This is a boating case governed by the general maritime law of the United States. The owners have now rushed into Federal Court and have filed a limitation proceeding, a case under an antiquated 1851 Federal Statute, the Limitation of Liability Act, which if applicable would limit the liability of the owner to the value of the vessel. The vessel was destroyed and so the value is zero. But clearly a major exception applies here and these entities are not entitled to limitation.
We see from the NTSB preliminary report that there was no continuous night watchman and probably no operational smoke detectors. These are issues which the owners and the master of the vessel certainly should have known about. But now the owners- through their insurance company’s retained lawyers- have rushed into court to tell these families that they want to take zero responsibility. This is a shameful tactic.