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British Petroleum Oil Spill: Deepwater Horizon Disaster

May 14, 2010

The blowout of the Transocean Deepwater Horizon on April 20, 2010, set in motion a disaster of epic proportions, including the tragic loss of life and an environmental nightmare. The large oil slick has grown since that night and is rapidly approaching the Gulf Coastal states.

Several commentators have suggested that the looming oil slick may cost $1.5 billion in damages. Losses from the oil slick may eclipse the Exxon Valdez disaster and drive those financial projections higher. There are recent reports of lost rental and sales income, even before the slick makes landfall. Also, NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service has enacted an Emergency Rule, closing all fishing in the Northwestern Gulf for ten days, beginning on May 2, 2010. Closed ports, along with polluted beaches and estuaries, will cause even more financial difficulties for business, ranging from rental property owners to restaurants.

Although the CEO of British Petroleum has indicated that the company will pay claims related to the slick, the 1990 Oil Pollution Act, put in place after the Valdez disaster, seemingly caps liability for damages, to the cost of the environmental cleanup, plus $75 million for all other third party claims (unless there is gross negligence or violation of one or more Federal statutes).

Since recoveries may be capped at five percent of the expected losses, insurers will likely be called upon to cover the balance. Thus, the oil slick raises significant issues for business owners and their insurers, including:

  • Business interruption;
  • Loss of rents/income;
  • Property damage qualification;
  • Potential bodily injury resulting from exposure to fumes and materials;
  • Application of traditional pollution exclusions;
  • Subrogation and/or recovery against responsible parties; and
  • Presentation of claims to governmental or quasi-governmental cleanup funds.

Butler is committed to the delivery of high-quality legal services to its clients. Attorneys in the Firm regularly handle claims involving the issues raised by the oil spill. Butler stands ready to address your company’s needs as they relate to the oil slick. For inquiries concerning issues arising from this disaster, please contact one of our experienced attorneys located in any of our Gulf Coast offices in Florida and Alabama.

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