Businesses and individuals suing BP Plc and other companies involved in the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill can seek punitive damages in pursuing claims of economic and environmental losses, a federal judge said.
Defendants claimed that the US Oil Pollution Act prevented plaintiffs from collecting punitive damages. US District Judge Carl Barbier said on Friday that the statute was "silent as to the availability of punitive damages", and he added that plaintiffs could pursue such claims under maritime law.
"OPA does not displace general maritime law claims for those plaintiffs who would have been able to bring such claims prior to OPA's enactment," Barbier said.
Article continues below
"These plaintiffs assert plausible claims for punitive damages against responsible and non-responsible parties."
Barbier also allowed boat owners to go forward with suits under federal oil pollution law contending that their vessels were damaged while working to clean up the spill.
And he also let companies proceed with claims over revenue lost through the government moratorium on deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.
Barbier dismissed state law non-governmental economic loss claims against the defendants, while allowing the plaintiffs to pursue these suits under federal maritime and environmental laws.
The case in question is In Re Oil Spill by the Oil Rig Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, 2010, MDL-2179, US District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana (New Orleans).