The Deepwater Horizon Rig Disaster: Issues of Personal Injury and Death

On April 20, 2010, the mobile offshore drilling unit (MODU) Deepwater Horizon exploded and caught fire in the Gulf of Mexico. Eleven (11) workers were killed and seventeen (17) were injured. Three days later the rig sank, and millions of gallons of oil escaped into the Gulf of Mexico until the well was finally capped on July 15, 2010. Numerous lawsuits followed seeking compensation for the personal injuries and deaths as well as for property, business, and natural resource damages caused by the explosions, fire, and spill. These cases have been consolidated in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana by order of the United States Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation.

This disaster and the resulting litigation has brought national attention to the complex substantive and procedural issues that arise from such maritime accidents. It has also showcased the disparities in the remedies among classes of personal injury and wrongful death plaintiffs. While the litigation also involves claims for property damage, business loss, and damage to natural resources, this Article will analyze the issues strictly as they relate to the claims for personal injury and death. It will provide a broad overview of the rights and remedies of the injury and death plaintiffs and highlight the differences between the different plaintiff groups.