oncegreater. This is the aspect of the Limitation of claimants. (As of this date, it does not appeara vessel sailed out to sea, the owner had noLiability Act of 1851 which causes the greatest that the court has ruled on the petition). controloverandnocommunicationswithamount of outrage and induces people to label it.Imposingunlimitedfinancialliabilityforit anachronistic.Inresponse,CaliforniaSenatorDianethings over which the owner had no control Feinstein,onSept.22,2021,introducedS.was deemed to deter those who might consider Tothelayman(orperhapstothetypical 2805,theSmallPassengerVesselLiabilityinvesting in shipping. lawmaker),theLimitationofLiabilityAct Fairness Act. In the House of Representatives,appears to codify an injustice and to give a Congressman Salud Sarbajal filed an identicalAfteravesselisinvolvedinacasualtythatspecial legal break to the maritime industry not bill, H.R. 5329. In her press release, Senatorresults in death or personal injury, the ownerenjoyed by other types of businesses. Why, in an Feinsteinsaid,Thefamiliesofthosewhocan file a petition in a federal court to limitevent such as the M/V Conception fire, should the financial recovery available to the survivors of 34 innocent individuals be curtailed to the value of the burnt-out vessel (zero) or a sum of $40,740 ($420 times 97 tons)? Why should there be a financial cap on recovery when a fatal fire occurs on the water on a passenger vessel attention to detail when no such limitation exists for a similar catastrophe that takes place on land? These are damning questions.What is not readily apparent is that there is no certainty that the court will grant the petition to limit liability. Just because the law offers the possibility of limitation of liability does not guarantee that the petitioner will succeed. In practice, many efforts to invoke the Limitation of Liability Act are rejected by courts.Avesselownerwillnotsucceedwiththe petition if he or she is found to have privity and knowledge of factors that caused or led to the casualty. Even if the owner had no direct knowledge, the statute states, , the privity or knowledge of the master or [other responsible www.beurteaux.comFOGHORN 20'