Environmental Law

Judge Rules Maritime Law Doesn’t Shield Transocean from Most Environmental Suits

A federal judge has ruled that a 159-year-old maritime law limiting liability doesn’t apply to most lawsuits filed under federal and state environmental laws against the owner of the BP oil rig.

Transocean had sought to limit its liability to about $27 million under the Limitation of Liability Act of 1851, according to the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.) and Bloomberg News.

But U.S. District Judge Keith Ellison of Houston signed an order on Monday allowing suits to go forward under the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act, the Wall Street Journal says. Suits may also proceed under the Oil Pollution Act, he ruled, except for suits by other defendants seeking to hold Transocean responsible.

Other suits are on hold as Ellison considers the company’s request to cap its liability, Bloomberg says.

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