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Responsible Party’s Efforts To Avoid Payment Of Clean Up Costs Denied


In U.S. v. American Commercial Lines,  the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana considered a 2008 oil spill in the Mississippi River resulting from a collision between the tanker M/T TINTOMARA and the tank barge DM 932, owned by American Commercial Lines (“ACL”).  The US Coast Guard designated ACL as the Responsible Party (“RP”) under the U.S. Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (“OPA”) because the oil spill came from its barge.  ACL hired a number of oil spill responders to clean up the spill.  At the conclusion of the clean up these responders invoiced ACL’s designated agent but ACL disputed some of the claims and did not pay or settle them within the 90 daytime period prescribed by OPA.  These responders then submitted claims for their uncompensated removal costs to the National Pollution Funds Center (“the Fund”), who paid them.

The US commenced this lawsuit against ACL to recover the Fund’s payments to these responders. In deciding a prior motion, the district court confirmed that ACL was a responsible party and held that it was not entitled to invoke either OPA’s complete sole third party fault or limitation of liability defenses to the government’s claim.

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