News / USA

    Senators Push to Allow Oil Rig Victims to Seek More Damages in US Court

    Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy has introduced legislation to permit the families of victims of tragedies like the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico to seek non-economic damages. A Senate panel on Tuesday heard from one of the victim's relatives.

    The Senate Judiciary Committee focused on the question of corporate liability for the loss of life or the loss of livelihoods for people affected by disasters such as the current oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

    Eleven people were killed in the April 20 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig leased by BP.  One of victims was Gordon Jones, a husband and the father of a two-year-old child and a baby born only days after his death.  Gordon's brother, Christopher Jones, called on Congress to take action to help his family.  He says he took offense at comments by BP Chief Executive Officer Tony Hayward.

    "I want to take this opportunity to address the recent remarks made by Tony Hayward, CEO of BP. In particular, he publicly stated he wants his life back.  Well, Mr. Hayward, I want my brother's life back. And I know the families of the other 10 men want their lives back.  We will never get Gordon's life back.  And his wife will live a life without a husband, and her two children a life without a father.  At the top of the United States Supreme Court building is the phrase "Equal Justice Under the Law."  As a United States citizen and as a lawyer, I agree with that principal.  Unfortunately, it does not exist in the case of deaths occurring in federal waters," he said.

    The Death on the High Seas Act does not permit families of victims to recover losses such as the loss of care and companionship associated with losing a spouse or parent.  Under law, victims of maritime tragedies can only claim economic damages for the lost income their loved one would have provided.

    In 2000, following an airliner crash, Congress amended the Death on the High Seas Act to permit recovery of non-economic damages by surviving family members of air crash victims.  That is why Christopher Jones and several Democratic senators support legislation to provide equal protection to those killed on oil drilling rigs or on ships.

    "Our laws should encourage safety and accountability.  Where they do not create the right incentives, we must change them.  Whether as the result of greed, incompetence or negligence, BP's conduct has devastated the lives and livelihoods of countless people and their communities and may threaten the Gulf [of Mexico] coast's very way of life.  It has been said by others, that if BP can spend millions and millions of dollars running ads saying how wonderful they are and how environmentally conscious they are, they can spend a lot more money helping the families that are suffering," he said.

    Several senators at the hearing also said they support the lifting of a $75 million cap on economic damages a corporation might pay under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990.  Other senators introduced a bill last month that would raise the cap on economic damages to $10 billion.

    A witness at the hearing objected to the idea of Congress passing a law that would apply retroactively to make oil companies liable for more damages.  Jack Coleman is Managing Partner of the private energy consulting firm EnergyNorthAmerica.  He says the United States benefits from developing oil and gas resources at home.  Coleman says he hopes that Congress will not implement what he calls policies that would imperil an industry that is an enormous source of jobs and revenue.

    "In my testimony, I did not come out against an increase in that for future leases.  I was dealing with that from a contract law point of view and the great damage to the industry that would come about from a $10 billion cap or unlimited cap on damages," he said.

    Leahy and several other Democratic senators said they support plans by the Obama administration to open a criminal investigation into the cause of the massive BP oil spill.  Republican members on the panel were more reserved and did not voice support for Leahy's bill to allow the family members of victims to seek greater compensation.  Congress will continue to hold hearings on the oil spill, with BP CEO Tony Hayward expected to appear at a hearing next week.

    You May Like

    California Republicans Mull Choices in Presidential Race

    Ted Cruz tells state's Republican Convention delegates campaign will be 'battle on the ground, district by district by district,' ahead of June 7 primary

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, many Kurds are trying to escape turmoil by focusing on success of football team Amedspor

    South African Company Designs Unique Solar Cooker

    Two-man team of solar power technologists introduces Sol4, hot plate that heats up so fast it’s like cooking with gas or electricity

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora