Transocean claims maritime law to limit liability in oil spill case

posted on:
May 13, 2010

author:
STAFF

category:
Environmental

Owner of Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, which sank into the Gulf of Mexico April 20, hopes to protect itself from claims filed on behalf of individuals and industry harmed by massive oil leak

MONTGOMERY, ALA. (May 13, 2010)  – Today Transocean filed for protection from lawsuits by claiming Limitation of Liability under a 150-year-old maritime law. Transocean owns the oil drilling platform Deepwater Horizon, which was being leased by BP (British Petroleum) plc when it exploded on April 20 and sank into the Gulf of Mexico two days later. Since the rig sank, the pipeline and drilling site has been leaking more than 5,000 barrels of oil per day into the Gulf waters. Efforts to cap the leak have been unsuccessful and it is estimated economic and ecological damage to the entire Gulf Coast will be significant.

Beasley Allen has currently filed a number of class action lawsuits to help protect businesses and individuals harmed by the oil spill. The first suits were filed in Alabama (Bon Secour 1:10-cv-00206) and Louisiana (Gulf Crown 2:10-cv-01344) on behalf of Plaintiffs in the commercial fishing industry. The firm also filed a case in Alabama on behalf of the restaurant industry (Cotton Bayou 10-cv-243). As a result of the oil spill, thousands of conventions and vacationers are canceling plans to visit, making a deep cut in tourism dollars. Fishermen will be devastated by what has happened to them. The economic impact of the Gulf oil spill is as yet undetermined, but BP already admits spending about $6 million per day on efforts to contain the spill, and estimates run into the tens of billions of dollars. The potential damages to all of the victims will also be in the tens of billions. In fact, it will be the largest disaster of this sort in our nation’s history.

Limitation of Liability allows U.S. ship owners to limit their financial liability to the post-accident value of its vessel and cargo. Under this law, the ship owner would have to show it had no knowledge of negligence resulting in the ship’s destruction and subsequent consequences. The Deepwater Horizon oil drilling rig was considered a vessel under U.S. maritime law because it is capable of being navigated. According to this law, Transocean claims the value of the Deepwater Horizon wreck at just under $27 million.

“It’s clear Transocean is attempting to limit its massive legal liability in lawsuits by filing this lawsuit,” said Beasley Allen founding shareholder Jere L. Beasley. “The company and others will owe tens of billions of dollars to the thousands of folks who will be badly hurt and damaged by the massive oil spill. This is a blatant attempt to limit that exposure to only $27 Million. Trying to take advantage of an antiquated statute which was never intended to apply to a massive disaster of this magnitude shows how little regard the bosses at Transocean really have for the folks who have been badly hurt and damaged by their actions. In fact, what Transocean did is about as bad as anything a corporate entity with terrific legal exposure could have done in an attempt to further hurt the folks they have already badly hurt. I don’t believe any court will allow billions of dollars in damages to be limited by filing a limitations lawsuit from the 1800s such as this one. Our firm will take action on behalf of our clients and others to make sure that doesn’t happen.” 

Read the Transocean Petition.

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