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Big Oil, Paying for the Dead

 by Michael Rowe

Tags: Politics, Slate, BP, Deepwater Horizon, death, compensation,


Being blown up in an oil-rig-related explosion calls for some compensation, no? Well, according to Slate, BP might not be paying much to the families of those killed when the Deepwater Horizon outfit burst into flames:

After a BP refinery in Texas exploded in 2005, killing 15 workers and injuring scores more, the oil giant paid $1.6 billion in settlements to employees and their families. But the families of the workers killed on BP's Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico probably won't receive a similar windfall. That's because the Deepwater rig is legally considered an oceangoing vessel and was more three nautical miles offshore at the time of the accident. As a result, the families of the dead workers can only sue BP and its contractors under a 90-year-old maritime law, the Death on the High Seas Act, which severely limits liability. In some cases, BP could get away with shelling out sums as paltry as $1,000.

The Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA) may be one of the least emotionally accommodating laws of all time:

Just ask Son Michael Pham, the vice president of the International Cruise Victims Association. In 2005, his parents went on a Caribbean cruise and never came back. Carnival Cruise Line, one of the world's largest cruise operators, never offered any explanation for what had happened, and has refused to discuss the incident with Pham and his family since then. That was how Pham discovered the horrible divide in the way the law treats people killed through negligence at sea. "We couldn't take legal action to get justice," he says. Long before the BP explosion, his group was lobbying Congress for DOHSA to be overhauled.

Yeah, some reform might help.

Source: Slate

Image by Ashok666, licensed under Creative Commons.