Limitation of Liability

Reducing Our Clients' Exposure to Damages from Marine Disasters

Towboats push barges through the Eads Bridge in the St. Louis harbor everyday, but on one April day, the tow of the Motor Vessel Anne Holly hit the bridge, broke loose, and struck the S.S. Admiral, a floating casino. The casino owner, customers in the casino, and barge interests claimed multi-million dollars in damages. We successfully petitioned the federal court to limit the liability of our client, the towboat owner, to a fraction of the claimed loss, under the Limitation of Liability Act, 46 U.S.C. Section 30505.

The maritime doctrine of limitation of liability offers a vessel owner or operator, under certain circumstances, the potential to limit its liability for catastrophic damages resulting from a marine accident. Although some have labeled the doctrine archaic, limitation of liability is of tremendous importance to companies involved in maritime commerce and the people who insure them.

In the past twenty years, few petitions to limit liability have been granted. We have represented the successful petitioners in two of these cases. See In re in the Matter of the Complaints of the American Milling Company, 409 F.3d 1005 (8th Cir.(Mo.)2005); In re Missouri Barge Line, Inc., 360 F.3d 885 (8th Cir.(Mo.)2004).