Nebraska representatives part of bipartisan bill to hold cruise ship companies accountable for wrongful deaths

Bill is named for two Omaha residents who were killed on a cruise in Peru
(Anthony Quintano / CC BY 2.0)
Published: Jun. 6, 2023 at 1:16 PM CDT
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WASHINGTON, D.C. (WOWT) - A bipartisan bill in Congress aims to amend the Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA).

DOHSA was enacted in 1920 and allowed for wrongful death action suits for workers that died in international waters. The law was amended in 2000 to allow the same for family members of airline passengers who died in international waters. Supporters of this new bill to amend DOHSA again say the 2000 amendment didn’t go far enough.

Supporters want to amend DOHSA to include provisions that hold cruise ship operators legally and financially accountable for wrongful deaths of passengers.

H.R. 3788, or Hammers’ Law, was introduced by Reps. Don Bacon (R-NE), Doris Matsui (D-CA), Mary Gay Scanlon (D-PA), and Jeff Van Drew (R-NJ).

The bill is named Hammers’ Law for Drs. Larry and Christy Hammer, 74 and 72, of Omaha. In 2016 the two were killed on a Peruvian cruise when their riverboat cabin caught fire while they were sleeping.

Rep. Don Bacon says DOHSA’s current language didn’t allow for the Hammers’ family members to seek legal damages against the U.S. company that owned and operated the riverboat.

“Larry and Christy Hammers’ tragic deaths should not have turned into an ugly uphill legal battle for accountability,” said Bacon in a release. “Hammers’ Law will force cruise ship operators to implement the highest level of safety standards to protect their passengers, and if they don’t, victims can finally hold operators accountable in court.”

Nebraska Sen. Deb Fischer (R) is leading the bill in the Senate.