We previously have reported on the harshness of the Death on the High Seas Act, which restricts the recovery to the families of people killed on the high seas to economic losses only. The application of the Death on the High Seas Act means that the families of the eleven men who were killed in the Deep Water Horizon oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico can only recover their economic losses, and receive zero for the non-economic losses such as pain and suffering, mental anguish, and the loss of care and companionship.
There have been previous attempts to amend the Death on the High Seas Act to eliminate this harsh restriction. There is legislation which amended the Death on the High Seas Act for aviation accidents. However the amendment did not apply to shipping accidents for some strange reason. Most likely, the reason the harsh restriction remains with respect to shipping accidents is the strong lobbying power of the cruise ship industry. Professor Ross Klein, of St. John’s College Memorial University, has reported on the huge amount of money spent by the cruise ship industry for lobbying efforts in Congress. The amount is staggering, and shows why the victims of accidents that occur on ships often times receive less compensation than those who suffer similar consequences on land.
Senator Rockefeller has referred to the Death on the High Seas Act as “antiquated and unfair”. Senator Rockefeller, recognizing that the strong Maritime business interest defeated a similar bill that was introduced in Congress last year, has limited the current proposal to apply only to the specific victims of the Horizon oil rig explosion. He obviously has recognized that the strong lobbying efforts of the shipping industry are too difficult to defeat.
On June 8, 2011 the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation approved the Deep Water Horizons’ Fairness Act. The Act itself would amend various Federal Maritime statutes, including the Shipowners’ Liability Act of 1851, the Death on the High Seas Act, and the Jones Act.
As stated, a more expanse bill was introduced last year in the House of Representatives. However, it stalled during the consideration by the Senate because of the strong opposition from Maritime lobbyists.
We truly hope that the Deep Water Horizon Survivors’ Fairness Act passes, and provides some sense of justice to the loved ones who deserve to be treated fairly for the tremendous loss and suffering as a result of a needles and senseless tragedy. The companies that are responsible for this needless and senseless tragedy should not be able to escape payment of full and complete damages for the horrific losses this tragedy has caused. As Senator Rockefeller stated, “Maritime workers and their loved ones deserve to have the peace of mind that they will be treated fairly when tragedy strikes”.
Our firm continues to be cruise ship and boating safety advocates and fight for the rights of those who have been harmed at sea.
The act must still be voted on by the full Senate before its passage.