Force majeure is the common term used in various jurisdictions to describe an unavoidable or an irresistible force outside of the control of either party which causes a tort. Under maritime law, examples would be a hurricane or flood which causes a collision between vessels. The Libyan Maritime Law stipulates that both parties are exempt from liability to each other in case of force majeure (Article 237 of Libyan Maritime Law). Instead, each party will be responsible for its own losses.
In terms of division of damages, Article 239 of the Libyan Maritime Law stipulates that if more than one vessel is at fault, liability will be assessed in proportion to their fault, meaning that each vessel will only be held liable for the damages to the degree of their liability.
If it is impossible to calculate the degree of fault of each vessel, liability will be divided equally among the vessels involved. Each defaulting vessel will be severally proportionally liable for damages caused to other vessels, belongings of the crew and passengers.
However, defaulting vessels will be jointly and severally liable for death or personal injury, meaning that the plaintiff can recover the entirety of the damages (Article 239 of the Libyan Maritime Law) from one of the defaulting vessels.
If such vessel pays for damages exceeding its percentage of the fault, it is entitled to be reimbursed by other defaulting vessels for the amount it paid in excess of its percentage of fault. Military and government vessels serving public interest are not subject to the pervious rules of compensation (Article 244 of the Libyan Maritime Law).
Dr. Mohamed Karbal is a New York lawyer and founder of Karbal & Co, a full-service international law firm with offices in Libya and Dubai that serve the needs of businesses and governments of Libya and the United Arab Emirates.