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The Titanic ticket cases: An early victory for consumer protection?

To celebrate SJ’s 160th year of publication, authors will be taking a contemporary look at historic events reported in Solicitors Journal’s rich history. See the original story here.

16 February 2016

In 1914, two years after the sinking of the RMS Titanic, the Court of Appeal delivered judgment on the combined ‘Titanic ticket appeals’, cases in which the relatives of four passengers travelling in steerage who died on that fateful night brought claims of negligent navigation against the owners of the vessel. The company tried to avoid liability by way of an exemption clause printed on the back of the tickets, referred to by a ‘notice to passengers’ on the front. 

At first instance, the various juries found that either the print of the notice was too small to be seen or, where it was sufficient, the exemption was inconsistent with the obligation under the Merchant Shipping Act 1824 to carry passengers with reasonable care. The exemptions were therefore found to be invalid and the company was ordered to pay compensation.

This could be an early example of what we now call consumer protection, and we wonder whether the minds of the j...

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