Florida lawmakers are moving closer to granting more legal protections to private aerospace companies, like SpaceX, Boeing and Blue Origin, if crew members are killed or hurt in spaceflights.
The Senate Military and Veterans Affairs, Space, and Domestic Security Committee voted in favor of SB 1318, a bill filed by committee Chairman Tom Wright that would give limited civil liability immunity to private companies.
“This bill has the potential to limit the cost of litigation to businesses engaging in spaceflight activities,” according to Senate staff analysis of the bill.
The Senators on the committee had little debate on the bill before they voted in favor of it.
Wright, a Republican from New Smyrna Beach, said the bill covers spaceflight crew, not the ground crew.
He added his bill does not modify workers’ compensation eligibility nor does it remove the liability for the companies’ gross negligence that caused crew members’ injuries or death.
Jeff Sharkey, a lobbyist representing SpaceX, supported the bill at Wednesday’s hearing.
Meanwhile, a similar bill (HB 839) is also moving through the Legislature.
Rep. Tyler Sirois said the law needs updating from the Space Shuttle era now that commercial operators are flying.
“Astronauts are no longer government astronauts. These are commercial crew,” the Merritt Island Republican said at a March 9 hearing with the House Civil Justice Subcommittee. “I suspect that moving forward, we’re going to see a lot more legislation in this area because we are working very hard, I think, to update Florida law. … So this bill is a first step in that process.”
Rep. Ashley Gantt, who voted against his bill, said she wanted more to know about how far the liability protections went and asked whether space crews are required to sign a waiver.
The bills would still give limited immunity from liability to the aerospace companies if their crew signed waivers acknowledging the potential dangers.
“I believe they are required to sign the waiver as an acknowledgement of the risks that are associated with spaceflight,” Sirois said. “The waiver is saying the crew member understands that there are inherent risks associated with spaceflight, and while every reasonable step .. .is taken to protect crew and astronauts, spaceflight does come at extreme risk.”
March 29, 2023 at 11:18 pm
So if one of Elon’s rockets blows up over your neighborhood and sets your house on fire, you’re just SOL I guess.
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