In Advance of the 3-Year Anniversary of Larry and Christy Hammer’s Tragic Passing on Cruise Ship, Fischer Bill Would Ensure Accountability for Families in the Future

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, introduced Hammers’ Law. The bill is named for Larry and Christy Hammer of Omaha, who tragically lost their lives in a fire in their cabin onboard a Peruvian river cruise on April 10, 2016.

The Peruvian Navy’s report following the Hammers’ passing found numerous safety violations and negligence on the part of the cruise company. For example, the Hammers’ cabin did not contain a working fire alarm and the power strip that was provided by the ship caused the fire. Over 20 minutes had passed before the crew, without adequate emergency training or fire equipment, entered the Hammers’ cabin.

“The tragic passing of Larry and Christy Hammer is something no family should have to endure. My office has been working with their daughters, Jill and Kelly, coordinating with the State Department to get answers from the Peruvian government and hold culpable parties responsible. Hammers’ Law would change existing law to help ensure cruise lines are held accountable after such a devastating loss,” said Senator Fischer.

"The only way we have found to move forward from the loss of our parents is by working to prevent future tragedies from devastating more families. We are grateful to Senator Fischer for introducing Hammers' Law to safeguard the millions of Americans who cruise each year," said the Hammers’ daughters, Jill Hammer Malott and Kelly Hammer Lankford.

A 99-year-old law, known as the Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA), was originally written to provide for the widows and dependents of seamen who died while working on ships in foreign waters. This gave dependents the opportunity to seek financial assistance for medical bills or lost wages.

The act was amended in 2000 to allow more adequate compensation for victims of major airline accidents, but cruise ship provisions have remained in the pre-World War II era.

As retirees, the Hammers did not have financial dependents or wages, so DOHSA has restricted the family from pursuing the accountability that would likely be available for wrongful deaths occurring on dry land.

Hammers’ Law will finally align the cruise ship industry with the aviation industry under DOHSA. It will enable future families to pursue fairer compensation when similar tragedies strike. And it will hold the responsible cruise line accountable by allowing for compensation that more fully reflects the company’s negligence.

Click here to read more about Hammers’ Law in Senator Fischer’s weekly column.

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