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Marine liability reform bill, inspired by 2019 Channel Islands dive boat disaster, passed by House

Ventura County Fire Department
The 2019 Conception dive boat fire in the Channel Islands which killed 34 people inspired maritime liability reform legislation.

But, compromise to get passage means it won't be retroactive, so families who lost loved ones in the deadly boat fire could have lawsuits blocked by current law.

The House of Representatives has passed a marine liability reform bill inspired by the September 2019, dive boat fire tragedy in the Channel Islands which killed 34 people.

The legislation would replace a law from the 1850’s which says the owner of a boat, which is fully destroyed, can’t be held liable for something like a fire, because the vessel no longer has any value.

The owner of the Santa Barbara dive boat in the 2019 disaster invoked the law to avoid lawsuits by the families of the 34 people who died.

Democratic Congressman Salud Carbajal of Santa Barbara and Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein proposed legislation to overturn the law.

While the House passed the legislation with bipartisan support, one of the compromises made to get its approval was dropping wording to make it retroactive. So, even if it’s signed into law, it won’t apply to lawsuits related to the Conception dive boat fire.