The Answer Lies in Admiralty: Justifying Oil Spill Punitive Damages Recovery through Admiralty Law

By Bush, Brittan Jackson | Environmental Law, Fall 2011 | Go to article overview

The Answer Lies in Admiralty: Justifying Oil Spill Punitive Damages Recovery through Admiralty Law


Bush, Brittan Jackson, Environmental Law


  I. INTRODUCTION

 II. DEEPWATER HORIZON, THE OIL POLLUTION ACT, AND MARITIME LAW
     PUNITIVE DAMAGES
     A. The Oil Pollution Act of 1990
     B. The Deepwater Horizon Spill
     C. The Case Against Punitive Damages Under the Oil Pollution Act
     D. Maritime Law and Punitive Damages

III. REINVIGORATING OIL SPILL PUNITIVE DAMAGES
     A. Offshore Oil Exploration and Maritime Jurisdiction
     B. The Supreme Court's Affirmation of Punitive Damages in
        Maritime Law
        1. South Port: A Modern Reexamination
        2. The Clean Water Act Preemption Argument
        3. The Exxon and Townsend Argument

 IV. APPLYING THE ARGUMENTS
     A. General Maritime Causes of Action
     B. Claims Under the Oil Pollution Act

  V. OIL SPILL PUNITIVE DAMAGES: A NORMATIVE AND MORAL JUSTIFICATION
     A. Punitive Damages as a Mechanism of Retributive Justice
     B. Punitive Damages as a Deterrence Mechanism

 VI. CONCLUSION

I. INTRODUCTION

On April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill struck the Gulf of Mexico and not only took the ecology and citizens of the Gulf Coast hostage, but courts along the Gulf as well. (1) The Deepwater Horizon oil spill is the largest marine pollution disaster in history and may result in the most complex and drawn out litigation in United States history. (2) While the spill's grasp on the Gulf Coast's ecology and citizens lasted only eighty-seven days, when the well was eventually sealed, (3) Deepwater Horizon's grasp on the judicial system remains until the final Deepwater Horizon case is adjudicated.

Deepwater Horizon likely poses the most complex questions of liability ever presented to the United States judicial system. The ongoing litigation will likely involve numerous responsible parties and independent oil exploration contractors, thousands of plaintiffs, and state and local governments across the Gulf Coast. If history serves as any indicator, the Deepwater Horizon litigation could easily result in decades of litigation over the spill's liability similar to the twenty-year litigation involving the Exxon Valdez spill. (4) At the heart of the litigation lies a web of comprehensive statutes and liability regimes that muddy the already oil-soiled waters of the Deepwater Horizon controversy. Included in this web are the liability provisions of the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA), (5) the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (Clean Water Act or CWA), (6) Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976 (RCRA), (7) Merchant Marine Act of 1920 (Jones Act), (8) Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA), (9) as well as general maritime law. (10) This Article, however, turns its focus away from the specific compensatory remedies available under these statutory regimes and maritime law. Instead, this Article examines admiralty law's role in formulating an oil spill punitive damages regime for causes of action asserted under the OPA and maritime law.

Until recently, many regarded the recovery of punitive damages in oil spill causes of action as a closed question. In the wake of the Exxon Valdez spill, Congress enacted the OPA in order to establish a comprehensive liability scheme for oil spills. (11) Congress, however, did not include any language regarding punitive damages within the OPA's provisions. The OPA's silence on punitive damages recovery required the judiciary to determine if the OPA's provisions barred punitive damages recovery for OPA claims and general maritime causes of action. While the Supreme Court has not directly addressed this question, the United States First Circuit Court of Appeals, in South Port Marine, L.L.C. v. Gulf Oil Ltd. Partnership (South Port), (12) held that punitive damages were not recoverable under the OPA and in dicta extended the exclusion of punitive damages recovery to general maritime claims as well. (13) The First Circuit's decision relied heavily on the Supreme Court's decision in Miles v. Apex Marine Corp. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

The Answer Lies in Admiralty: Justifying Oil Spill Punitive Damages Recovery through Admiralty Law
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.