As oil flooded the Gulf of Mexico this weekend, BP representatives hired 700 boats in Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida to deploy booms to contain the oil leaking from its Deep Horizon well. Appendix 8 of that agreement was a Voluntary Waiver and Release form that waived the boat owner’s right to sue BP and required confidentiality.
Ostensibly, the waivers only covered lawsuits involved in the use of the boats in the cleanup, rather than any claims surrounding the loss of livelihood that threatens to cripple Gulf communities. But local attorneys—and some elected officials—cautioned that BP could then use those signatures to indemnify themselves from all claims.
The oil giant behind the spill is now apologizing after trying to get local fishermen to waive legal rights in exchange for $5,000. Facing a groundswell, BP backed off requiring the waivers on Monday afternoon. BP’s director of civic affairs, Liz Castro, told upset Pensacola Beach residents at a town-hall meeting that the standard waiver was mistakenly included in the claims packet.
It’s hard to take the idea of a mistake at face value. The waiver very specifically cites the Deep Horizon well, which it calls the “Mississippi Canyon 252 oil discharge incident.” The waiver even lists the date of the spill, April 20, 2010.