First wrongful death claim related to the Gulf oil spill settled

Without much fanfare or publically available information, the first of the wrongful deathlawsuits filed by the families of those killed during the Deepwater Horizon explosion was settled last week. Terms of the settlement were not released.

Eleven workers were killed in the oil rig accident that signaled the blowout of BP’s drilling rig last April and preceded the Gulf Oil Spill. The estates and families of some those workers have filed lawsuits to obtain compensation for their losses. In addition to the wrongful death claims, numerous class-action lawsuits have been filed in relation to losses caused by the spill, which was the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history.

Those who work on oil rigs, ships, and docks are covered by maritime or admiralty law, rather than the workers’ compensation system for most workers. They are still entitled to compensation for any injuries they sustain on the job, and their families are entitled to benefits in the event of death. The wrongful death lawsuits by the families and estates of the 11 Deepwater Horizon workers lost in the fatal oil rig accident were likely filed under the federal Death on the High Seas Act.

According to reports, the family and estate of the deceased worker had filed a claim against Transocean, which owned the oil rig; BP, which leased and operated it; and Halliburton Co. and Cameron International Corp., which were rig service providers. The family and estate have now settled their claim with all of the defendants.

The lawsuit had been filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, and was part of the multidistrict coordinated litigation. When the family’s and estate’s claims were settled, the lawsuit was dismissed by the court and cannot be re-filed.

Source: Westlaw News & Insight, “Family of Horizon rig victim settles claims case,” Braden Reddall and Terry Baynes, January 13, 2011