It's been awhile since the Deepwater Horizon disaster that killed 11 men and kicked off the British Petroleum oil spill, sending barrels of oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico. Now it seems it's been long enough that the tragedy of it all has taken the track these tragedies always seem to take -- namely, veering off into the court systems to try and figure out which people and companies should be held accountable for what happened out there in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010. And of course the companies and people in question are doing their best to avoid shouldering too much of the legal blame.
There's been plenty of litigation, and now two of the rig managers, Robert Kaluza and Donald Vidrine, are disputing the manslaughter charges filed against them in the deaths of the workers on the rig. Their lawyers claim that 11 of the 22 involuntary manslaughter charges filed against the men don't count because the explosion and subsequent spill happened on a foreign-owned rig operating in waters outside the jurisdiction of the United States. The lawyers say the other 11 counts of "seaman's slaughter" should also be dismissed because they were on a Swiss-owned vessel outside of U.S. territory. Basically, they're taking the age-old principle of whatever happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas and trying to apply it in court.
The two pleaded not guilty last year to charges of 22 counts of manslaughter and one count of violating the Clean Water Act by messing up a safety test and not noting that the pressure readings on the rig were abnormally high.
U.S. District Judge Stanwood Duval Jr. scheduled a hearing on the motions on Aug. 7, and who knows how this will actually play out in court, but it's an interesting tactic, claiming this all happened outside U.S. jurisdiction. Especially considering that the U.S. and the states were the entities that had to deal with the mess, according to the Associated Press.
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Meanwhile, out in the actual Gulf, the U.S. Coast Guard is ending active cleanup in a couple of weeks in Mississippi, Florida and Alabama, though they'll keep working on cleaning up Louisiana, according to AP.
While the cleanup is ending, BP officials are still looking to a U.S. appeals court in the hopes that the $8 billion settlement they agreed to will get cut back a bit. Instead, they may have to pay out even more cash than they expected, because the settlement agreement didn't have a cap on it, according to Bloomberg. Seems like a rookie mistake, but BP's lawyers are trying their best to fix it up in the court system.
Even a fiery disaster that killed 11 men and put countless barrels of oil into the ecosystem of the Gulf boils down to lawyers and documents and deals. Figures.