Current Law Prevents Oil Rig Victims' Families From Holding Wrongdoers Fully Accountable

Jun 08, 2010, 10:37 ET from American Association for Justice

Death on the High Seas Act will be subject of today's Senate Judiciary Committee hearing; Congress must act so families can get justice

WASHINGTON, June 8 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Congress must amend the Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA) so families of workers who died aboard the BP rig can seek full recourse, said the American Association for Justice (AAJ) today as the Senate Judiciary Committee holds a hearing on liability issues surrounding the Gulf oil spill.

Chris Jones, whose brother Gordon died in the BP rig explosion, will testify on the current inequities in DOHSA and why Congress must act.  Gordon was a 28-year-old mud engineer aboard the Deepwater Horizon, and leaves behind his widow Michelle to care for their two young sons, one born less than a month ago.

Because of DOHSA, the Joneses and the families of the 10 other workers killed in the explosion face severe limitations on what they can recover.  Passed in 1920, this law limits BP's liability to economic damages only, which in most cases means burial costs and the loss of support that family member would have provided.  BP is immune from entirely compensating families for the horrible way in which their loved ones died and the relationship they have now lost.

An exception to this immunity was carved out in 2000 after the TWA Flight 800 crash to fully compensate families of victims that die in the sea as a result of a plane crash.  However, this protection was not extended to those who die aboard rigs or other vessels.

"This outdated law lets corporations like BP off the hook, at the expense of families who have lost a loved one," said AAJ President Anthony Tarricone.  "Congress must amend DOHSA for the sake of these 11 families, and others who perish in maritime incidents, to ensure they have a fair chance to receive justice."

The Senate Judiciary hearing will begin at 10:00 a.m. in 226 Dirksen.  On Wednesday, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will each hold hearings on other liability issues surrounding the BP rig disaster at 10:30 a.m.

As the world's largest trial bar, the American Association for Justice (formerly known as the Association of Trial Lawyers of America) works to make sure people have a fair chance to receive justice through the legal system when they are injured by the negligence or misconduct of others--even when it means taking on the most powerful corporations.  Visit

SOURCE American Association for Justice