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US House Approves Bill Increasing Compensation for Oil Spill Victims


US House Approves Bill Increasing Compensation for Oil Spill Victims
By Sarah Miley | Jurist via Truthout

The US House of Representatives on Thursday approved a bill that would increase compensation for injured workers and victims' families that have filed claims against BP as a result of the recent Deepwater Horizon oil spill [JURIST news archive] in the Gulf of Mexico. The bill marks the first piece of legislation passed by the House in response to the oil spill. The Securing Protections for the Injured from Limitations on Liability (SPILL) Act would change several laws applying to legal liability on the high seas. The jurisdiction of the 1920 Death on the High Seas Act, which allows families of decedents to bring a civil action in federal court, would be extended from three to 12 miles from the US coastline. The amendment would also allow the families of workers who died in the BP oil rig explosion to file a claim for both compensatory and punitive damages, including pain and suffering and loss of companionship. SPILL also amends the 1920 Jones Act to allow recovery for loss of care, comfort and companionship by a individual injured in the course of employment at sea. Representative John Conyers (D-MI) sponsored the bill, calling the previous legislation "ancient" and "outdated." Some Republicans argued that the bill was too broad because it covers all companies operating on the high seas but did not act to block its passage. Representatives from both parties did agree on at least one issue—that companies directly responsible for the Gulf oil spill should not be allowed to limit damages under outdated laws. The House passed the bill on a voice vote, and was therefore not recorded. The bill will now go before the US Senate. Read more.

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