DALLAS, May 10, 2010 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- Despite ongoing talk about raising the $75 million cap on oil spill damages to $10 billion, it is unlikely to happen anytime soon. However, it might not be as pertinent as many think, according Scott Summy, attorney at veteran environmental law firm Baron & Budd, P.C.
According to Summy, under the Oil Pollution Act (OPA) of 1990 the cap does not apply in incidents where there is gross negligence or willful misconduct or where there has been a violation of the federal safety construction or operating regulations. He notes that there are numerous regulations that apply to drilling. "There very well may be these types of negligence and willful violations which will nullify the cap. The Oil Pollution Act is federal and so it would apply in any state where suit is filed under that act," says Summy.
Baron & Budd will be looking at all steps BP took to notify the authorities of the nature and full extent of the spill which may be relevant because there is an exception to the OPA cap if BP failed to report the incident or failed to provide reasonable assistance and cooperation. Key to this will be a determining if BP misled federal and state agencies in the early days of the spill, thereby hampering its containment. "It is unthinkable that BP would not have a way to stop the flow of oil in the event of a blowout," Summy said.
Meanwhile, BP is saying it will pay all claims without resorting to the OPA (or other statutory) caps. "We'll see if they hold to their word once they determine what claims are being contemplated and what may be excluded," Summy added.
Summy and his colleagues have previously gone up against BP/Amoco in water contamination cases and uncovered some of the secrets that the oil company didn't want regulators or the public to know. By carefully mining BP documents and deposing the company's scientists and personnel, Baron & Budd uncovered evidence in the national MTBE groundwater cases that: BP knew that a component of its gasoline products would leak from underground storage tanks and contaminate water, drastically increasing both the extent of the harm and the costs to clean it up. BP purposefully kept information from regulators about the true extent of the water contamination problem to avoid having to face the problem. BP engaged in a state-by-state strategy to convince regulators to relax cleanup standards instead of addressing the contamination problem.
About Baron & Budd, P.C.
Dallas-based Baron & Budd, P.C., with offices in Baton Rouge, Austin and Beverly Hills, is a nationally recognized law firm with more than three decades of experience representing people and communities harmed by corporate negligence.
With over 60 attorneys and 200 staff, Baron & Budd's size and resources have enabled the firm to take on some of the largest and most complex cases of their kind. The cornerstone of the firm is toxic tort litigation, representing individuals, municipalities and water providers seeking redress from manufacturers of hazardous products and corporate polluters. The firm handles cases for injuries caused by exposure to asbestos, benzene and other toxic substances. Baron & Budd's work includes representation of securities investors defrauded by corporate wrongdoing and consumers and businesses in class actions and insurance litigation.
SOURCE: Baron & Budd, P.C.
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