Recent Press Releases

Washington, D.C. —  Sen. John Thune (R-SD) today introduced S. 1761, the Gulf Coast Recovery Act, to limit the liability that private contractors face as they work to clean up and rebuild those regions devastated by Hurricane Katrina.

“Just as our nation witnessed following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, contractors are playing a major role in the stabilization and clean-up of Hurricane Katrina. In the wake of a large-scale disaster like Katrina, the expertise and hard work these contractors can provide is invaluable,” Thune said. “But unfortunately, there are many contractors today who would like to help on the Gulf Coast, but are hesitant to do so for fear of becoming targets for major lawsuits—similar to those filed against post-9/11 contractors.

“The men and women working to restore 90,000 square miles of America’s Gulf Coast already face enough obstacles and challenges without the added burden of unjust lawsuits. The legislation I’m introducing today would limit the liability that contractors aiding in the Katrina relief effort face, so they can continue to assist with clean-up, repair and reconstruction in a quick and efficient manner.”

The Gulf Coast Recovery Act, introduced by Sen. Thune and co-sponsored by Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS), Sen. David Vitter (R-LA), Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), would adopt special rules of litigation that are applicable to the recovery efforts associated with Hurricane Katrina and other major disasters in the future. These new litigation rules include:
  • Clarifies the liability of contractors involved in the rescue, recovery, repair, or reconstruction of the Gulf Coast Region.
  • A federal cause of action is created so that claims are handled in federal court.

  • Private individuals are prohibited from suing contractors who have been hired by the federal government to assist in the clean-up efforts.

  • Prohibits punitive damages from being awarded.

  • Non-economic damages may only be assessed where there is physical harm.

  • Contractors would remain liable for recklessness and willful misconduct.

  • Requires contractors to adhere to all state and federal requirements concerning the environment, safety and heath.

Sen. Thune serves on the Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW), which has oversight of the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Additionally, Sen. Thune is the Subcommittee Chairman of the Superfund and Waste Management Subcommittee that has jurisdiction over the clean-up of hazardous waste.