BP Oil Spill Litigation: Letter from President of American Association for Justice to the Washington Post

bp-oil-spill-in-gulf-1.jpgIn a letter to the editor of the Washington Post, published on August 11, 2010, attorney Gibson Vance, who is current President of the American Association for Justice, writes that the current Maritime Laws hamper oil spill settlements. He emphasizes that not only must Congress lift the Seventy-Five Million Dollar cap that is currently present in the Oil Pollution Act, which will severely limit BP’s responsibility for the economic damages suffered on the Gulf Coast, but he also urges Congress to amend the Death on the High Seas Act and the Limitation of Liability Act. Otherwise, he says, the residents of the Gulf Coast, as well as small businesses there, will end up footing the bill for BP’s disaster.

As stated in his letter to the editor, DOSHA severely limits recovery for families of anyone killed on the high seas when DOSHA is applicable, including the families of the eleven men who died in the Deep Water Horizon rig explosion. DOSHA limits the families’ recovery to economic loss only, which normally translates to the costs of the funeral, as well as proven loss of financial support and services the family member would have been provided.

The Limitation of Liability Act, which is an outdated law from 1851, is an act that the company Trans Ocean is trying to use to limit their liability to the value of the Deep Water Horizon after the incident, which has been calculated at under Twenty-Seven Million Dollars.

Our maritime and wrongful death firm has handled many cases involving the Limitation of Liability Act, which requires cases to be pursued in Federal Court without a jury trial. Not only does the act deprive litigants from their right to a jury trial in many cases, but the fund that is available for recovery if the ship owner is successful at limitation is often times inadequate to adequately compensate the victims.

The Deep Water Horizon disaster is a perfect example of the inequities involved when the Limitation of Liability Act is applicable. The same applies to the Death on the High Seas Act limitations.

Hopefully when Congress does return from its recess, it will address these antiquated Maritime Laws not only to assure that the victims of the BP Oil spill are adequately compensated, and that BP Oil is held fully accountable, but by amending these laws all Maritime lawsuits in the future will not be subject to these antiquated and unfair Maritime Laws.