The Florida Legislature, following the lead of Virginia, is considering legislation to provide liability immunity for suborbital commercial vehicle operators. The legislation, HB 737, was introduced in the Florida House of Representatives in January by Rep. David Simmons, an Orlando-area Republican, and is currently working its way through various House committees. The legislation would make any “spaceflight entity” (any company or organization with an FAA launch, reentry, or spaceport license) “not liable for injury to or death of a participant resulting from the inherent risks of spaceflight launch activities”, except in those cases of gross negligence or intentional harm. The legislation would also require spaceflight participants to sign a statement that contains the following:
“WARNING: Under Florida law, there is no liability for an injury to or death of a participant in a spaceflight activity provided by a spaceflight entity if such injury or death results from the inherent risks of the spaceflight activity. Inherent risks of spaceflight activities include, among others, risks of injury to land, equipment, persons, and animals, as well as the potential for you to act in a negligent manner that may contribute to your injury or death. You are assuming the risk of participating in this spaceflight activity.”
The legislation, which is patterned after a similar bill that was signed into law in Virginia last year, attracted the attention of the Palm Beach Post, which published an editorial about the bill on Thursday. Or, rather, it mentions the bill in passing, trying to draw it into the discussion of the USA 193 intercept, and doing so poorly:
If Virginia isn’t going to hold such companies responsible for dropping a satellite on a condominium, the only way Florida can compete for that emerging industry is to give Buck Rogers entrepreneurs a pass if they happen to knock off a few Floridians. Hey, whose fault is it if gravity acting on spacecraft kills a hapless golfer or two?
If Jac Wilder VerSteeg, the deputy editor of the Post’s editorial page and the author of the editorial, had actually read the legislation, he would see it would have nothing to do with “dropping a satellite on a condominium”. But it would have then made the editorial that much less entertaining.