Ship That Took Down Baltimore Bridge May Skate Free Thanks to 173-Year-Old “Titanic” Law

Upon the tragic accident involving  Baltimore's Francis Scott Key Bridge, many minds naturally veered towards the question of who would foot the bill for this catastrophe.

Turns out, the company behind the container  ship that wrecked the bridge and claimed six lives is Singapore-based Grace Ocean Private Limited and Hong Kong’s Synergy Marine Group. And they're not exactly jumping at the chance  to shoulder any financial responsibility for their actions. In fact, they've gone ahead and filed a petition under the Limitation of Liability Act of 1851.

Another fun fact is that this is the  same U.S. law that shielded the White Star Line from paying out hefty damages when the Titanic went down in 1912. Crafty move, eh?

From Independent UK:

The law notably protected the makers of the “Titanic”. After the ship sank in 1912, its owner, White Star Line, was served with hundreds of lawsuits totalling $16m in damages. Citing the 1851 law, the case ultimately made its way to the US Supreme Court. In the end, negotiations outside of court resulted in a settlement of $664,000 in July 1916.

To get the funds, claimants had to end their claims in the US and England, where the ship set sail, and acknowledge that the owner “had no privity or knowledge of any negligence”, according to documents from the Library of Congress.

Experts say the Monday filing in the Baltimore case was not surprising. “This is exactly what I was expecting would occur,” Martin Davies, an admiralty law professor at Tulane University, said.

The filings argue that the accident did not stem from any actions or neglect from the owner, the vessel or onboard crew members. The records state that the value of the ship at the time of the incident did not exceed $90m. Estimated repair costs are $28m, while salvage costs are $19m.

The companies are offering an interim stipulation of $43m, even though the total costs of the destruction have not yet been determined. Mr Davies said that any claimants, presumed to be relatives of the six men who died in the collapse, and the state can challenge the amount at a later date.

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