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Do your insurances cover against damage by space debris?

Accepted submission by c0lo at 2024-07-06 04:00:07

Mica Nguyen Worthy Submits First-of-its-Kind Claim to NASA Seeking Recovery From Damages Sustained from Space Debris []

A precedent-setting case that could set the standard for the future of space debris claims in both the public and private sectors

On May 22, 2024, Mica Nguyen Worthy submitted a claim to NASA to recover for her clients’ damages resulting from a space debris incident involving property owner, Alejandro Otero and his family.

On March 8, 2024, a piece of space debris hit the family home of Alejandro Otero, while his son Daniel was present and left a sizable hole from the roof through the sub-flooring. The space debris was confirmed by NASA to be from its flight support equipment used to mount the batteries on the cargo pallet.

The Oteros retained Worthy to navigate the insurance and legal process and to make a formal claim against NASA. The damages for the Otero family members include non-insured Property Damage loss, Business Interruption damages, Emotional/Mental anguish damages, and the costs for assistance from third parties required in the process. Additionally, the Oteros’ homeowner’s insurance carrier submitted a simultaneous claim for the damages to the property that it had subrogated.

Worthy, a Partner in the Charlotte office of Cranfill Sumner LLP and Chair of the firm’s Aviation & Aerospace Practice Group, worked with her litigation team with experience in handling claims to prepare the Federal Torts Claim Act (“FTCA”) submission with proofs of loss to NASA to fully articulate a negligence claim on behalf of her clients. However, Worthy also implored NASA to consider that persons in the U.S. should not have to make a claim under a negligence legal theory when the U.S. government has committed to being “absolutely liable” under international treaty law for damage to persons or property on the surface of the Earth caused by its space objects.

“If the incident had happened overseas, and someone in another country were damaged by the same space debris as in the Oteros’ case, the U.S. would have been absolutely liable to pay for those damages under the Convention on International Liability for Damage Caused by Space Objects also known as the ‘Space Liability Convention.” We have asked NASA not to apply a different standard towards U.S. citizens or residents, but instead to take care of the Oteros and make them whole,” she said. “Here, the U.S. government, through NASA, has an opportunity to set the standard or ‘set a precedent’ as to what responsible, safe, and sustainable space operations ought to look like. If NASA were to take the position that the Oteros’ claims should be paid in full, it would send a strong signal to both other governments and private industries that such victims should be compensated regardless of fault.”

USSR paid $3M (from a total of $6M operation cost) for spreading nuclear space litter over Canada in 1997 []

A $400 littering ticket to NASA was issued in 1979 by the Esperance council (Western Australia) and was paid in full 30 years later by crowdfunding []

Other space debris incidents [], some resulting in injuries.

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