Whitesides: New Mexico Needs to Catch Up to Other States

Posted by Doug Messier on January 21, 2013, at 5:25 ami

Editor’s Note: Well, there you have the argument in a nutshell: New Mexico has fallen behind Florida and Texas in the race to restrict the rights of passengers and their heirs to sue Virgin Galactic and other companies for injuries and deaths from spaceflights. If they don’t catch up, their $209 million investment could be for naught. And all this is happening even before the first SpaceShipTwo flight has taken off from Spaceport America.

Still, this controversy has shed a light on spaceflight informed consent laws, which have largely sailed through various state legislatures without much debate or discussion. I guess we can thank (or curse, depending upon one’s point of view) New Mexico’s trial lawyers for standing up to efforts to expand the state’s existing law to cover manufacturers and suppliers, and to weaken the already limited protections afforded injured or dead passengers and their heirs.

The basic aim of informed consent laws, to put it plainly, is to make sure that the companies will survive even if some of their passengers do not. Spaceflight is an inherently dangerous business, the argument goes. Companies could be sued out of existence without being protected from legal action except in cases of gross negligence and intentional harm. Death by lawsuits, if you will.

Read more: Whitesides: New Mexico Needs to Catch Up to Other States | Parabolic Arc.

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