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Colby-Sawyer College President Tom Galligan Testifies Before U.S. House Judiciary Committee on Legal Issues of Gulf Oil Spill

NEW LONDON, N.H. - Colby-Sawyer College President Tom Galligan, an expert in maritime law, testified before the U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary on May 27 about the complex legal issues arising from the Gulf Coast oil spill.

The House Judiciary Committee, chaired by U.S. Representative John Conyers Jr. (D-MI), invited President Galligan to speak to the legal liability statutes of maritime law, a distinct body of law that applies to domestic and international maritime activities, including the spill caused by the explosion of BP's Deepwater Horizon drilling rig.

President Galligan has spoken extensively, published numerous books and articles, and taught classes on maritime law. His scholarship on the subject has been cited by the U.S. Supreme Court and federal and state appellate and trial courts, as well as by legal scholars.

“This is clearly a national disaster and tragedy, and Congress would like to gain a better understanding of the applicable laws and whether there is a need to consider amending existing statutes," President Galligan said.

At the hearing, President Galligan addressed the availability of punitive damages in maritime disasters, the availability of damages for economic loss under maritime tort law, and the potential applicability of the maritime doctrine of limitation of liability to these events. He will also point out that the relationship between maritime law and the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, created in response to the Exxon Valdez oil spill, could lead to inconsistent and even unjust results when applied to the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

"The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the ensuing disastrous consequences have forced our nation to consider its various damage recovery regimes for injuries and deaths arising from maritime and environmental catastrophes," President Galligan said.

The hearing also included testimony from the father of a worker killed in the explosion, a worker who survived, and general counsels and executives from BP, Haliburton and other corporations involved in the oil drilling operation. Other witnesses will include the president of the Louisiana Oysters Association, the attorney general of Mississippi and the major of New Orleans, among others.

President Galligan joined Colby-Sawyer College as its eighth president in 2006 and previously served as the dean of the University of Tennessee College of Law from 1998 to 2006, where he also taught classes in torts and admiralty. His co-authored scholarship with Professor Frank L. Maraist has been honored by the Louisiana Bar Journal and the Tulane Law Review.

Currently President Galligan serves as co-chair of the New Hampshire Supreme Court Society Civics Education Task Force and is a commissioner for the New Hampshire Post-Secondary Education Commission. He holds an A.B. from Stanford University, a J.D. from the University of Puget Sound (now Seattle University) School of Law and an L.L.M. from the Columbia University Law School.

Colby-Sawyer College is a comprehensive college that integrates the liberal arts and sciences with professional preparation. Founded in 1837, Colby-Sawyer is located in the scenic Lake Sunapee Region of central New Hampshire. Learn more about the college's vibrant teaching and learning community at