BP PLC has asked Judge Carl Barbier, the federal judge in charge of the oil spill litigation, to dismiss most of the claims filed against the oil giant by businesses and individuals who suffered economic damages caused by last year’s massive Gulf oil spill. Judge Barbier heard arguments on the motions in late May, but at press time he hadn’t issued a decision. BP argued that Judge Barbier must dismiss the thousands of maritime and state law claims for economic losses by commercial fishermen, property owners and others. BP’s lawyers contend the claims are pre-empted by the Oil Pollution Act (OPA) of 1990. Plaintiffs’ lawyers, including our firm, dispute that the 1990 law is the only vehicle for resolving these claims. It should be noted that BP wants the court to say that both maritime law and state law are preempted and thus displaced by OPA and the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA). We don’t believe that Judge Barbier will agree with BP on its contention.
But, regardless of whether state law applies to BP (and we firmly believe it does), Transocean, Cameron and Halliburton are not “responsible parties,” as defined by the law, so they can’t use OPA as a shield to their aggravated and very clear liability. We don’t dispute that the Limitation Action by Transocean is proper and the other parties have each been tendered in. This is the case that will be tried in the MDL in February.
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