Death at Sea: A Sad Tale of Disaster, Injustice, and Unnecessary Risk

Author:Thomas C. Galligan, Jr.
Position::President and Professor of Humanities, Colby-Sawyer College
Death at Sea: A Sad Tale of Disaster, Injustice, and
Unnecessary Risk
Thomas C. Galligan, Jr.
I have written or co-written many articles for publication in law
reviews. Some of them have been traditional legal scholarship (law
review articles), and some have taken alternative forms, such as
dialogues and remembrances. This Article will essentially be
traditional legal scholarship; it will present several maritime law
issues that impact the rights of the people affected by the
Deepwater Horizon disaster. In the style of the traditional law
review article it will explain the applicable legal rules, trace them
to a respectable extent, and argue for their repeal or amendment,
based on justice, history, contemporary views, and consistency (the
idea that sufficiently similar people in sufficiently similar
situations should be treated the same). Thus, for the reader, this
will be a traditional law review article. But, in the interests of
honesty and transparency, I provide this Preface to give the reader
some additional personal context. Thus, you may view it as full
disclosure. It is that, in part; but it is also my effort to memorialize
my experiences and to present my views and arguments against the
backdrop in which they were honed and initially expressed vis-à-
vis the Deepwater Horizon disaster.
While teaching torts (and other courses) at Louisiana State
University (LSU) Law Center during the very late 1980s through
I was also a consultant with the Louisiana Trial Lawyers‘
Association (LTLA), now the Louisiana Association of Justice
(LAJ). Working with that organization, I consulted and testified on
various legislative proposals relating to tort law. I also wrote a
column in the LTLA newsletter and wrote case summaries of
Cop yright 2011, by THOMAS C. GALLIGAN, JR.
P resident and Professor of Humanities, Colby-Sawyer College. I am
grateful to Professor David Robertson, who reviewed an early draft of the
written statement submitted to the House Judiciar y C ommittee, on which
subsequent state ments and this Article are based, and who made many helpful
and insightful comments. I am also in debt to my son, Patrick Galligan, who
read, edited, and commented on many drafts of the various statements.
. I taught at the Paul M. Hebert Law Center at LSU from 19861998. I
worked with the LTLA from 19881996. In 1996, I was appointed Executive
Director of the Louisiana Judicial College, at which point I stopped co nsulting
with the LTLA.
Louisiana appellate court
tort decisions. During that period and
thereafter, I have been fortunate to speak on tort issues at LTLA
and LAJ seminars.
But it was during that time, while giving a
speech on Louisiana tort law
to an LTLA audience in (as I recall)
Lafayette, that a lawyer asked me a question that was becoming
increasingly common: ―Will that be or is that the law in
admiralty?‖ The question arose from the basic fact that many
Louisiana tort lawyers have significant maritime personal injury
practices and from the reality that admiralty law can be an
amalgam of federal and state substantive law thanks to the
maritime but local doctrine.
But I could not answer the
question, because I was not then an expert in maritime law.
Frustrated by my ignorance, I sought advice from my always-
reliable friend and mentor, Frank Maraist, who, coincidentally,
taught admiralty at LSU and was (and remains) one of the nation‘s
and State of Louisiana‘s foremost admiralty experts. Frank told me
that the best solution was for me to teach admiralty because
teaching it meant that I would have to learn it; thereafter, I would
be able to answer the ―is that the law in admiralty‖ question. Or at
least I would be able to make an educated law professor guess.
When I protested that Frank taught admiralty, he told me that he
would step aside for one year for me to teach the course. He also
said that if I enjoyed teaching admiralty, as he promised I would,
we would alternate years or find some other appropriate solution.
Naturally, Frank was right. I loved admiralty––a love that led,
with Frank‘s generosity, to co-authorships with Frank on books
and articles and opportunities to speak and write alone and with
others as well. That love has continued through the years; it went
with me to the University of Tennessee and then came with me to
Colby-Sawyer College in New London, New Hampshire. Over the
years that love has been the reason I have continued to write and
speak about maritime matters to lawyers and judges.
When the Deepwater Horizon exploded on April 20, 2010, I
followed with great concern and interest because of my connection
to Louisiana and my connection to maritime law. My involvement
. Of course, I also included relevant U. S. Fifth Circuit decisions and U.S.
Supreme Court decisions affecting Louisiana tort law.
. I have also spoken at seminars in Louisiana sponsored by other
organizations including the Louisiana Association of Defense Counsel, the
Louisiana Judicial College (of which I was Executive Director from 1996
1998), and the Louisiana State Bar Association.
. T he precise topic involved the recently passed Louisiana Product
Liability Act, LA. REV. STAT. ANN. §§ 9:2800.51.60 (2009).

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