Results matching “"SPILL Act"”

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.

All oil, all the time - PointOfLaw Forum

The New York Times this week reported on legislative efforts in Congress to expand liability in the case of maritime disasters, including the far-reaching and retroactive SPILL Act, which we've posted about here. The article, "Calls to Update Maritime Laws," briefly notes the role of the trial lawyers lobby:

With some of the proposed legislation promising bigger payments to victims' families, a lobbying group for plaintiffs' lawyers, the American Association of Justice, is among those pushing for changes. Several lawyers said they have had to turn down otherwise compelling cases because existing statutes can sharply limit recovery -- often in random and scattershot ways.

The AAJ holds its convention in Vancouver, B.C., starting this weekend, and in the annual change of top leadership, succeeding current President Anthony Tarricone will be be the current president-elect, C. Gibson Vance of Beasley, Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis & Miles, PC in Montgomery, Ala.

Beasley Allen is the most prominent trial lawyers' law firm in Alabama, headed by the legendary former governor, lieutenant governor and still political king maker, Jere Beasley. As Beasley Allen's website make clear, the firm has geared up to be a leader in the flood of anti-BP litigation for the Deepwater Horizon accident and oil contamination. For example, "Beasley Allen files its first lawsuit in Alabama state court on behalf of property owners":

MONTGOMERY, ALA. (July 6, 2010) - Beasley, Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis & Miles, P.C. has filed a lawsuit in the Circuit Court of Baldwin County, Ala., against British Petroleum ("BP") and several other companies with ties to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The firm represents James E. Fisher and Kate C. Fisher, who have incurred damages related to the disaster, including damage to their real and personal property, earning capacity, business income and use of natural resources. This is the first lawsuit related to the BP oil spill disaster to be filed by Beasley Allen in Alabama state court.

The first of many lawsuits, judging from the Jere Beasley Report blog's summary of the firm's strategy in a June 4 post, "Our Firm Will Be Involved In The BP Oil Spill Litigation."

The AAJ is full of factions -- check out the list of litigation groups meeting in Vancouver -- and one wonders whether members might resent having an association President so closely associated with just one line of attack. By making an attorney with Beasley Allen its president, the AAJ is declaring to the world, "Our priority is suing BP."

Other targets may breath a sigh of relief.

House rewrites maritime liability law...and more - PointOfLaw Forum

With little debate and on a voice vote, the House on Thursday passed H.R. 5503, the Securing Protections for the Injured from Limitations on Liability Act, i.e, the SPILL Act. Sponsored by Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) the bill expands liability for offshore accidents, retroactive to Deepwater Horizon accident of April 20, 2010.

In the floor debate (starting on Page H5330 of The Congressional Record), Rep. Conyers noted the presence in the House gallery of family members of those killed in the accident and argued: "We have found that the current state of law regarding these liability issues is outdated, unfair and operates against our national interests.The three key laws all date from the mid-1800s--the Death on High Seas Act, the Jones Act, and the Limitation on Liability Act." Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi spoke on the floor to add to the emotional appeals.

The bill was considered on the suspension calendar, usually reserved for non-controversial items that require a vote of two-thirds of the House to pass. It looked the the Republicans were wary of being attacked as uncaring apologists for BP, but Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), the ranking member of Judiciary, and Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX), both criticized the legislation for unnecessarily rewriting other law. As we've reported previously, the bill undermines the Class Action Fairness Act, and Rep. Poe mentioned other examples of its far-reaching impact:

H.R. 5503 repeals the Limitation of Liability Act, which is a drastic fundamental change in American maritime law. This change would end the longstanding practice in the United States that all maritime claims be determined in one Federal forum.

It also ends the limitation on U.S.vessels owners' liability, a limitation which is in place in virtually every other country in the maritime industry. The loss of this limitation will handicap U.S. ship owners in the competitive world of shipping.

The minority's comments in the House report on the legislation, Rept. 111-521, summarized the objections, starting with the lack of any committee hearing on the legislation before the bill was marked up and sent to the floor for a vote:

State of Louisiana loses Vioxx case - PointOfLaw Forum

Russell Jackson has details; Louisiana essentially brought a lawsuit with vague allegations of wrongdoing but no evidence that their was any causal relationship to any economic harm the state allegedly suffered. The federal court decision involved the sort of parens patriae lawsuit that the SPILL Act is trying to send back to state court.

