BP Deepwater Horizon Disaster
Case Study 1
Legendary Texas attorney Ernest H. Cannon represented plaintiff Shelley Anderson against BP in one of the most significant personal and environmental tragedies of the past couple of decades – one that ultimately involved lawsuits across five states and a federal judgment against the oil giant.
Credit: © Alex Mu / Adobe Stock
BP’s oil rig the Deepwater Horizon exploded on April 10, 2010, killing 11 people, injuring 17 others, and creating a massively destructive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. An estimated 100,000 businesses and individuals filed charges against BP, alleging that reckless disregard for proper safety procedures led directly to the explosion and its resulting losses.
Among the dead was Shelley Anderson’s husband, oil rig worker Jason Anderson. Representatives of Transocean, the company that owned the rig, met Anderson in her home and reassured her that they would look after her family’s financial needs. However, the promise apparently extended only to a limited continuation of Jason’s salary and benefit payments. Antiquated maritime laws such as the Shipowners Liability Act of 1851 placed strict limits on the abilities of survivors to seek financial restitution and support in such maritime tragedies. BP and Tanscoean argued that these old laws applied to Jason’s offshore death. The resulting limitations and delays placed a terrible burden on Anderson, whose family needed the assistance sooner rather than later.
Ernest Cannon rallied to Anderson’s aid. In an interview with Michel Martin on NPR’s “Tell Me More” program, Cannon stated:
“We would like for Transocean and BP and Halliburton and Cameron and the responsible parties to allow Shelly to have a case for us to take depositions, for us to see what caused the accident, for us to explain what her damages are, and to have an assessment just as we do in every other case in the country like this. And if we need to, go to court and try it to a jury and see what a jury will decide that Shelly's damages are.”
The plight of Anderson and others in her position drew the attention of the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. The Committee, chaired by West Virginia Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, called for changes in maritime law that would allow fairer treatment to individuals who suffered losses due to offshore deaths and injuries. Ernest Cannon noted that even if his client ended up agreeing to a settlement, the changes in the law would help her, and countless others, receive a more appropriate amount of compensation.