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Passenger Liability Waivers

Nigel_Stacey-300x203Partner 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.

Stacey & Jacobsen, PLLC joined a team filing a brief in support of the decedent’s estate as amicus curie in this case. Amicus curie refers to an individual or organization who is not a party to a legal case, but who is permitted to assist a court by offering information, expertise, or insight that has a bearing on the issues in the case. Partner Nigel Stacey defended the firm’s position and explained why he believes the Ninth Circuit should uphold the District Court ruling.

The lawyers at Stacey & Jacobsen, PLLC handle maritime cases all around the country. If a company attempts to evade accountability for their negligence by relying on a ticket liability waiver, a maritime lawyer should be consulted. Gross negligence claims and disregard for safety cannot be waived.

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