The BP oil spill in the Gulf Coast region has been acknowledged as the largest environmental catastrophe in U. S. history. The Federal government has just forced BP in setting aside a $20 billion escrow fund (which is not a cap they say) in order to pay for claims arising from the oil disaster.
BP has also set aside a $100 million fund for its own workers who are unemployed because of this disaster. Meanwhile it is reported by CNN that BP workers (and out of work fishermen now working for BP) have been told not to wear protective gear in the cleanup effort.
This leads to a whole host of questions about legal issues that will be arising out of this BP oil spill disaster. The first and foremost is will the company survive this or will they go under? BP has said they will not offer a dividend to shareholders throughout 2010.
Since this is an environmental disaster, what kind of personal injury claims might go to court because of this? First, and foremost may be wrongful death cases of the 11 workers killed in the explosion on the platform.
Second, health issues from the workers who were told not to wear protective gear when cleaning up the oil spill may suffer medical consequences, injuries and bills because of this action on BP’s part.
Third, the citizens living around the Gulf Coast may suffer illnesses related to the oil spill including the dispersants used by BP to try to contain the oil at sea. The claims are just beginning and litigation on these cases, either individually or class action will continue for years.
Approximately 90 New York residents have filed a toxic tort lawsuit against IBM that they say caused birth defects in infants and cancer in adults. The lawsuit claims a toxic plume of chemicals including trichloroethylene was released from an IBM plant into the soil, groundwater and air.
According to the seven law firms representing the clients, the toxic chemicals caused personal injury and wrongful death to family of the plaintiffs. One of the law firms included in the case is Masry & Vititoe made famous by the movie “Erin Brockovich.”
Coal-fired power plant American Electric Power of Ohio has settled a $4.6 billion lawsuit for polluting eight different states. The U. S. government calls this the largest environmental settlement on record.
The company has been held accountable for creating smog and acid rain that had lead to a number of respiratory ailments and even the disruption of aquatic life. As part of the settlement, American Electric Power has agreed to pay $60 million in cleanup costs, a $15 million fine and cut emissions by 2/3 over the next 10 years.
Friends of the Earth Canada, a non-profit environmental organization has filed the first global warming lawsuit against the Government of Canada. The environmental and toxic tort lawsuit was filed in Federal Court by Sierra Legal alleging that the government abandoned its commitment to cut greenhouse gases to the levels in line with the Kyoto Protocol.
The Canadian government ratified the Kyoto Treaty in 2002 and then in April 2007, turned turncoat with its “Turning the Corner” climate strategy that would leave the country and its citizens off-target by 39-percent in 2012. According to the lawsuit, this would also mean the targets for cutting greenhouse gases would not be achieved by 2020 or 2025 as well.
The lawsuit is asking the Canadian government to reinstate policies to cut global warming by reducing greenhouse gases to 6-percent below the 1990 levels as ratified in the Kyoto Protocol.