TortsProf Blog

Editor: Christopher J. Robinette
Widener Commonwealth Law School

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Titanic Negligence?

It's only tangentially torts-related, but still, this Talking Points Memo post is pretty interesting (and generally apolitical), exploring the alternative theory being pitched for the cause of the Titanic's sinking.

[T]he authors of What Really Sank the Titanic use a combination of physical evidence obtained from the wreckage (48 recovered rivets) and archival evidence from the archives of the ship's builder, Harland and Wolff, which is still in business, to make the case that the builders were building on such a vast scale and under so much time pressure that they simply couldn't come up with enough high quality rivets or riveters. So they cut corners. The result of which was that the ship's plates split open much more quickly than they might have with better materials. Better construction would have kept the ship afloat long enough for many more passengers and crew to be rescued.

TPM's Marshall notes that the manufacturer denies any fault, and seems surprised that they would be resistant to acknowledging even the possibility of defect in the rivets, observing, "somehow I would have imagined that some sort of emotional or moral statute of limitations had run out."  But of course, unless there's a statute of repose in play, isn't it at least possible that a discovery rule could result in even the legal statute of limitations might not have ended?   On the other hand, the post notes that some of the theory has been around for "a decade," so most likely any limitations period has in fact expired...but an interesting fact pattern, in any event.

(Note: I know next to nothing about admiralty law, assuming it would apply.  Perhaps the LawBoat blog folks can chime in?)


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Could this be a case where the statute doesn't run until a negligent causation is discovered ?For almost 100 years there has been rampant speculation but with an expert witness now in place who is willing to provide definite testimony backed by scientific research as to causation coupled with Harland & Wolff still being a solvent corporation...a sensible view on statute of limitations is about to be thrown out the porthole!!

Posted by: LHP | Apr 18, 2008 11:45:41 AM

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