A proposal that would make owners of drones liable for the negligence of the aerial devices’ operators was revamped Tuesday, but critics still say the measure could ground the industry’s growth in Florida.
The Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee voted 6-1 to support an amended proposal (SB 642) by Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami, that would expand who could be sued when a drone causes damages. Said Portilla, “Before you lend the drone … you’ve got to realize that if any one is negligent in the operation of it or causes damages, you could responsible for it,” Diaz de la Portilla said.
In the initial proposal seeking to use joint and several liability, the owner of drones could be 100 percent liable for damages and harm caused by drones. With the new language, a drone owner could still be held liable, but it would be up to a court to determine the percentage.
However, the political arm for the commercial unmanned aerial-systems industry believes that even with the rewrite, the proposal would encourage unnecessary and expensive lawsuits and may prevent the industry from reaching its potential.