BP tries to get Louisiana fishermen to sign indemnification waivers

Fishermen in Louisiana, whose livelihoods are on the line after the catastrophic BP oil spill, are desperate for cash. According to this report, hundreds appear to have been tricked into signing documents swearing that they will "hold harmless and indemnify ... release, waive and forever discharge the BP Exploration and Production, Inc., its subsidiaries, affiliates, officers, directors, regular employees, and independent contractors ... from all claims and damages" arising from helping to clean up the mess BP made.
(via Clayton Cubitt)

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  1. The rest of the article explains that BP tore up the documents after it was misinterpreted as having the fishermen sign away their rights to sue BP. It was a standard safety contract. While I think all manner of evil emanates from BP, this article makes it clear that this is not one of them. Let’s pick our battles, okay?

  2. Call me naive, but it sounds like an actual error. They destroyed the contracts, didn’t they?

  3. It’s been time to boycott BP for a while now.

    I hope a fancypants lawyer comes in and shows that these people signed this under coercion/duress and makes it null and void in court later. You know, those “damn trial lawyers” that conservatives hate so much.

  4. think this has already been thrown out & BP has already released those signed (still, to have tried it was unbelievably scummy & further indication of BP ethics).

  5. Except if you RTFA, it mentions that BP is voiding all the contracts, as the waiver was boilerplate they didn’t mean to include. Seems like they are doing the right thing (possibly only as it was pointed out, but that’s unclear from the article).

    1. Ah, you’re right, I should have RTFA.

      I still wonder if BP was trying to pull a fast one and only rescinded the contract after people started flipping out and the media swooped in. You’ll have to excuse me if I don’t trust a word BP says. I’m just not that stupid.

  6. TFA says nothing about “tricking”, but merely that contracts had been signed by some illiterates. Agree with #1 on picking some battles here, this seems like a non-issue, particularly in light of the existing contracts being destroyed. More likely the fisherman who need the cash are out hundreds or thousands of dollars they could be earning fighting this thing while arcane legal machinations are sorted.

  7. Guess I’m extra dense today…reading through the Palm Beach Post’s article, I see nothing about anyone claiming to have been “tricked.” Apparently there was some confusion among some signers about their rights to sue BP after having signed the release, and BP reacted (surprisingly quickly, for BP) by….tearing them up.

    “I am sitting her[sic] right now tearing them up and putting them in the trash,” Kinnaird said. More than 400 captains had signed documents allowing BP to lease their vessels. “It was just a standard waiver, something the lawyers like. But it just caused so many problems.”

    There’s more than enough BP Fail to keep everyone busy; not sure we need to manufacture more.

  8. B.B…But I thought BP was good! They showed me commercials on the TeeVee where they are called “Beyond Petroleum” and they want to find alternative energy and stuff like that!

    (That said BP, ripped up the bad contracts, the last thing they need right now is more bad PR)

  9. Also their decision to hire local fishermen should be applauded, it’s the right thing to do (small thing compared to the size of their fuck up, but still). The disclaimer sounds like standard boilerplate that doesn’t seem to actually imply that they can’t sue BP.

  10. I saw this one coming. A lot of the articles covering this incident have bemoaned the fact that BP are being slow to hire locals for the clean-up efforts, because they all have to go through interminable health & safety checks, since they’re all third generation fishermen who’ve never been certified for anything.

    I thought “Well, they should just say ‘Hey, sign a waiver and we’re all good’.” And then I thought “…annnd wait for the inevitable ‘Oh my god BP tries to shaft locals!’ wailing as soon as BP does”.

  11. 1. I suspect this was the work of an overzealous BP attorney who thought going for the balls as the first resort was the natural reaction, without stopping first and considering the second-order effects (see, e.g., Metallica suing their own fans). Sadly, this is a common tack for those in the legal community.

    2. These clauses may not have been enforceable in the first place. Consider: BP’s negligent actions resulted in the loss of any ability of these fishermen to economically sustain themselves. The only way they can survive is by taking a job from BP which involves signing away their rights to sue BP. Not only is BP shoving a patently unjust adhesion contract down their throats, they themselves created the desperate situation which forced the fisherman’s hands. A judge might find it equitable to file the indemnity clauses in the round bin. then again, it’s LA. They have funky laws down there.

  12. “I NEVER knowingly purchase any item manufactured by bp!!!”

    Come on. You really think this couldn’t happen to any other oil rig? Its just part of the hidden cost every time you fill the tank. As we consume more oil we need to take more risks, the more risks we take the more bad things happen.

  13. I’m down here on vacation on the Florida Panhandle, which will be affected by the spill starting next week. The guy who owns the marina here told me that BP is going to pay anyone who’s livelihood is affected by the spill this year’s projected income and last year’s income. However, they are also predicting that the gulf ecosystem will be ruined for the next 20 years.

  14. I once chatted with a lawyer at a party. He claimed that waiver documents are pretty much meaningless, legally. Do you really think you can “sign away your rights?”

    No. Waivers are designed to intimidate you, pure and simple.

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