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Human rights impacts of oil pollution: US Gulf Coast

Lawsuits, regulatory & legislative action following explosion & spill - Livelihoods

Aside from filing lawsuits in court, people claiming to have suffered economic loss from the spill can also seek compensation through the Gulf Coast Claims Facility

Italicised quotations below are selected abstracts; for full text, click hyperlinked titles.

"New lawsuit filed in Gulf oil spill", Eric Heisig, HoumaToday.com, 8 Dec 2011
"More than 100 people and businesses have filed a new lawsuit against BP, saying the company's Gulf oil spill damaged their livelihoods...The suit, which names BP, Transocean and Cameron International...as defendants, was filed on behalf of fishermen and business owners from Terrebonne, Lafourche and other parts of Louisiana, as well as Texas, California and Florida. It says the companies' negligence caused the oil rig in Venice to explode on April 2010. The suit says the companies 'owed a duty to exercise reasonable care to plaintiffs in the design, construction, operation, management, use, maintenance and inspection of the Deepwater Horizon.'...Hutchinson [Houma attorney] said the lawsuit was filed because the amount of money the Claims Facility is offering does not take into account future loss of wages due to unforeseen environmental and economic problems that may yet result from the spill...Requests for comment made to BP and Transocean were not answered..."

"BP Rejects Claims for Drill-Ban Losses, Cleanup-Boat Damages", Laurel Brubaker Calkins, Margaret Cronin Fisk, Bloomberg, 10 May 2011
"BP…said it isn’t responsible for damages to boats that participated in its oil-spill cleanup program or for the losses of Gulf Coast businesses idled by the U.S. deep-water drilling moratorium. The U.S. Oil Pollution Act, which requires companies to compensate people and businesses harmed by an offshore spill, makes clear that liability is 'limited to damages directly caused by a covered oil spill and that indirect or derivative losses are not compensable,' BP said in papers filed...in federal court in New Orleans. BP’s filing came in response to post-spill claims included among 350 consolidated lawsuits by thousands of businesses and individuals...[H]undreds of boat owners and contractors who participated in cleaning up the BP spill filed a master complaint seeking compensation for unpaid wages, vessel damage and physical injuries from contact with the spilled oil or chemical dispersants used to break up the oil. BP...asked the federal court in New Orleans overseeing spill suits to dismiss claims by these plaintiffs under the Oil Pollution Act."

"BP Sued by Pointe Au Chien Indian Tribe Over Spill Damage, Fishing Losses", Laurel Brubaker Calkins, Allen Johnson Jr, Bloomberg, 18 Apr 2011
"BP…was sued by the Pointe Au Chien tribe over claims the Indian group’s ancestral lands and fishing grounds in southern Louisiana were devastated by the 2010 oil spill. The tribe 'has suffered loss of use of its historical and cultural lands, including tribal cemeteries, Indian mounds, shell middens and traditional fisheries,' according to the complaint…The tribe said it has an 'an aboriginal land title claim' to the damaged areas…Most of the tribe’s members are subsistence or commercial oystermen or fishermen…The tribe seeks compensation for lost tax revenue and income, decline in property values, spill cleanup costs, restoration of its damaged natural resources, and punitive damages. BP spokesman…didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the…lawsuit."

"New Orleans hotels file class action suit against BP", Rebecca Mowbray, Times-Picayune, 27 May 2010
"In a sign of mounting concern about the economic impact of the oil spill, several New Orleans hotels filed a class action suit in federal court this week against BP, saying that damage to the Louisiana seafood industry will tarnish the attractiveness of New Orleans as a tourism destination and could lead to lost profits. Named plaintiffs include the Bourbon Orleans, Astor Crowne Plaza, Marriott Convention Center, Wyndham Riverfront, St. Louis, St. Ann Marie Antoinette and the Dauphine Orleans hotels, most of which are owned by investor groups led by Joe Jaeger, president of Mechanical Construction...The hotels say they expect their earnings capacity to be damaged. 'Plaintiffs and many members of the Proposed Class have invested significant time, money and other resources into branding, marketing and/or advertising the New Orleans metropolitan area as an attractive tourist destination for many reasons, including its reputation for plentiful, fresh seafood and/or, in particular, local seafood, Louisiana seafood, and/or seafood from the Gulf of Mexico,' the suit reads. A group of restaurants including 1179 and Franky & Johnny filed a similar suit last week saying that they are having difficulty obtaining local seafood, are paying more money for it, and are losing customers."

