Space Tourism and Informed Consent Laws

ATI specializes in Space and Launch Vehicles technical training. We thought that the evolving state of law and regulations discussed below may interest you. A full listing of ATIcourses” Space and Launch is listed at this link.  http://www.aticourses.com/catalog_of_all_ATI_courses.htm#space Spaceport America is lobbying New Mexico legislators to expand legislation to provide protection to suppliers and manufacturers […]

ATI specializes in Space and Launch Vehicles technical training. We thought that the evolving state of law and regulations discussed below may interest you. A full listing of ATIcourses” Space and Launch is listed at this link.  http://www.aticourses.com/catalog_of_all_ATI_courses.htm#space

Spaceport America is lobbying New Mexico legislators to expand legislation to provide protection to suppliers and manufacturers of private spacecraft’s.  New Mexico already has legislation exempting operators from being sued by passengers, so long as the passenger has signed an informed consent. However, the current exemption does not apply to suppliers and manufacturers, could be liable if or when an accident occurs.

Without such protections space tourism companies, such as Virgin Galactic, may be forced to leave New Mexico for states that provide greater liability protection.  For example, Virginia  2007 legislation addressing immunity from tort claims relating to space flight broadly defined “space entity” to include not only an operator but also “any manufacturer or supplier of components, services, or vehicles that have been reviewed by” the FAA as part of issuing such a permit or license.. Va. Code. Ann. §§ 8.01-227.8 to 8.01-227.10.

However, even if New Mexico passes legislation similar Virginia’s, it is unclear if  that legislation would provided the desired protections. Discussing the proposed legislation, attorney Guigi Carminati stated: “I understand the impetus to try to match other states, but right now there is no guarantee it’s enforceable.”   There are several potential problems with immunizing legislation.  First, it is unclear whether any such state legislation would be pre-empted by federal law. Second, informed consent waivers are not always enforceable in court.  Although there is a substantial body of case law regarding when informed consent for dangerous activities is and is not enforceable, there is no case law relating to space launches.

Despite the uncertainties surrounding informed consent legislation, one thing is clear. The failure to pass a liability exemption for suppliers and manufacturers could cripple New Mexico’s commercial space industry.  Former FAA official, Patti Smith, noted that “since other states have extended the liability exemption to suppliers, New Mexico must do the same to remain competitive.” Otherwise facilities such as Space Port America, New Mexico’s recently completed $200 million commercial spaceport, may be left  deserted.

You can find more information in this interesting article. ATIcourses instructors are available as expert witnesses in the technical and engineering areas of Space Technology  http://www.crowell.com/files/2011-Limitations-On-Liability-As-To-Space-Tourists.pdf

 

Another useful source of information is

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/huff-wires/20130107/us-travel-spaceport-liability-legislation/?utm_hp_ref=green&ir=green


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