For decades, the cruise industry has fought to stave off legislation that would give more rights to passengers who become injured due to cruise lines’ negligence. One recent major legislative initiative affecting the cruise industry was the 2010 Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act. But despite this significant legislation, much more needs to be done.
Nebraska Senator Deb Fischer was inspired to change the laws relating to cruise injury compensation following the 2016 deaths of two Nebraska residents who were killed in a cruise ship fire. The victims, Larry and Christy Hammer, died on the first day of a cruise of the Amazon, and due to current laws governing cruise compensation their children had very limited options to recover compensation.
In April Senator Fischer introduced “Hammer’s Law” in honor of Larry and Christy Hammer. According to TruthOut.org, the bill “would amend the near-century-old Death on the High Seas Act” to allow families of cruise injury victims to claim compensation for their losses. Currently, “families may only claim compensation for losses that are of precise monetary value except in cases of an aviation accident,” the article reports.
The bill recently gained the support of the American Association for Justice, an industry group for attorneys that represent plaintiffs. Predictably, cruise industry lobbyists are opposing the bill. In 2013, another bill that was meant to further regulate the cruise industry was introduced by former West Virginia Senator Jay Rockerfeller. Rockerfeller had become concerned following a number of high profile incidents involving cruise ships, including the 2012 sinking of the Costa Concordia that killed over 30 people.
Senator Rockerfeller’s bill was opposed by the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), a lobbying group which represents over 50 of the largest cruise companies across the world. The bill died in the Senate Commerce Committee in 2014.
If history is any guide, Senator Fischer’s bill will likely face stiff opposition by CLIA. But cruise victims and their families deserve justice, and if passed this bill will be another significant step in the right direction.