Today the House passed the SPILL Act (HR 5503) by voice vote to reform inadequate and outdated maritime liability laws to ensure that the families of those killed or injured in the BP Oil Spill and other such tragedies are justly compensated for their losses. Specifically, the SPILL Act updates Death on the High Seas Act (1920), Jones Act (1920), and Limitation on Liability Act (1851) in these ways:
Permits recovery of non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering, loss of care, comfort and companionship — not just lost income and funeral expenses — for family members of those killed or injured under the Death on the High Seas Act and Jones Act.
Repeals the Limitation on Liability Act of 1851, which limits liability to the post-accident value of the vessel and its cargo. Transocean, which owns the Deepwater Horizon platform, has sought to limit its liability to $27 million under this outdated law.
Prevents parties responsible for oil spills from using bankruptcy to leave victims without adequate legal recourse.
Applies to cases arising on or after the date of the Deepwater Horizon explosion, as in past.
Families of those who died in the BP oil spill explain it best:
On April 20, 2010, our lives were forever changed when we learned that the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded and killed 11 men. This disaster devastated 11 families, including ours. In our grief we learned that the current federal maritime laws governing who bears responsibility for the wrongful deaths of our loved ones are grossly inadequate and outdated. The SPILL Act addresses these inadequacies and provides equal justice for all victims of maritime catastrophes. The bill fixes a long-standing dichotomy under current laws that values the lives of those who die at sea far less than those who die on land… No amount of money can compensate us for the loss of our loved ones, but your bill allows for the recovery of more nearly adequate damages when a wrongful death occurs on the high seas.
Speaker Pelosi on passage:
The family members of the 11 people who were killed on the Deepwater Horizon have taken their pain and turned it into advocacy — in the memory of their loved ones and to ensure future generations never have to face such personal loss. They have turned their grief into action.
Out of respect for the memories of those who died on the Deepwater Horizon, the House today passed bipartisan legislation to reform our maritime laws and to ensure appropriate remedies when corporations negligently cause maritime disasters.
The SPILL Act will modernize these laws to ensure that BP and other responsible parties are held fully accountable for their actions and to ensure that families of those killed or injured in the BP oil spill and other such tragedies are justly compensated for their losses.
We will continue to assist the families and all Americans who have been adversely affected by the BP oil spill by holding responsible corporations fully accountable.