Soundings - Winter 2014 - (Page 14)

FEATURE By Jonathan K. Waldron | Partner | Blank Rome LLP Practice Group Leader Maritime, International Trade, and Public Contracts WHEN WILL RESPONDER IMMUNITY LEGISLATION BE ENACTED? I am pleased to have been asked to provide an update on the status of the response industry's initiative to enact an enhanced responder immunity regime following the lessons learned from the Deepwater Horizon incident for the launch print edition of the SOUNDINGS magazine. Specifically, the following article provides an update on the ongoing efforts by the Responder Immunity Coalition (the "Coalition"), which is represented by all response interests including the salvage industry, oil clean-up industry, spill management industry, the offshore vessel support industry, and the well containment industry to work with Congress to enact enhancements to the current responder immunity provisions enacted by the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 ("OPA 90"). CHANGES TO THE PROPOSAL As a result of comments received from various factions of industry and Congressional staff, the proposed legislation has been further refined. In its revised form the key elements in this proposal include the following to address the two main lessons learned from the Deepwater Horizon spill, which were: (1) plaintiffs sued responders under general maritime law due to personnel injury caused by the exposure to the spilled oil and the dispersants which were approved for use on a daily basis by the Federal on-Scene Coordinator ("FOSC") pursuant to the National Contingency Plan ("NCP"); and (2) bare allegations of gross negligence related to the response actions without having to provide any underlying facts to support such allegations. The following are the most pertinent points of the proposal: 14 * Soundings WINTER 2014 * It would extend the immunity under the law to a full range of response activities as discussed in more detail below. * With regard to the exposure claims related to the oil and dispersants, it provides that a responder is not liable for damages resulting from response actions for personal injury or wrongful death related to exposure to the discharged oil or hazardous substance, or to the dispersants lawfully used under the NCP or Presidential directive. * To discourage frivolous lawsuits involving unsupported allegations, it would establish a presumption that the response actions do not constitute gross negligence and would require claimants who are found by a court to have filed meritless or frivolous claims to pay attorney fees and court costs.

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Soundings - Winter 2014

ASA President’s Report
Moving the Unmovable COSTA CONCORDIA – the Largest Wreck Removal Ever Undertaken
Nontank Vessel Response Plan Requirements for Salvage and Marine Firefi ghting Services
When will Responder Immunity Legislation be Enacted?
NOAA’s RULET Project Assesses Risk from Shipwrecks
Meet the ASA Membership
In the News ASA Elects New Leadership National Maritime Salvage Conference Brings Together Maritime Stakeholders
Events & Announcements

Soundings - Winter 2014