Right before leaving for its July 4th recess, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 5503, the Securing Protections for the Injured from Limitations on Liability Act, or SPILL Act, the bill to expand and make retroactive liability for offshore accidents, including the BP Deepwater Horizon accident.
The final House version of the bill does NOT include changes to the Class Action Fairness Act that were included in the legislation passed out of the House Judiciary Committee (which we wrote about here and here). Rep. Gerald Nadler (D-NY) and Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) both unhappily noted its omission in their floor statements.
Waters (Page H5335):
[While] I fully support H.R. 5503, I am very disappointed that critical amendments to the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA) as well as my amendment that would have legally nullified BP's original attempts to make their $5,000 payouts legal settlements were taken out of the bill. All we have now is BP's word that they will not enforce these waivers or honor the $75 million liability cap current law provides. However, this is unacceptable.
Nadler (Page H5336):
I do want to say, however, that I am disappointed with a few changes that have been made since the bill passed the Judiciary Committee. A provision to deny the enforceability of ``gag orders'' that reportedly were being used by BP has been removed. Such secrecy agreements only serve to deny the public access to necessary information. And, a common sense change to the Class Action Fairness Act to ensure states could pursue actions on behalf of their own citizens in state court was stripped as well.
Business and civil justice reform groups sent a joint letter to the Judiciary committee on June 23 protesting the original inclusion of the provisions meant to undermine the Class Action Fairness Act.