The Law: Coming About

Once they have set a course, courts can be as slow to come about as a squarerigger in a flat calm. Now the U.S. Supreme Court has finally managed a reversal of course from a line of cases first charted in 1854.

In that original decision, the high court's Justices ruled that the financial damages resulting from a collision at sea should be divided equally among those at fault, no matter who was more responsible. But since 1910, virtually every major nation has adopted an international maritime convention jettisoning that once common rule as unfair. Partly because cargo interests were worried about...

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