The bill was supposed to be in response to the Gulf Oil Spill. However, we cautioned that some of its provisions were not limited to the subject matter of oil spills. For example, Section 5 of the bill as introduced, proposed to amend the Class Action Fairness Act to exclude from its reach any action brought by a State or subdivision of a State on behalf of its citizens. Such a provision could have significant effect on CAFA, far beyond the oil spill litigation. For example, it might impact cases like State ex rel. McGraw v. Comcast Corp., 2010 WL 1257639 (E.D. Pa. Mar. 31, 2010).
The version passed by the House apparently does not contain this provision. It was passed on motion to suspend the rules and pass the bill, as amended, and agreed to by voice vote. Republicans and industry groups had expressed some concerns, and since many of the provision purport to be retroactive, wondered what the rush was. Supporters argued that some of the prevailing laws were written in the mid-19th century to protect American merchant ship owners, and that the liability system needs to be updated.
As amended, Section 2 amends the Death on the High Seas Act (chapter 303 of title 46, United States Code), Section 3 alters recoveries under the Jones Act; Section 4 would repeal the Limitation of Liability Act and the Oil Pollution Act; and Section 5 would provide new bankruptcy protection for tort claims arising from oil incidents.