Partner Nigel Stacey was recently invited to present as faculty at the Current Issues in Maritime Law 2023 Conference, organized by the Washington State Bar Association. Attendees at the conference included plaintiff and defense lawyers, as well as insurance directors from around the world. Mr. Stacey was asked to speak about Passenger Liability Waivers and the Pending Ehart v. Lahaina Divers Inc. Decision.
The presentation focused on maritime law that prohibits the use of ticket liability waivers for specific voyages, as businesses attempt to assert immunity from negligence lawsuits. This issue is particularly important as the Ninth Circuit is currently deciding whether the rule allows a company to avoid legal action for negligence after a deceased passenger signed a waiver to go snorkeling.
Liability waivers address instances of ordinary negligence. Should a business engage in gross negligence or deliberate harm, the waiver loses its effectiveness. Distinguishing between ordinary and gross negligence can be subtle. Ordinary negligence often results from accidents or lack of attention, while gross negligence arises when an entity neglects to exercise reasonable care.