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From the Blog: Gulf Oil Spill Legal Processes Wind Down
On March 3rd, a major development occurred in the ongoing legal fallout from the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion and oil spill when a mass settlement was reached between BP and the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee. The settlement occurred nearly two years after an explosion on the rig leased to and operated by BP killed eleven workers, injured seventeen more, and unleashed a torrent of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. For months, the world watched in horror as over 200 million gallons of oil flowed for almost three months, pouring into the open water, damaging economic livelihoods and the coastal environment in profound ways. Additionally, BP released 1.84 million gallons of chemical dispersants, with the eventual impact on health and jobs impossible to know with certainty.
The explosion and oil spill caused injuries all along the Gulf coast, and prompted countless lawsuits by all sorts of entities, including individuals and businesses. As one might expect, a great many of these lawsuits involved claims by private individuals for adverse health effects caused by the spill and its aftermath, damage to property, and damage to economic livelihoods by everyone from oyster fishers to tourism industry workers. These private suits were compiled together in Multi-District Litigation 2179 in New Orleans, with a Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee appointed by the court to handle the cases. On March 3, BP, with the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee, announced a settlement of a “substantial majority” of such claims, subject to final written agreement.
In total, BP has estimated that the settlement will cost roughly $7.8 billion, though plaintiffs note that there is no cap for plaintiffs’ recovery. ...
One-Year Report: On the one-year anniversary of the devastating explosion of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico, Alliance for Justice has released an in-depth status report on the ongoing quest for justice for the hundreds of thousands victims of the resulting catastrophic oil spill. One Year After the Gulf Oil Spill: Is Justice Being Served? is the latest product of AFJ’s ongoing initiative to ensure justice for Gulf residents, which also includes the award-winning documentary film, Crude Justice. The report provides a comprehensive and unblinking snapshot of complex legal environment and significant uncertainties confronting the spill’s victims, paying particular attention to the Gulf Coast Claims Facility, the $20 billion fund established by BP and administered by Kenneth Feinberg. Many legal issues remain unresolved, even one year after the disaster, and are compounded by enormous uncertainties about the future of the Gulf ecosystem, the long-term effects on fishing, and the health impacts of the oil and chemical dispersants used in the clean-up. As the report concludes,“ … at the one-year anniversary, the jury is still out on whether victims of the BP oil spill will receive justice.”
The Awards: Crude Justice was the recipient of a number of prestigious awards and was screened at several juried festivals, including the 2011 Directors Circle Festival of Shorts, 32nd Annual Telly Awards (recipient of the Silver Telly Award), Atlanta Shortsfest, Culture Unplugged - Green Unplugged festival, DocMiami International Film Festival, Festival International de Films "Pêcheurs du Monde" (International Film Festival "Fishermen of the world"), Humboldt Film Festival, Los Angeles United, Netroots Nation, San Francisco United, and WorldFest - Houston International Film Festival (Special Jury Award).
About Crude Justice: Shot on location in Louisiana, this film explores the damage done by this unimaginable environmental calamity to the lives and livelihoods of the people who depend on the waters of the Gulf of Mexico for their income, their food, and the continuation of their culture. Titled Crude Justice, the 17-minute documentary looks at the difficulties ordinary people face in finding fair compensation and a secure future for their families in the face of corporate domination of the courts, statutes favoring big business, judges with ties to the oil and gas industries, and the uncertainties that accompany an incident where the long-term effects may not be known for years. Crude Justice tells the story of damaged lives, but also of the fighting spirit and resilience of people who understand that what's threatened is not just justice for the victims of the spill, but the integrity of the American judicial system itself.
Learn More: AFJ has created a number of resources to explain and provoke discussion around the legal issues raised in the film.
- As part of its ongoing effort to promote justice for the individuals struggling to recover from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Alliance for Justice has sent recommendations to the Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF) in response to a request from GCCF administrator Kenneth Feinberg for public comments on his proposed methodology for processing claims and calculating damages.
- The Factual Background and Legal Framework provides in-depth information on the factual background of the tragedy, as well as the laws that will be relevant as legal claims arising from the spill work their way through the courts, including the Oil Pollution Act, the Jones Act, the Death on the High Seas Act, the Limitation on Liability Act, and the Exxon Shipping Co. v. Baker case.
- Crude Justice: Judicial Ties to the Oil Industry and the Duty to Recuse
- AFJ Feedback on the Gulf Coast Claims Facility’s (“GCCF”) draft methodology
- The Law School Discussion guide contains thought-provoking questions meant to stimulate debate and discussion on the issues raised in Crude Justice.
- More Resources and Media
Host a Screening & Screening Toolkit: Crude Justice is being screened at law schools and in communities all around the country. If you would like to host a screening, AFJ will provide a free copy of the DVD, as well as all the materials you need to promote the event.
Multimedia: Learn more about Crude Justice by watching one of the film’s experts on the Colbert Report, a trailer for the film, and an interview with environmental activist, actor, and Crude Justice narrator, Ed Begley.