Many articles have been written about BP being limited, by law, to paying only 75 million for economic damages in the gulf. Congress passed the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, known as OPA, to require oil companies to pay for offshore oil spills like this one. OPA limits the liability of the responsible party — BP in this instance — to $75 million in economic damages. We all know now that damages will exceed 1 BILLION dollars, and that 75 million isn’t going to be a drop in that bucket. In fact estimates currently range to 14 Billion dollars and higher.
What must have seemed like a good idea at the time to George H. Bush, and the sitting congress in 1990, limiting lawsuits against all those vulnerable oil companies, now seems like a travesty. But that is exactly what tort reform does. It doesn’t impact the vast majority of cases, but only those people that are hurt worst and impacted the most. Tort reform sounds wonderful, who can be against reform? Unless the person who is injured is you, your family, or someone you know. Then and only then do you suddenly realize that the tort reform limitation, the artificial caps placed on recovery for loss, will never provide justice for the injuries caused by the wrongdoer.
In this case if BP used the caps (and in fairness they have already exceeded this amount by choice, even though not required to do so under the law) they would pay .0005 cents on every dollar, or $53.57 for every $10,000 in loss that can be proved to have been caused by the spill. Is it fair that the victims of the spill would only get $535.70 for every $100,000.00 in loss? Our Congress thought so in 1990 and many politicians, whether at the state level or federal level, seem to think so today.
Who picks up the tab when damages are artificially limited by tort reform? Well first it is the injured person paying out of pocket until their money and life savings vanish, and after that it is the government. In short we all pay for these artificial caps on liability called tort reform. I don’t know about you, but my tax bill is high enough without adding another few Billion in economic losses from the BP disaster.
My suggestion is that if you believe in artificial caps, under the guise of tort reform, just place self imposed caps for yourselves and your loved ones and leave the rest of us alone. All you need to do is agree to take $535.70 for every $100,000 that you and your loved ones have in loss. I know lots of insurance companies that will happily agree to those terms with you, you won’t even need a lawyer for this. You can be sure the happy noises you hear once you have signed that final release will be the wrongdoer’s insurance company.