Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law

First Page



Adherence to the principle of strict limitation of liability in any area of the law has been out of vogue since the time of Winterbottom v. Wright. This is true whether it be in the area of products liability, master-servant relations, or international air travel. The trend is to remove all limitation on recoveries available under our law for death or injury. An exception is the limitation of liability in maritime disasters. Here, in this watery domain, the narrowness that formerly dominated the field of products liability continues to exist. Some critics condemn such strict limitation as an anachronism in our modern society, while others continue to cling to its principles steadfastly. For example, it is argued that the American airline industry, which is held to a higher standard of liability than that of the Warsaw Convention, cannot be compared to the shipping industry. That "[the airline industry enjoys an ever increasing volume of business and commensurate profit while the shipping industry is on a descending plane, existing on marginal profits," is but one expression of this opinion made by John F. Gerity, Chairman of the Association of Average Adjusters of the United States. Although this paper deals with some of the more technical points of this complex admiralty controversy, it should also be of interest to all those -remotely concerned with international law, or the concepts of equity and jurisprudence. This is because of the maze of international regulation in the area and the self-contradiction that exists in American law on the subject - principally, where damages are highest, the degree of fault more culpable, and the injured party's need for recovery greater, the liability is least or non-existent.