Jason Itkin & Kurt Arnold represented nearly a third of the entire crew of the Deepwater Horizon. They discuss what the process was like for their clients.
Deepwater Horizon was the largest, deadliest oil spill and explosion in our country’s history.
It was one of the most challenging cases that Kurt and I ever took on.
Literally, when they got off the boat from the Deepwater Horizon, before they could go to their family, they pulled them into a hall and tried to get them to sign a release. The company, Transocean, that was supposed to be “taking care of them,” was trying to get these guys and girls who had not slept in nearly two days to sign releases before they could see their loved ones. That’s to give you an idea of the mindset of the companies.
Those crewmembers became our friends. They became like our family. We sat down with them, whether in their office or in their house, and heard what had happened to them and what they had been through.
They said, “Well, I’ve been with the company 10 years. They’re going to take care of me.” So I said, “That’s fine. Here’s my card. Here’s my cellphone. Just call me when they don’t.” So, sure enough, Transocean, after telling everybody in the media that they were going to take care of their employees, six months after the explosion, sends them all a letter saying “We’re going to pay you $60,000 and you’re going to release BP, Transocean, Haliburton, and everybody—or else you’re fired.” I got a lot of phone calls that day.
It was extremely gratifying to take our clients where they were extremely injured and denied care—their world was upside down—and to get them all straight. Then to go back to the companies and go, no, this is what you’re going to do. This is what you’re going to pay. You’re going to pay all of their medical bills. You’re going to pay all of their future wages. They can’t go back to work offshore. We’re going to set aside enough money to ensure that all of these families are taken care of for the rest of their lives.
Winning that case was a giant achievement but putting aside all of the records we broke on that case, the most important thing was that we helped our friends. They were our clients, but they were also our friends. We helped them get their lives back on track.