Gulf rig owner invokes 1851 law seeking to limit liability
Thursday, May 13, 2010
The Swiss firm that owned the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform at the heart of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill is asking a federal judge to limit its liability to $27 million — invoking an 1851 maritime law, the McClatchy newspapers are reporting.
Transocean, the rig owner, invoked the 1851 law in a Houston court filing in which it argues that its liability should not exceed the salvage value of the burned and collapsed rig, which now lies in about 5,000 feet of water. From the McClatchy article:
In a statement, Transocean said the court petition was filed at the request of its insurance companies, and the petition will allow the company to consolidate all outstanding lawsuits before a single federal judge in Houston. The company said it now faces more than 100 lawsuits over the spill in several states.
Lawyers for those injured in the blast said the petition could also prevent any claims filed more than six months after the accident.
The Wall Street Journal noted that the filing comes on the heels of Congressional testimony by officials from several of the key companies involved in emplacing and operating the rig and well:
Representatives from BP, Transocean and and Halliburton Co., which supplied components used in the drilling process, came under fire from lawmakers in Congressional hearings this week, during which representatives from each company attempted to stave off blame for the disaster. It is unclear what the ultimate cost of the spill will be for each of these companies.The accident and subsequent oil spill “were not caused or contributed to, done, occasioned and/or incurred by any fault, negligence, unseaworthiness, or lack of due care on the part of the petitioners, or anyone for whom petitioners are or at any material time were responsible,” Transocean’s filing says.
You have to wonder if they cleared that strategy with the folks in the crisis communications office first.