(a) A responsible party, as defined in Section 8670.3, shall be absolutely liable without regard to fault for any damages incurred by any injured person that arise out of, or are caused by, a spill.
(b) A responsible party is not liable to an injured person 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, that 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 person.
(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 that arise out of, or are caused by, a discharge that is authorized by a state or federal permit.
(c) The defenses provided in subdivision (b) shall not be available to a responsible party who fails to comply with Sections 8670.25, 8670.25.5, 8670.27, and 8670.62.
(d) Upon motion and sufficient showing by a party deemed to be a responsible party under this section, the court shall join to the action any other party who may be a responsible party under this section.
(e) In determining whether a party is a responsible party under this section, the court shall consider the results of 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 that caused the damage to the injured party. The defendant shall have the burden of producing the results of tests of samples of the substance that 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 a party, any other party shall provide samples of oil or other substances within its possession or control for testing.
(f) The court may award reasonable costs of the suit, attorneys’ fees, and the costs of necessary expert witnesses to a prevailing plaintiff. The court may award reasonable costs of the suit and attorneys’ fees to a prevailing defendant if the court finds that the plaintiff commenced or prosecuted the suit pursuant to this section in bad faith or solely for purposes of harassing the defendant.
(g) This section does not prohibit a person from bringing an action for damages caused by oil 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 person for loss or injury for which the person is or has been awarded damages under any other provision or principle of law. Subdivision (b) does not create a defense not otherwise available regarding an action brought under any other provision or principle of law, including, but not limited to, common law.
(h) Damages for which responsible parties are liable under this section include the following:
(1) All costs of response, containment, cleanup, removal, and treatment, including, but not limited to, monitoring and administration costs incurred pursuant to the California oil spill contingency plan or actions taken pursuant to directions by the administrator.
(2) Injury to, or economic losses resulting from destruction of or injury to, real or personal property, which shall be recoverable by any claimant who has an ownership or leasehold interest in property.
(3) Injury to, destruction of or loss of, natural resources, including, but not limited to, the reasonable costs of rehabilitating wildlife, habitat, and other resources and the reasonable costs of assessing that injury, destruction, or loss, in an action brought by the state, a county, city, or district. Damages for the loss of natural resources may be determined by any reasonable method, including, but not limited to, determination according to the costs of restoring the lost resource.
(4) Loss of subsistence use of natural resources, which shall be recoverable by a claimant who so uses natural resources that have been injured, destroyed, or lost.
(5) Loss of taxes, royalties, rents, or net profit shares caused by the injury, destruction, loss, or impairment of use of real property, personal property, or natural resources.
(6) Loss of profits or impairment of earning capacity due to the injury, destruction, or loss of real property, personal property, or natural resources, which shall be recoverable by any claimant who derives at least 25 percent of his or her earnings from the activities that utilize the property or natural resources, or, if those activities are seasonal in nature, 25 percent of his or her earnings during the applicable season.
(7) Loss of use and enjoyment of natural resources, public beaches, and other public resources or facilities, in an action brought by the state, a county, city, or district.
(i) Except as provided in Section 1431.2 of the Civil Code, 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 a person.
(j) This section does not apply to claims for damages for personal injury or wrongful death, and does not limit the right of a person to bring an action for personal injury or wrongful death pursuant to any provision or principle of law.
(k) Payments made by a responsible party to cover liabilities arising from a discharge of oil, whether under this division or any other provision of federal, state, or local law, shall not be charged against royalties, rents, or net profits owed to the United States, the state, or any other public entity.
(l) An action that a private or public individual or entity may have against a responsible party under this section may be brought directly by the individual or entity or by the state on behalf of the individual or entity. However, the state shall not pursue an action on behalf of a private individual or entity that requests the state not to pursue that action.
(m) For purposes of this section, “vessels” means vessels as defined in Section 21 of the Harbors and Navigation Code.
(Amended by Stats. 2016, Ch. 209, Sec. 9. (AB 2912) Effective January 1, 2017.)
Last modified: October 25, 2018