After the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, concern focused on Section 2004 of the Oil Pollution Act, instituted in response to the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill, which capped offshore oil lease or permit holder liability at $75 million per spill, plus removal costs. The chasm between the capped statutory liability and the actual cost of clean-up, which is priced beyond $6.1 billion, represents an egregious injustice.
Robert Clifford, the nationally renowned personal injury attorney from Clifford Law Offices based out of Chicago, wrote about caps on damages in the Gulf oil spill disaster for the Chicago Lawyer. In \”Lessons from the Gulf Disaster,\” Clifford looks at how permitting companies, like BP, to run dangerous operations without sufficient assets or insurance to cover damages in the event of an incident, can promote negligent behavior.
When companies engage in dangerous activities, they should be held fully accountable. Most executives, however, try to figure ways to short-change the injured. In the case of BP, it has waived the OPA cap and has expressed a willingness to pay \”any legitimate claim.\” As generous an offer as that may sound, it may have been destined anyway as the law provides for a lifting of the cap if the incident was caused by \”the gross negligence or willful misconduct\” of any party or its failure to comply with any \”applicable federal safety, construction or operating regulations.\” The reported facts leading up to the spill suggest it is likely that that standard will be met.