"Tide of oil spill lawsuits begins to rise", Ameet Sachdev, Chicago Law, 18 May 2010
"Commercial fishermen, property owners, area businesses, municipalities, seafood processors, recreational users. The list of victims from the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is growing, and, to no one's surprise, so are the lawsuits. Facing billions of dollars in potential compensation to victims, BP PLC, owner of the ruptured well spewing oil in the Gulf, has turned to Chicago's Kirkland & Ellis for damage control. The corporate law firm, one of the nation's largest, with $1.4 billion in revenue, has oil-spill litigation on its resume...Questions about liability have emerged, as BP, the owner of the oil rig and contractors pointed fingers at each other during recent congressional hearings.The litigation could end up making the courtroom battles in the Exxon Valdez oil spill, which lasted nearly two decades, look like small-claims court, said one plaintiffs' lawyer...At least 70 suits were filed in the two weeks following the April 20 explosion, including 59 that want to proceed as a class action, according to court documents. Plaintiffs assert similar claims: that negligence resulted in personal injuries, damage to their businesses or property damage. They seek compensation, including punitive damages...BP said Monday that compensation payouts to people affected by ongoing spill won't be limited by a statutory cap on such liabilities. Oil companies are subject to a $75 million legal ceiling on their liabilities in oil spill cases."

"Commercial fisherman files class action over Gulf Coast oil spill", Michelle Massey, Louisiana Record, 3 May 2010
"Troy Wetzel, Extreme Fishing and a class of similarly situated individuals and entities filed a class action lawsuit against Transocean, BP and its insurers over the Deepwater Horizon explosion. Wetzel is a licensed commercial fisherman who regularly conducts charter fishing and diving trips in the area that is now covered by the expanding oil slick...The proposed class of plaintiffs includes all individuals and entities in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida which are commercial fisherman, shrimpers, charter boat operators, and businesses which incur economic damages as a result of the oil spill from the Deepwater Horizon oil well. 'This ecological calamity may become the worst oil spill ever in the Gulf of Mexico, wreaking billions of dollars of damages,' the suit states. 'Plaintiffs and other class members watch in horror as this grave environmental disaster inexorably moves toward the coastline and imperils the nation's largest remaining wetlands and vulnerable habitat for fish, oysters, crabs, shrimp, birds and other precious wildlife.'...Defendant BP is accused of negligence for failing to properly train and supervise its crew, failing to ensure its crew worked in a safe and prudent manner, failing to provide a safe place to work, failing to maintain and operate the rig safely, failing to use proper weighted drilling muds, failing to exercise due care and caution and failing to avoid the accident."

"Gulf state shrimpers sue BP over oil spill", Steve Gorman, Reuters, 30 Apr 2010
"Shrimpers in Louisiana and Alabama have filed class-action lawsuits against oil giant BP...and owners of the drilling platform that exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, as claims for economic losses anticipated from the disaster began to mount...The suits were filed on behalf of three commercial shrimp fishermen - two in Louisiana and one in Alabama...and other coastal residents whose livelihoods are threatened by the spill. The Coast Guard estimates that 5,000 barrels...of crude oil a day is gushing from the sea floor where the blowout occurred, and authorities have said it could take weeks to cap the leak as BP mounts what it calls the largest oil spill containment operation in history. The suits name as defendants London-based BP...which holds the lease to the offshore well; Swiss-based Transocean...owner of the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform...Halliburton Energy Services...which was engaged in cementing operations of the well and well cap; and Cameron International...which supplied the rig's blow-out prevention equipment that failed...Each of the lawsuits seeks economic and compensatory damages of at least $5 million, the minimum sum required by the federal Class Action Fairness Act on which jurisdiction for the suits are partially based. They also seek an unspecified amount of punitive damages."

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Article
18 April 2011

BP Sued by Pointe Au Chien Indian Tribe Over Spill Damage, Fishing Losses

Author: Laurel Brubaker Calkins, Allen Johnson Jr, Bloomberg

BP…was sued by the Pointe Au Chien tribe over claims the Indian group’s ancestral lands and fishing grounds in southern Louisiana were devastated by the 2010 oil spill. The tribe “has suffered loss of use of its historical and cultural lands,...

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