0370 270 6000

The BP oil spill and retrospective legislation

28 May 2010

Efforts are continuing to contain the oil spill taking place in the Gulf of Mexico. Existing US law makes the parties responsible for an oil spill liable for clean-up costs, but limits to $75 million their exposure to other liabilities. But there is a move in Congress to raise that limit to $10 billion with the intention of applying this law retrospectively to BP.

Laws with retrospective effect are a classic example of a human rights abuse. Equally in a business situation, those seeking and providing insurance should be able to ascertain the costs risk arising. But in some cases the US Supreme Court has upheld such laws as constitutional. One rationale is that such laws are “regulatory” in nature rather than “punitive”. A similar trend for regulatory enforcement has developed in the UK recently with use of “non-criminal” sanctions, such as civil enforcement orders and penalties, which allow for the burden of proof to be lowered due to the “civil” nature of the enforcement.

So does  the US attempt to pass retrospective legislation amount to an abuse of Human Rights – or good economic sense?

Related opinions

80% hours for 100% pay? That’ll do nicely

As has been widely reported this week, some 3,000 UK workers are taking part in a six month trial to assess the viability of a four-day working week without any reduction in their normal pay.

View blog

Building Safety Bill receives Royal Assent

The new regime introduced by the Act will take shape over the next 18 months, but those who design, build or manage high rise buildings are being urged to get ready for the changes to be introduced through the act.

View blog

Building Safety Bill amendments

In March the government proposed a number of changes to the Building Safety Bill. The new amendments propose additional protection for leaseholders to prevent them from being charged for cladding work if they own up to three properties.

View blog

HSE Campaign Targets Construction Industry in Birmingham

The HSE has announced a campaign targeting health and safety in the construction industry in Birmingham. The Campaign is in response to a significant increase in development across the city, partly as a result of preparations for the 2022 Commonwealth Games.

View blog

Mailing list sign up

Select which mailings you would like to receive from us.

Sign up