Limitation of Liability Hearings


Titanic Case on Today

New York Times
January 13, 1914
Page 8, Column 7

On Supreme Court’s Decision Hinge Claims for $13,000,000.

WASHINGTON, Jan. 12, - The question of compensation for loss of life and of property incurred when the steamship Titanic went to the bottom of the ocean will be up for consideration to-morrow by the Supreme Court. The argument of some of America’s leading admiralty lawyers will determine whether the Oceanic Steam Navigation Company, the owner of the Titanic, must face the payment of some $13,000,000 of claims, or be limited in its liability to some $90,000.

The navigation company seeks to have the American court hold the admiralty rules and laws of the United States applicable to the case and thereby limit the liability of the company to the salvage from the wreck and the passenger and freight money received for the voyage, amounting in all to about $90,000.

Claimants seeking to recover for loss of life, baggage, and freight urge, in the first place, that American law does not apply, because the disaster occurred on the high seas. Furthermore, it is contended that the American law contemplates limitation of liability only when the disaster results from the collision of two vessels and not when it occurs from striking an iceberg. Some of the lawyers also argue further that British law fixes the liability of the owner because the Titanic carried the British flag, and that the Supreme Court should so hold.

Should British law be held applicable, the American court would have to determine whether it shall proceed to take jurisdiction of the claims and enforce the British law, or the claimants must sue in England. In either case, it is said a prolonged contest would result. Should it be found that the disaster occurred without the owners fault or privity, the damages recoverable by the claimants under British law, it is said, would be about $3,000,000. Should it be held that the disaster occurred with the owners’ fault or privity, the latter would be liable for full damages, now estimated at $13,000,000.