Lawyers representing boat owners who participated in BP’s Vessels of Opportunity (VOO) program filed a motion on Sept. 15 that, if granted, would keep VOO cases out of federal court and effectively send them back to state circuit courts. Currently, more than 200 boat owners who offered their vessels for the Gulf of Mexico oil spill clean-up efforts via the VOO program have filed lawsuits accusing BP of failure to pay boat owners for down time and failure to decontaminate their vessels, among other complaints. While other cases relating to the oil spill have been grouped into the multidistrict litigation scheduled to begin early next year in a New Orleans federal court, attorneys representing VOO participants have argued that the VOO lawsuits are significantly different from the claims that are part of the federal lawsuit. The key disparity is that the VOO lawsuits focus on BP’s contractual obligations, not liability related to the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion and subsequent oil spill. The VOO program employed more than 3,000 otherwise out-of-work boat operators in the Gulf states. Vessels of Opportunity participants agreed to be available to BP 24 hours a day, and BP was to be responsible for decontaminating vessels, providing protective gear, and paying for related damages and operating expenses. “Once implemented, the VOO program was marred by mismanagement, corruption and broken promises,” according to one recently filed VOO lawsuit. If you were not adequately paid for your participation in BP’s VOO program, please contact the Mobile, Alabama, maritime attorneys at Long & Long for a free case evaluation.

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