Gov. Brown Signs Bill Limiting Liability for Commercial Spaceflight Companies

The nascent commercial space industry now has protection from lawsuits if they warn passengers that space flight is inherently dangerous under a new law signed September 21 by Gov. Jerry Brown. 

Supporters, like Virgin Galactic and the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, say that reasonable liability protections will help grow their industry. Brown agreed.

“California aerospace pioneers like Virgin Galactic, SpaceX and the Spaceship Company are blazing a path to the stars with commercial space travel,” said the Democratic governor in a statement announcing the bill signing. “This bill allows commercial space-travel companies to innovate and explore without the worry of excessive liability.”

Under the bill —  AB 2243 by Assemblyman Steve Knight, an Antelope Valley Republican — spaceflight companies would still be liable for injuries caused by gross negligence or ignoring a dangerous condition.

The centerpiece of the measure is a “warning” passengers must read and sign, not unlike those for inside-the-stratosphere activities like rock-climbing, scuba diving, zip-lining, para-sailing, hang-gliding and horseback riding.

Here’s what a spaceflight passenger would need to read and sign:

“I understand and acknowledge that, under California law, there is no civil liability for bodily injury, including death, emotional injury, or property damage, sustained by a participant as a result of the risks associated with space flight activities provided by a space flight entity.

“I have given my informed consent to participate in space flight activities after receiving a description of the risks associated with space flight activities, as required by federal law….

“The consent that I have given acknowledges that the risks associated with space flight activities include, but are not limited to, risk of bodily injury, including death, emotional injury, and property damage. I understand and acknowledge that I am participating in space flight activities at my own risk. I have been given the opportunity to consult with an attorney before signing this statement.”

By reading and signing that warning, a passenger – or their family  – can’t sue.

If the spaceflight company doesn’t provide the warning, they don’t receive limited liability.

New Mexico, Virginia and Florida have approved similar laws.

Another backer is the Mojave Air and Space Port, which advertises itself as “the world’s premiere flight test facility.”

The measure didn’t receive a single “no” vote in the Legislature.

In August, Brown, long an advocate of commercial space exploration, proclaimed “Space Day.”


No Comments »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a comment