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OIL SPILL NOTEBOOK: COMPANY FACES SUITS (MOBILE PRESS-REGISTER)

May 27, 2010

By Press-Register staff

The company that owned the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig agreed Wednesday to a modified legal order governing claims resulting from the ongoing Gulf spill.

Transocean Ltd. earlier this month asked a federal court in Houston to limit its liability for damages to the cost of the sunken oil platform -- about $27 million.

The company won an injunction stopping all lawsuits filed outside the Southern District of Texas. It also included language that barred legal claims under the Oil Pollution Act.

The Mobile law firm Cunningham Bounds, which represents clients in eight class-action suits, sought a court order to modify the injunction, allowing claims under the act. Transocean conceded the point, and U.S. District Judge Keith Ellison issued an amended injunction that removed that language.

Now, people and businesses who believe they have suffered damages at the hands of Transocean will first file claims with the company, which has 90 days to respond. If they remain unsatisfied, they can sue.

"It's of major importance," said Steve Olen, a Cunningham Bounds attorney. "It enables people to file claims under the OPA and file lawsuits under the OPA, which may be their only avenue."

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