Fishermen win first legal battle against BP


The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana was opened this afternoon by Judge Ginger Berrigan to receive petition of Louisiana commercial fishermen to nullify and strike the offensive language in the British Petroleum volunteer fisherman charter contract, said Attorney Stuart Smith.

Attached is a copy of the Master Charter Agreements which British Petroleum was asking fisherman to sign.

District Judge Berrigan, after hearing from counsel for the fisherman and BP, indicated the language in question in the MCA was overbroad. Legal counsel for BP agreed to enter into a stipulated judgment holding that the offensive provisions are without effect.

“This is an amazing example of how well our civil justice system works for the hard-working people of America, such as Louisiana fisherman who most need it right now,” said Attorney Smith.

Commercial fisherman George Barisich stepped forward asking for emergency relief from the federal court to stop British Petroleum from forcing the volunteer corps of oil-spill responders to enter into which seriously compromised the existing and future rights and potential legal claims of these volunteers, said Mr. Smith.

Attorney Smith said especially egregious provisions within the Agreement were:

–          BP, which is mandated to take 100 percent responsibility for the oil clean-up, is demanding that the volunteers IMDEMNIFY IT for any accidents that might occur from the volunteers’ efforts (Art. 13(F));

–          BP demands that the volunteers WAIVE their First Amendment  constitutional free speech rights about the volunteer’s participation in the clean-up efforts of the disaster; for example, if a commercial fisherman signed this agreement he or she could not then speak to anyone about the disaster or clean-up efforts until BP first “approves” of what the volunteer wants to say (Art. 22);

–          BP demands a FREE-RIDE on the volunteers’ insurance policies so that if there is damage to a volunteer’s vessel or other injuries, such as to a crew member, BP will be an “additional insured” and the financial responsibility for the damage will rest on the volunteer’s insurance carrier, NOT BP; quite obviously, the volunteers paid good money for this insurance and BP should not be allowed after-the-fact to worm their way into that contract so that it can attempt to avoid further legal responsibility for the very volunteers it is asking for aid and assistance; (Art. 13(A)); and

–          BP demands 30 days of notice before any volunteer is allowed to pursue legal claims against BP, and there are no exceptions made for emergencies (Art. 13(I) [sic (G]).

Contacts for legal representatives:

Smith Stag, LLC


Address: 365 Canal Street, Suite 2850, New Orleans, LA 70130

Phone: (504)-593-9600

Persons Involved:

Stuart H. Smith         Cell: (786) 879-9601


Sher Garner Cahill Richter Klein & Hilbert, L.L.C.

909 Poydras Street, 28th Floor

New Orleans, Louisiana  70112-1033

Telephone:    (504) 299-2100

Facsimile:      (504) 299-2300

Jones, Swanson, Huddell & Garrison, LLC


Address: Pan-American Life Center
601 Poydras Street, Suite 2655
New Orleans, Louisiana 70130

Phone: (504) 523-2500

Persons Involved:

Gladstone Jones      Cell: (504) 616-6333

Liska, Exnicios & Nungesser

Address: 365 Canal Street, Suite 2290, New Orleans, LA 70130

Phone:  (504) 410-9611

Person Involved:

Val Exnicios              Cell: (504) 495-9666

George Barisich

Position: President of the United Commercial Fisherman’s


Phone: (504) 460-1468

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
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