An expensive causal chain . . . (UPDATED)

broken-chainAfter an underwater tether chain broke, expensive oil production equipment sank to the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, and Petrobras America sued the chain manufacturer for over $400 million.  The key issue was whether admiralty law applied – creating a serious problem for Petrobras under the economic loss doctrine – or whether Louisiana law applied by operation of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act.  The Fifth Circuit found that the OCLSA applied, that its choice-of-law provisions were not waivable, and that Louisiana law controlled: “Here, expressed in general terms, a component failed on an underwater structure . . . and caused the structure to fall into the sea floor.  Such an incident does not have the potential to disrupt maritime commercial or navigational activities on or in the Gulf of Mexico.” Petrobras America, Inc. v. Vicinay Cadenas, S.A., No. 14-20589 (March 7, 2016). (A later supplement clarified the limted scope of the waiver holding.)

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