Wednesday, March 16, 2011

April 20 deadline approaching in Transocean litigation over BP oil spill in Gulf of Mexico

If you have been somehow harmed by the BP oil spill, you should pay close attention to the upcoming April 20 deadline for joining the federal litigation over the liability of Transocean -- the company that owned and operated the Deepwater Horizon oil rig.

Anyone who suffered injury or financial loss from the BP oil spill must file a short form with the federal court in New Orleans, if they want to preserve the right to sue one of the major defendants in the case, Transocean, the company that owned the Deepwater Horizon rig at the heart of the oil spill.

You might recall the news on May 13, 2010, as the oil was still billowing into the Gulf, that Transocean asked federal judge Judge Keith P. Ellison to cap its financial liability at $26.7 million under an ancient maritime statute that limits a vessel-owner's liability to an amount equal to the value of its ship and cargo -- no matter how much damage that vessel has done. Under the Limitation of Liability Act of 1851, a vessel owner is only liable for the post-accident value of the vessel and cargo, if the owner can show he or she had no knowledge of negligence in the accident. Of course, the Deepwater Horizon was worth quite a bit more before it sank to the bottom of the Gulf. But, the Act clearly sets the limit based on the value of the vessel (the oil rig counts as a "vessel" here) after the accident.

The court handling the decision on applying the Limitation of Liability Act authorized a website to inform the public about the filing process for joining the litigation and preserving rights now:

The form is also available on the official court website:

Claimants who want to preserve their right to sue Transocean by joining the lawsuit, should select the appropriate form (see instructions on the websites above), fill it out, and mail it to:

U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana
500 Poydras Street
New Orleans, Louisiana 70130
If you are represented by a lawyer, talk to your attorney before filing.

At my law firm, Aylstock, Witkin, Kreis & Overholtz, we are advising clients on how to proceed, in order to ensure that all necessary rights are maintained and recovery is maximized.