53 Tul. L. Rev. 1205 (1978-1979)
British Concepts of Limitation of Liability

handle is hein.journals/tulr53 and id is 1235 raw text is: BRITISH CONCEPTS OF LIMITATION OF LIABILITY
MICHAEL THOMAS*
[Author's note: Subsequent to the presentation of this paper,
the United Kingdom Parliament enacted the Merchant Ship-
ping Act, 1979, which provides for the repeal of much of the
legislation referred to in this paper. The Act also provides that,
subject to certain specified additions and variations, the Inter-
national Convention on Limitation of Liability for Maritime
Claims, 1976, will have the force of law in the United Kingdom.
When these provisions of the 1979 Act are brought into force,
this summary will be primarily of historical interest.]
HISTORICAL BACKGROUND
The rule that a shipowner can limit his liability to persons
suffering loss or damage through the negligent navigation of his
ship is one which sets shipping apart from all other branches of
industry and commerce. Whatever may have been the case on the
Continent, where the rule is said by writers of authority to have
been part of the general maritime law, in England the rule has
always been the creature of statute, with its foundation in public
policy; Lord Denning, Master of the Rolls, said recently:
[L]imitation of liability is not a matter of justice. It is a rule
of public policy which has its origin in history and its justification
in convenience.1
The history of the rule can be traced back to 1733. In that
year, a shipowner was held liable for the loss of a cargo of bullion
taken on board in Portugal and subsequently stolen by the mas-
ter.2 Following that decision a number of London shipowners peti-
tioned Parliament3 complaining that they,
when they became owners of ships, did not apprehend them-
selves exposed to such hazard, or liable as owners to any greater
loss than that of the ships and freight; and of the insupportable
and unreasonable hardships to which our laws in this case sub-
* Queen's Counsel, Barrister-at-Law of the Middle Temple; LL.B. (Hons) Lond.
The author acknowledges that this paper has been compiled with the valuable assis-
tance of Jeremy Russell, Barrister-at-Law of the Middle Temple, LL.M. (Lond.).
1. The Bramley Moore, [1964] P. 200, 220 (C.A.).
2. Boucher v. Lawson, 95 Eng. Rep. 53 (K.B. 1733).
3. 1733 H.C. Jour. 277.

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