22 MAY 2017 • FOGHORN LEGAL WORK BOATS. THAT WORK. MAVRIKMARINE.COM | 360.296.4051 Unsurpassed quality and attention to detail. Specializing in aluminum and steel new construction, refit & repair. I am frequently invited by PVA members to discuss or review a vessel owner’s ticket, contract or charter language, often including a provision whereby the passenger agrees to waive liability against the vessel, its owner and crew in the event of injury. Sometimes the waiver takes the form of an acknowledgment form in which the passenger acknowledges the inherent risk of marine travel and assumes responsibility for any injury the passenger may incur. Unfortunately, federal maritime law renders these waivers unenforceable if an injury can be shown to be caused by the negligence of a crewmember. Federal law, Section 46 USC 30509, provides, “The owner, master, manager or agent of a vessel transporting passengers . . . may not include in a regulation or contract a provision limiting the liability of the owner, master or agent for personal injury or death caused by the negligence or fault of the owner or the owner’s employees or agents…“ The application of this statute may be broader than many vessel owners realize. In short, the vessel owner becomes respon- sible for every single act by every single employee employed on the vessel, regardless of whether the employee’s actions were actually known or could have been anticipated by the vessel owner. Stated in legal jargon, the owner of a vessel is “strictly liable” if any passenger is injured in any way by reason of a negligent act by any employee. It’s truly a fright- ening exposure, especially for seasonal operations hiring numerous young deckhands, sometimes unsophisticated in their appreciation for such exposure reducing actions such as cleaning up spills of removing objects from walkways. Unlike land-based employment where some jurisdic- tions allow an employer to escape liability if it is capable of showing that the employee acted outside the scope of an A Reminder of Owner Employee Liability By Steven E. Bers, Esq., PV A General Counsel