Section 294. (Amended by Stats. 1994, Ch. 1010, Sec. 148.)
Cite as: Cal. Harb. & Nav. Code §294.
(a)Any person responsible for natural gas, oil, drilling waste, or exploration, as defined in paragraph (4) of subdivision (g), shall be absolutely liable without regard to fault for any damages incurred by any injured party which arise out of, or are caused by, the discharge or leaking of natural gas, oil, or drilling waste into or onto marine waters, or by any exploration in or upon marine waters, from any of the following sources:
(1)Any offshore well or undersea site at which there is exploration for or extraction or recovery of natural gas or oil.
(2)Any offshore facility, oil rig, or oil platform at which there is exploration for, or extraction, recovery, processing, or storage of, natural gas or oil.
(3)Any vessel offshore in which natural gas, oil, or drilling waste is transported, processed, or stored.
(4)Any pipeline located offshore in which natural gas, oil, or drilling waste is transported.
(b)A responsible person is not liable to an injured party under this section for any of the following:
(1)Damages, other than costs of removal incurred by the state or a local government, caused solely by any act of war, hostilities, civil war, or insurrection or by an unanticipated grave natural disaster or other act of God of an exceptional, inevitable, and irresistible character, which could not have been prevented or avoided by the exercise of due care or foresight.
(2)Damages caused solely by the negligence or intentional malfeasance of that injured party.
(3)Damages caused solely by the criminal act of a third party other than the defendant or an agent or employee of the defendant.
(4)Natural seepage not caused by a responsible party.
(5)Discharge or leaking of oil or natural gas from a private pleasure boat or vessel.
(6)Damages which arise out of, or are caused by, a discharge which is authorized by a state or federal permit.
(c)Upon motion and sufficient showing by a person deemed to be responsible under this section, the court shall join to the action any other person who may be responsible under this section.
(d)In determining whether a party is a responsible person under this section, the court shall consider the results of any chemical or other scientific tests conducted to determine whether oil or other substances produced, discharged, or controlled by the defendant matches the oil or other substance which caused the damage to the injured party. The defendant shall have the burden of producing the results of tests of samples of the substance which caused the injury and of substances for which the defendant is responsible, unless it is not possible to conduct the tests because of unavailability of samples to test or because the substance is not one for which reliable tests have been developed. At the request of any party, any other party shall provide samples of oil or other substances within its possession or control for testing.
(e)The court may award reasonable costs of the suit, attorneys’ fees, and the costs of any necessary expert witnesses, to any prevailing plaintiff. The court may award reasonable costs of the suit and attorneys’ fees to any prevailing defendant if the court finds that the plaintiff commenced or prosecuted the suit under this section in bad faith or solely for purposes of harassing the defendant.
(f)This section does not prohibit any person from bringing an action for damages caused by natural gas, oil, or drilling waste, or by exploration, under any other provision or principle of law, including, but not limited to, common law. However, damages shall not be awarded pursuant to this section to an injured party for any loss or injury for which the party is or has been awarded damages under any other provision or principle of law. Subdivision (b) does not create any defense not otherwise available regarding any action brought under any other provision or principle of law, including, but not limited to, common law.
(g)As used in this section, the following definitions apply:
(1)“Damages” are damages for any of the following:
(A)Injury or harm to real or personal property.
(B)Business loss, including loss of income.
(C)Costs of cleanup, removal, or treatment of natural gas, oil, or drilling waste.
(D)Cost of wildlife rehabilitation.
(E)When the injured party is the state, or a city, county, or district, in addition to any injury described in subparagraphs (A) to (D), inclusive, damages include all of the following:
(i)Injury to natural resources or wildlife, and loss of use and enjoyment of public beaches and other public resources or facilities, within the jurisdiction of the state, city, county, or district.
(ii)Costs incurred to monitor the cleanup of the natural gas, oil, or drilling waste.
(iii)Loss of taxes.
(iv)Costs to assess damages to natural resources, wildlife, or habitat.
(2)“Injured party” means any person who suffers damages from natural gas, oil, or drilling waste, which is discharged or leaks into marine waters, or from offshore exploration. The state, or a city, county, or district, may be an injured party.
(3)“Natural gas” includes natural gas, liquified natural gas, and natural gas byproducts. “Natural gas” does not include natural gas carried in a vessel for use as fuel in that vessel.
(4)“Exploration” means boring and soil sampling.
(5)“Oil” and “drilling wastes” include, but are not limited to, petroleum, refined or processed petroleum, petroleum byproducts, oil sludge, oil refuse, oil mixed with wastes, and chemicals or other materials used in the exploration, recovery, or processing of oil. “Oil” does not include oil carried in a vessel for use as fuel in that vessel.
(6)“Person” means an individual, proprietorship, firm, partnership, joint venture, corporation, limited liability company, or other business entity, or an association or other organization.
(7)“Responsible person” means any of the following:
(A)The owner or transporter of natural gas, oil, or drilling waste which causes an injury covered by this section.
(B)The owner, operator, or lessee of, or person who charters by demise, any offshore well, undersea site, facility, oil rig, oil platform, vessel, or pipeline which is the source of natural gas, oil, drilling waste, or is the source or location of exploration which causes an injury covered by this section.
“Responsible party” does not include the United States, the state, or any public agency.
(h)Liability under this section shall be joint and several. However, this section does not bar a cause of action that a responsible party has or would have, by reason of subrogation or otherwise, against any person.
(i)Section 3291 of the Civil Code applies to actions brought under this section.
(j)This section does not apply to claims for damages for personal injury or wrongful death, and does not limit the right of any person to bring an action for personal injury or wrongful death under any provision or theory of law.