Wednesday, June 16, 2010

BP, the Gulf Oil Spill and Spatial Law

The Gulf oil spill is having an impact on a number of matters related to spatial law.

First, the incident itself shows the potential consequences if you push a technology - any technology - too far. It is important for the industry to keep in mind that spatial technology has tremendous potential - but it is not immune to errors, omission and/or human fallibility.

Second, spatial data is playing an important role in monitoring both the extent of the oil leak and its growing impact on the region. In fact, if the premise behind this report is true, it indicates just how valuable spatial data people consider spatial data to be in this matter. (FYI, I am still trying to figure out what actually happened).

Third, and perhaps most important, is the role spatial data will play in the litigation that will inevitably follow. Lawyers have been slow to introduce spatial technology in the court room. However, I predict that spatial data will play a critical role in Gulf oil spill litigation. One reason is simply that the nature of many of the claims and defenses will have a strong temporal-spatial component. A second reason is that the stakes are so high that that no expense will be spared to win a case. Finally, spatial technology has reached a tipping point in our society. As a result, lawyers, perhaps for the first time, will feel confident that judges and jurors will be able to understand what the spatial data is meant to portray. In fact, I believe that lawyers who understand the potential and the limits of spatial data in this context will have an upper hand.

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