What is Maritime Law’s Limitation of Liability?
In the BP DEEPWATER HORIZON oil spill case, Trans Ocean as the owner of the DEEPWATER HORIZON filed what is known as a Limitation of Liability proceeding. This is a proceeding in which the owner of a vessel seeks to limit its liability to the value of the vessel. It is a defense that vessel owners file in situations when they believe that a person’s injuries may exceed the value of the vessel upon which the accident occurred. In the DEEPWATER HORIZON case, for example, even though Trans Ocean’s oil rig costs several hundred million dollars, Trans Ocean would have been happy overall to limit its costs and liability for the horrible accident to the value of its oil rig.
Limitation of Liability claims are often filed when Jones Act seamen suffer injuries working aboard their employer’s vessels. In these situations, the employer may file a Limitation of Liability in court regardless of whether or not the injured seaman has filed a claim under the Jones Act or maritime law. Often the seaman is then mailed a copy of the Limitation of Liability suit and he is required to file his “claim” within the Limitation of Liability court. There are many exceptions to the Limitation of Liability defense and there are many actions which should be taken to better protect your rights under maritime law if a Limitation of Liability proceeding has been filed in regard to your injury.