Why it matters: Gov. Martinez emphasized that the legislation still leaves room for injured space flight participants to bring suit, at least in cases where the supplier or manufacturer engaged in willful or wanton conduct or acted with reckless disregard.
Space travelers in the state of New Mexico have fewer options for bringing civil suits after Governor Susana Martinez signed the New Mexico Expanded Space Flight Informed Consent Act into law this month.
Under the new bill, companies that make or supply parts used in commercial space flights are required to purchase at least $1 million of liability insurance. By maintaining the insurance, manufacturers and suppliers can face civil claims only for intentional injuries to a space flight participant or if the company "commits an act or omission that constitutes willful, wanton or reckless disregard for the safety of the participant and that act or omission proximately causes injury, damage or death to the participant."
Passed unanimously by the state legislature, the law is a result of the state's Spaceport America, home to the first commercial passenger space flight company, Virgin Galactic. The law was intended to address the "inherent risks" of space flight and keep the Spaceport at the forefront of the commercial space flight industry, Gov. Martinez explained.
"This legislation will prevent lawsuit abuse and make it easier for businesses related to the space travel industry to thrive and succeed right here in New Mexico," she said in a press release.
The state previously enacted legislation in 2010 that established similar protections for space flight operators like Virgin Galactic. The original law established immunity for certain death or personal injury lawsuits against operators. The new bill expands coverage from operators all the way down their supply chain and extends the life of the law for three additional years, until July 2021.
To read the new law, click here.