Spaceport wants protections from tourist lawsuits

Jan 04, 2013 by Jeri Clausing

Spaceport America has been urging legislators to limit potential lawsuits from wealthy outer space tourists who take off from New Mexico, saying such a bill is crucial to the future of the project.

At issue is liability for passengers who pay to take spaceflights like those planned by Virgin Galactic for $200,000 a head.

lawmakers several years ago passed a bill that exempts Virgin Galactic from being sued by passengers. Officials have refused, however, to follow other states in expanding that exemption to suppliers.

Experts, meanwhile, say there is no way to know if the so-called informed consent laws will actually offer protection in the event of an accident because there is no precedent.

The spaceport project was intended to boost the economy in mostly rural New Mexico.

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User comments : 17

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Lurker2358
3.7 / 5 (6) Jan 04, 2013
It should be "ride at your own risk," just like the skating rink has.

Observe:

"I, (passenger name) recognize that this is an extremely hazardous adventure, and hereby waive any right to sue the owners or hold them liable for any death or injury which may occur. I take full responsibility for my own health and well being or lack thereof."

Announcer: Keep your arms and legs inside until this ride comes to a full and complete stop!
Lurker2358
1.8 / 5 (5) Jan 04, 2013
If I had $200,000 I wouldn't spend it on space tourism.

If I had a million dollars I wouldn't spend 200k of it on space tourism.

If I had 10 million I would not spend 200k of it on space tourism.

There's a hell of a lot cheaper and safer ways to entertain yourself. Not to mention the more money you have the more you have to lose, so the people who have the money to pay for this probably aren't going to do it, unless they're pretty old and figure, "what the hell, I'm about to die anyway..."
ryggesogn2
2.3 / 5 (9) Jan 04, 2013
This is how crony capitalism begins. The govt protects some business or industry from liability.
ScooterG
1.8 / 5 (10) Jan 05, 2013
This is how crony capitalism begins. The govt protects some business or industry from liability.


Wind farms are a perfect example - monetary subsidies, environmental damages ignored, etc.
alfie_null
5 / 5 (1) Jan 05, 2013
This is how crony capitalism begins. The govt protects some business or industry from liability.

Not to mention the local sales tax that is funding the project. Aside from Branson's sub-orbital tourist flights, what will this spaceport provide?

I'm strongly in favor of commercializing space, but I'm wary of boondoggles.
ValeriaT
1 / 5 (3) Jan 05, 2013
If the people are willing to spend the money for such a silly luxury, why they shouldn't burn during it? It would be just a trivial application of evolutionary principle.
Mayday
2.3 / 5 (3) Jan 05, 2013
It will be virtually impossible to prevent a committed and well-funded injured party from extracting their pound of flesh via legal means. These "space tourists" risk every variety of injury, from burns to brain damage to sheer psychological trauma. Explosive obliteration may actually be the least of their worries. I would hope they seek informed counsel before latching in. The recent lengthening of the runway to two-and-a-half miles tells me that little tiny ship is likely to be hauling when it touches that baked concrete. You can count me out, at least until they get that sorted. On second thought, nah; I would definitely go if I could afford it! :-)
ForFreeMinds
1.7 / 5 (6) Jan 05, 2013
The reason for this, is because Democrats and lawyers got in bed together, and decided that airlines should be liable to passengers for crashes, even though when one purchased a ticket, you essentially signed a contract agreeing to not sue the airline in that event. After all, the airlines don't like crashes due to what occurs to its stock price (due to investors' expectations of lost sales impact on profits). But lawyers wanted to sue, so some of our freedom to contract was taken away to benefit the lawyers. Of course, this caused ticket prices to rise. But this occurred somewhere back in the 70's I believe.

The crony crapitalism was between trial lawyers and government (thanks to their generous campaign cash to mostly Democrats). The Spaceport just wants to ensure that their contracts specifying "rocket at your own risk" are legally valid. That is not a case of crony crapitalism, but instead an attempt to get back the freedom to contract with others.
ScooterG
1.7 / 5 (6) Jan 05, 2013
Don't blame attorneys, even though there are very few that I like or respect.

As long as the insurance companies are willing to provide liability coverage, lawsuits will happen.

Lawsuits justify raising insurance premiums.

It's all a game - insurance companies tend to be highly profitable.
kochevnik
2.6 / 5 (5) Jan 05, 2013
This is how crony capitalism begins. The govt protects some business or industry from liability.
Wait I thought you earlier whined about "activist judges." So now you're for consumer rights? You seem to forget that government enforces law and creates the corporations you so cherish.

You never think things thorough ryggie. At least you're consistent about that.
RealScience
4.2 / 5 (5) Jan 05, 2013
This is how crony capitalism begins. The govt protects some business or industry from liability.


Wind farms are a perfect example - monetary subsidies, environmental damages ignored, etc.


Coal and oil are perfect examples - government shields the mining companies from the environmental cost of moving mountain tops into valleys, or of fighting wars to ensure supplies, and then shields power plants from the costs of the CO2 released.

Nuclear is an example even more pertinent to the article - the government payed the development costs, still shields power plants from insurance for high-damage events, and also allows the plants to accumulate hazardous waste.

I'm not fond of any of these hidden or even direct subsidies, but I even less like people ignoring massive subsidies while singling out others.
rwinners
5 / 5 (3) Jan 05, 2013
There is a difference between a 'space' port and a space ship company.
I suppose that if the space port didn't maintain its runway in good condition, it might be liable. Otherwise, nope.
Czcibor
5 / 5 (1) Jan 06, 2013
They want to damage US national sport - lawsuits. Outraging ;)

And being more serious - space flight is terribly risky. Either this risk has to be accepted or space flight has to stay unmanned for a while. Leaving this hard choice to lawyers is also a solution, however the outcome would be erring on the side of caution.

But I think that in case of turning space ship in to a fireball they should at least return money back to families of passangers, regardless of any written statement.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (8) Jan 08, 2013
There's a hell of a lot cheaper and safer ways to entertain yourself. Not to mention the more money you have the more you have to lose, so the people who have the money to pay for this probably aren't going to do it, unless they're pretty old and figure, "what the hell, I'm about to die anyway..."
Still trying to decide what others want and need eh lurker? Some people (egomaniacs) are very serious about similar personal opinions. That's why there are laws protecting us from them.
This is how crony capitalism begins. The govt protects some business or industry from liability.
Favorable tech often needs protection and encouragement. This is done by providing loans and by passing laws. Otherwise rampant competition and corruption would stifle innovation which was not immediately profitable.
antialias_physorg
3 / 5 (2) Jan 08, 2013
Aren't there plenty of things that have "...at your own risk" signs? Just put one up at a spaceport and be done with it.

Or just put up an image like they do on cigarette packs.
End of liability.

FrankHerbert
2 / 5 (12) Jan 08, 2013
Haha I got this hilarious image of a Virgin Galactic ticket where 2/3rd's of the ticket is taken up by an exploding rocket and a disclaimer saying "1 in 34 space tourists die."
ryggesogn2
3.3 / 5 (7) Jan 08, 2013
As long as the insurance companies are willing to provide liability coverage, lawsuits will happen.


It was insurance companies that enabled the high risk ventures to the Spice Islands.
It was insurance companies that started UL to make electrical products safer and it is insurance companies that fund IIHS testing that results in safer autos.
Keep the govt out and allow the markets to work and space travel will be safer.
BTW, it was the govt that covered up the Ford Expedition/Firestone tires accidents for many months.