Transocean Ltd., the owner and operator of the oil rig leased to BP Plc which exploded last month and killed 11 men, has asked a U.S. judge to limit its liability to $26.7 million.
The request, filed today in Houston federal court under a 150-year-old law originally designed for the shipping industry, applies to all litigation the company faces over the explosion and spill.
“I think there are more than 100 cases now,’’ Guy Cantwell, Transocean’s spokesman, said in a telephone interview.
Transocean and co-owners of the Deepwater Horizon, which now lies wrecked a mile deep in the Gulf of Mexico, say the state-of-the-art drilling rig has zero present value and had accrued $26.7 million in unpaid drilling rental fees.
The company also asked for all litigation against the rig owners to be consolidated before one federal judge in Houston, where Transocean’s U.S. operations are based. Vernier, Switzerland-based Transocean said it would create a court- administered fund, equal to the amount of the unpaid drilling fees, from which all claims against the company could be paid on a pro-rata basis.
Lawyers for victims of the rig disaster and spill said that while Transocean’s move to limit its liability probably wouldn’t succeed, it could cause the oil spill litigation to be consolidated into a single multidistrict proceeding in Houston federal court, as BP has also requested.