A federal judge in New Orleans Sunday heard arguments from lawyers from Louisiana fishermen concerned that agreements they were signing with British Petroleum to serve as compensated volunteers in the cleanup effort from the oil spill would “seriously compromised the existing and future rights and potential legal claims” arising from their loss of livelihood.
Click here to read a pdf of the agreement BP required paid volunteers to sign.
U.S. District Court Judge Ginger Berrigan ruled that some language in the agreements was overbroad. In response, BP agreed to enter into a judgment stipulating that the provisions in question “are without effect.”
In a press release issued Sunday, Stuart Smith, an attorney for the fishermen, says, “This is an amazing example of how well our civil justice system works for the hard-working people of America, such as Louisiana fisherman who most need it right now.”
Among the language in the agreements deemed impermissible, according to Smith:
BP, which is mandated to take 100 percent responsibility for the oil clean-up, required that the volunteers indemnify it for any accidents that might occur from the volunteers' efforts.
BP demanded that the volunteers waive their First Amendment constitutional free speech rights about the volunteer's participation in the clean-up efforts of the disaster; for example, if a commercial fisherman signed this agreement he or she could not then speak to anyone about the disaster or clean-up efforts until BP first “approves” what the volunteer wants to say.
BP demanded a free ride on the volunteers' insurance policies so that if there is damage to a volunteer's vessel or other injuries, such as to a crew member, BP will be an “additional insured” and the financial responsibility for the damage will rest on the volunteer's insurance carrier, not on BP.
BP demanded 30 days notice before any volunteer is allowed to pursue legal claims against BP, and there were no exceptions made for emergencies.