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Accidents at sea and the Contribution Act

8 June 2015

Further to the legal opinion posted in March 2014, the appeal will come before the Court of Appeal on 9 & 10 June. Presently, the Mercantile Court’s judgment stands that article 16 of the Athens Convention is a prescriptive rather than a procedural bar.

The court’s judgment is eagerly awaited because the draftsmen of the Contribution Act clearly thought the time bar does not extinguish the right, it merely acts as a procedural bar. However, international conventions indicate that the bar is more than procedural. McGee on Limitation Periods may need a chapter or two re-written depending upon the judgment. The decision will affect cases of marine accidents involving personal injury where there is potential to bring in another party to contribute. At the moment, such a contribution claim will only exist if the contributor is liable to the original claimant for the same damage. This creates an unfair situation where employers are brought in as defendants after the original two year limitation for accidents at sea has expired.

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