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Oil Spill Disaster Lawsuits

The Gulf of Mexico oil rig explosion in April and the subsequent release of millions of gallons of oil into coastal waters attracted attention nationwide. BP PLC, the owner of the oil-spewing well, has requested that all environmental and economic damage claims be consolidated in Multidistrict Litigation (MDL) and heard by a Houston federal court. The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation, or JPML, will hear arguments on the request at its July 29, 2010 session in Boise, Idaho.

The lawyers of Schlichter, Bogard & Denton areexperienced in both MDL and class-action lawsuits. Our leadership in this field is shown by the appointment of our attorneys to the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committees in several MDLs.

Multidistrict Litigation

We have successfully represented clients in both categories, but while they are similar there are distinctions. MDLs consolidate pending litigation on basically identical issues in the pretrial stage under one federal judge. The goal is to quicken the fact-finding process.  Once pretrial proceedings are finished, the cases can go back to the districts where they originally were filed.

Background of the Disaster

The Deepwater Horizon drill rig exploded on April 20 and later sank. Eleven workers whose bodies were never found are presumed dead. The oil well under the drill rig ruptured in the explosion, spilling millions of gallons of oil into coastal waters. In a recent hearing before the House of Representatives, BP, Transocean and Halliburton pointed to each other for responsibility for the disaster. So far, efforts to contain the oil spill have failed.

Under federal law, BP, as the lead project operator, is responsible for all clean-up costs associated with the spill. The cap on economic damages is now set at $75 million, but Florida Senator Bill Nelson has introduced legislation that would raise the liability cap to $10 billion and would apply it retroactively to BP.

“You are talking about massive economic loss to our tourism, our beaches, to our fisheries, very possibly disruption of our military testing and training,” Nelson said.

Who Is Affected by the BP Oil Disaster?

So far, roughly 100 suits have been filed against BP and other involved parties. Many of these lawsuits are class-action. The affected individuals may include:

  • Commercial fishermen
  • Shrimpers
  • Seafood processors
  • Charter fishing boats and other tourism-related businesses
  • Property owners
  • The families of the 11 workers presumed dead
  • Restaurant or wholesale seafood distributors
  • Business associations
  • Resort owners

Nobody can say yet how extensive the impact of this catastrophe will be. To date, coastal waters off Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi have been closed.

After the Exxon Valdez tanker accident of 1989, it took nearly 20 years for all Alaskan fishing boat operators, property owners, and others to be paid. A jury awarded victims $5 billion in punitive damages in 1994, but Exxon appealed. Fourteen years later, the U.S. Supreme Court cut those damages to $508 million.

Whatever the ultimate cost to man and nature, those people affected by the loss of livelihood or by property damage deserve to have the strongest advocates they can find.

We urge you to contact the experienced class-action attorneys of Schlichter, Bogard & Denton for a free, no-obligation consultation if you believe you have suffered economic loss or physical harm from this disaster.

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