The House Judiciary Committee today passed out of committee H.R. 5503, the Securing Protections for the Injured from Limitations on Liability Act, or SPILL Act. The vote was 16-11. Chairman John Conyers issued a news releasing the committee approval of the bill he sponsored, "Judiciary Panel Passes SPILL Act to Bring Liability Laws to the 21st Century, asserting that the legislation "updates" the "out of date and unfair laws," the Death on High Seas Act (1920), Jones Act (1920), and the Limitation on Liability Act (1851). According to Conyers, the bill:

  • It amends the Death on the High Seas Act and Jones Act to permit non-pecuniary damages.
  • It repeals the outdated Limitation on Liability Act.
  • It amends the Class Action Fairness Act to allow attorneys general to bring remedial actions in their own state courts.
  • It limits the ability of parties responsible for oil and similar spills to prevent their employees from speaking to the media.
  • It prevents parties responsible for oil spills from using the bankruptcy courts as a subterfuge to leave victims without adequate legal recourse.
  • It provides that these changes will apply to pending and future cases, consistent with previous liability law changes enacted by Congress.

Note the third bullet: The bill represents the first significant effort we can recall to undermine the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005 (or CAFA). The U.S. Chamber of Commerce joined by other business and legal reform groups sent a letter to the committee registering strong opposition to the provision.

Big day Wednesday at the House Judiciary Committee, which has a business meeting scheduled for 10:15 a.m. to mark up:

H.R. 5503, the Securing Protections for the Injured from Limitations on Liability Act
Motion to authorize issuance of subpoenas to BP America for documents regarding its claims process relating to the Gulf oil spill
H.Res. 1455, Directing the Attorney General to transmit to the House of Representatives copies of certain communications relating to certain recommendations regarding administration appointments
H.R. 5281 the "Removal Clarification Act of 2010"; and
H.R.____, the "Prohibiting Interstate Commerce in Crush Videos Act of 2010"
H.R. 1020
, the "Arbitration Fairness Act of 2009"; and
H.R. 1237, the "Fairness in Nursing Home Arbitration Act of 2009"

Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) outlined the far-reaching H.R. 5503 in a news release when it was introduced on June 10, "Conyers and Melancon Introduce SPILL Act."

H.Res. 1455 is a privileged resolution demanding documents related to the White House offers of Administration jobs to Democrats to keep them out of Senate races in Pennsylvania and Utah Colorado. (Statement by Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, the Republican sponsor.)

Consideration of the two anti-arbitration bills follows the Supreme Court's decision Monday in Rent-a-Center v. Jackson that reinforced the enforceability of arbitration clauses. (Opinion, Scotusblog entry.) The American Association for Justice, which has campaigned against arbitration, issued a statement from AAJ President Anthony Tarricone after the court's ruling Monday, "AAJ Response to Jackson v. Rent-a-Center SCOTUS Decision.

As for crush videos, the Supreme Court in April struck down the law banning the sale of videos depicting animal cruelty. (Washington Post story.) We'll see how the drafters attempt to negotiate the court's ruling. Judging by one bill, H.R. 5092, it looks like they may just ignore the First Amendment and pass a law anyway .

Around the web, February 19 - PointOfLaw Forum

  • Did auditors of funds that lost money with Madoff have a duty to check whether/warn that he was using bottom-of-barrel accountants? [WSJ law blog]
  • Retroactivity, the people's friend? "Judge: Exxon May Be Sued for Natural Resource Damage Done Prior to Passage of N.J. Spill Act" [NJLJ, earlier]
  • Florida regulators stage tantrum against insurers seeking to leave its underpriced, overrisky homeowners market [CEI Open Market, earlier]
  • What the new TARP rules on executive compensation mean in practice [Hodak Value]
  • "Another Welding Rod Defense Verdict" [Cal Biz Lit]
  • Whistleblower bar wins big in stimulus bill with massive new provisions covering local governments, federal contractors [Whistleblower Law Blog]