Nightly News   |  August 02, 2010

Deepwater Horizon widows seek justice

The grief of some families is being compounded by a battle over whether they are being fairly compensated, simply because the crewmen did their work at sea. NBC’s Lisa Myers reports.

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BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: When the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig blew up three and a half months ago now, 11 crewmen were killed, and for some of their families grief has been compounded by a battle over whether they are being fairly compensated, simply because the men did their work at sea. Our senior investigative correspondent Lisa Myers has our report.

LISA MYERS reporting: Since their husbands were killed aboard the Deepwater Horizon , Shelley Anderson and Courtney Kemp have come to Washington five times to plead with politicians...

Ms. COURTNEY KEMP (Husband Killed on Deepwater Horizon): And help us pass this bill. Thank you.

MYERS: ...to change and archaic law that severely limits what families can recover from BP and other companies. Because the workers died on the water on an offshore rig a 90-year-old maritime law says families are entitled to recover only lost future wages minus taxes minus the worker's personal expenses. That's far less than families could otherwise receive.

Ms. SHELLEY ANDERSON (Husband Killed on Deepwater Horizon): I don't think that it's fair. It's saying that Jason is not worth what somebody else would be worth if they had died in the air or if they had died on land.

MYERS: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi promised the families she'd help, and the House quickly passed a bill to change the law retroactively.

Unidentified Woman: The bill is passed.

MYERS: But that's now stuck in the Senate , tangled in a long-standing battle between trial lawyers who want to broaden potential litigation at sea and maritime interests like cruise ship operators, which oppose changes beyond what's needed for Deepwater Horizon families. Another hurdle, the family's bill was also recently bundled into a politically charged and largely unrelated energy package. Politics as usual for Washington , but wrenching to these women.

Ms. ANDERSON: Heart crushing. It feels heart crushing to be -- to just come to a halt and to feel like nobody wants us to move forward.

Ms. KEMP: We don't care if you're a Democrat. We don't care if you're a Republican. We need you to do the right thing and to help us get justice for our husbands.

MYERS: Their message to the Senate : Please stop the politics and just vote. Lisa Myers , NBC News, Houston.