Gulf Oil Spill Liability: Only Question Is How Much BP Will Pay

ATLANTA - The question is not if BP will pay for the Gulf oil spill, but how much, a defense attorney said Thursday at HB Litigation Conferences' Oil in the Gulf: Litigation & Insurance Coverage Conference here.

Asked to give the defense perspective, Eric Lasker of Hollingsworth LLP in Washington, D.C., said this case isn't about whether BP is liable.

"This case is a 'how much?' case," Lasker said.  "How much oil, how much damage and how much they should pay.  Frankly, a lot."

Lasker said BP needs to acknowledge responsibility and provide appropriate compensation.

"People are willing to forgive if they really believe you are truly acknowledging responsibility," Lasker said. "In the Gulf spill litigation, there are huge damage claims that are fully appropriate. These are appropriate and should be paid."

After those two steps, Lasker said, BP needs to "draw the line" and decide which claims to defend.

Lasker said appropriate claims in the litigation are for business interruption, property damage and environmental remediation.  Inappropriate claims, he said, are those for medical monitoring, personal injury and stigma-based claims.

He said no science supports personal injury or medical monitoring claims and that stigma damages claims are "generally not accepted in oil spill claims." An example of a stigma-based claim is a crawfish farmer suing because he thinks people won't eat the crawfish because they're polluted.

As for punitive damages, Lasker said Louisiana state law bars punitive damages, and the other four Gulf states have differing rules.