Tuesday, October 04, 2005

1851 Law May Severely Limit Damages in Lake George Tragedy

It is standard operating procedure in American society for civil attorneys to descend soon after any tragedy. One would expect the recent tragic capsizing of the Lake George tour boat Ethan Allen to be no exception. But what about the Shipowner's Limitation of Liability Act of 1851?

This law was intended to protect commercial shippers from large settlements in what was then a very risky business. It limits civil awards to the value of the vessel. The law has since been applied to everything from paddleboats to Jetskis. I don't know the exact value of the Ethan Allen, but I would suspect it's nowhere near as high as families would expect to receive in compensation for the wrongful death of a loved one.