Reparations to survivors? : LUSENET : TitanicShack : One Thread

Did the survivors and/or families of the perished get reparations? What exactly?

-- Bob Gregorio (, January 14, 1998



Walter Lord covers this subject in some detail in his second Titanic book, "The Night Lives On." Briefly (I promise!), White Star claimed that:

A. They weren't negligent, and, B. If negligence was involved, they were entitled to protection under the American Limited Liability laws, which limited the amount of damages to be paid.

Under the U.S. Limited Liability laws, White Star would have been liable for the amount of fares paid by passengers and shippers, plus the value of all goods salvaged from the ship (the 13 lifeboats), for a whopping total of $97,772.12 (yes, ninety-seven THOUSAND dollars).

The American claims totaled some $16 million. The claimants argued that:

A. White Star was INDEED negligent, and, B. the Limited Liability laws did not apply, because of the presence on board of one J. Bruce Ismay, White Star's chairman. His actions during the voyage (ordering the lighting of boilers, moving the ship's New York arrival from Wednesday morning to Tuesday night, etc.) made White Star's senior management directly responsible for the collision, so the claimants said, and voided their Limited Liability protection.

The case went to a non-jury trial in Federal district court in New York in June, 1915, with testimony lasting five weeks. While the judge considered the evidence, the lawyers for both sides began negotiating a settlement. Finally, in December 1915, a deal was reached, and a formal agreement was signed in July 1916. White Star agreed to pay $664,000 to the American claimants, in return for a release from future claims and a stipulation that White Star was not negligent.

Although this sounds outrageously low to us today, the American claimants actually made out pretty well, especially when compared with what happened to the families of the Titanic musicians.

Early in 1912, a Liverpool talent agency secured exclusive contracts with all the major British shipping companies to provide musicians for their ships (previously, musicians were hired by the shipping companies directly). Consequently, the Titanic's musicians were carried on the ship's manifest as second class passengers (they got the same lousy accomodations as before, AND a pay cut!)

After the accident, the musician's families filed claims with White Star under the Workman's Compensation Act. White Star denied the claims, saying the musicians were passengers. The families next turned to the talent agency, but the agency claimed that the musicians were independent contractors. The case went to court, and the courts found in favor of White Star and the talent agency.

Finally, a British relief fund formed after the accident stepped in to provide compensation for the families of the musicians (no thanks to White Star). The bravery and sacrifice of the Titanic musicians, which became one of the most inspiring stories of the Titanic saga, meant nothing to White Star's accountants and lawyers.

(Well, I tried to be brief!)

-- Kip Henry (, January 14, 1998.

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