News from Gulf Oil Disaster Recovery


This Sunday afternoon in New Orleans, Louisiana, commercial fisherman George Barisich stepped forward asking for emergency relief from a federal court to stop British Petroleum, plc (“BP”) from forcing the volunteer corps of oil-spill responders to enter into onerous and one-sided  “Master Charter Agreements” (“MCA”) which will seriously compromise the existing and future rights and potential legal claims of these volunteers.

Attached is a copy of the MCA drafted by BP’s lawyers.

Barisich is President of the United Commercial Fisherman’s Association, Inc.  Attached is a copy of Barisich’s petition for a Temporary Restraining order.

“To be clear, the very people whose livelihood and culture have been put at great risk of destruction, such as Barisich and the men and women he represents, are being dictated to by BP on the terms by which they will be ‘allowed’ to volunteer to protect the fishing grounds and oyster beds of Louisiana,” said Stuart Smith, attorney, Smith Stag LLC of New Orleans. “That BP would attempt to force this one-sided and egregious Agreement on volunteers in the midst of this environmental disaster shocks the conscience.”

Attorney Smith said especially egregious provisions within the Agreement are:

–          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]).

Barisich’s petition was presented this afternoon to a Judge for the Eastern District of Louisiana, as well as to counsel for BP.



J. OLDHAM (OUTSIDE LOUISIANA/ NATIONAL PRESS) 703-519-1283 (w) 571-296-7747 (c)  or  703 371 7143 (c)

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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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