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The SPILL Act — A Tort Reformers Lament?


The families of the 11 victims of the Deepwater Horizon disaster faced severe limitations on their ability to seek justice for the tragic loss of their loved ones due to the negligence of BP and others. That was the case under the law before the House passed the SPILL Act (Securing Protections for the Injured from Limitations on Liability).

The SPILL ACT will actually correct the state of the law in a number of worthy areas that relate to the Gulf Disaster:

  • Amends the Death on the High Seas Act to permit the recovery of non-economic damages; human damages, including the pain & suffering of families of the dead workers.
  • Amends the Jones Act to permit the recovery of non-economic damages.
  • Repeals the limitation of liability for vessel owners; limiting recovery to only the value of the vessel involved.
  • Amends the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA) to make clear that states damaged by the Gulf Disaster can bring lawsuits and seek remedies in their own state courts.
  • Makes contracts and agreements “gagging” individuals from disclosing information about offshore oil spills and discharge of other pollutants; agreements that reportedly BP attempted to enforce.
  • Amends the US Bankruptcy Code preventing corporations liable for oil spills from severing their assets to avoid liabilities owed to injured victims. Among other things, the Act eliminates the ability for the debtor to seek additional protections afforded under Chapter 15 of the code.

The SPILL Act takes outdated laws and brings them into the 21st century, according to House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi:

“The SPILL ACT will modernize these laws to ensure that BP and other responsible parties are held fully accountable for their actions and to ensure that families of those killed or injured in the BP oil spill and other such tragedies are justly compensated.”

The passage of this bill eliminates a few of the tools that responsible parties likely planned to use in an effort to limit the damages they owe to injured victims of the Gulf Disaster.

If the tort reformers are not hypocrites, they are likely to oppose these changes as victimizing corporations. If tort reformers avoid hypocrisy in this instance, one must wonder how they justify their position in this illustration of where going “easy” on corporate America has gotten us. If tort reformers are hypocrites in this instance, why listen to them about anything?

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