Today, the House approved a measure to update maritime liability laws to help victims of boating disasters, a reform inspired by the 2019 Conception boat fire.
"The Small Passenger Vessel Liability Fairness Act" was first proposed by Congressman Salud Carbajal (D-CA) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).
This changes an 1851 law that can prevent maritime accident victims and their families from receiving compensation from those responsible for the accident.
The measure passed today would require owners of small passenger vessels to be held legally responsible for damages in future boating accidents and incidents, regardless of the value of the boat. The period of time during which victims can file a claim will also increase from six months to two years.
"As Chairman of the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee, I’m proud to see important reforms that I’ve fought for approved by a bipartisan majority of the House today – including long-overdue updates to maritime liability laws that have denied victims’ families compensation for wrongful deaths at sea,” said Carbajal in a press release.
"We originally drafted language to update maritime liability rules in the wake of the Conception boat fire because current law is fundamentally unfair to victims of maritime tragedies,” said Feinstein in a press release.
This measure was included in the final 2023 defense policy bill, which passed the House today in an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote.
The defense policy package was finalized in consultation with the bipartisan leadership of both chambers of Congress, so it is expected to pass the Senate in the coming days and be signed into law by the end of the month.
Due to changes made to the bill prior to initial passage out of the House in March, the bill would apply to future liability claims once the measure is signed into law.