Environmental Law

Frustration Over Uncontained Gulf Oil Spill--and Tort Claim Contingency Fees of Up to 50 Percent

As crude oil continues gushing into the Gulf of Mexico at a record-breaking rate from an undersea BP well, frustration with the situation is building.

A little over a month after the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded and burned, killing 11 workers, it appears that a combination of factors ranging from shortcuts taken in the customary procedures for putting a temporary cap on the well to lax federal regulation may have caused the accident. Meanwhile, the well still remains uncapped despite multiple ground-breaking efforts to get the geyser of crude under control, and the U.S. government has been considering stepping in to oversee containment efforts.

This weekend, as more than 40 vessels hired by BP stood unused while oil moved onto Grand Isle, La., beaches, emergency managers from Jefferson Parish commandeered the boats and put them to work, reports WWLTV.

But as soon as the boats were made ready, BP got busy and began sending them out to keep more oil from seeping into the area, Thomas Capella, a Jefferson Parish councilman, tells the New York Times. As of yesterday, the fleet included about 50 vessels.

At a news conference at a marina yesterday, La. Gov. Bobby Jindal threatened to send state agencies to take over other equipment that he said is also sitting unused and put it to work, the newspaper reports.

Meanwhile, the April 20 spill has been something of a litigation bonanza, resulting in more than 100 suits filed to date.

“Fishermen are being asked to sign contracts with attorneys for 40 percent to 50 percent contingency fees, plus 10 percent expenses,” shrimper Lance Nacio, who owns Anna Marie Seafood in Terrebonne Parish, tells Louisiana Weekly. “I’m not jumping into anything right away.”

Nacio says he has talked with fishermen who went through the Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska decades ago, and has decided to wait and see what BP offers before deciding how to deal with potential litigation. The oil company is already making lost-income payments to fishermen, the article notes.

Additional coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “Oil Spill Blame Game: Rig Owner & Sub Point Fingers at BP, Which Points Back”

ABAJournal.com: “Avoid Chaos, Decide Now Where to Try Oil Spill Cases, Lawyer Urges Multidistrict Panel”

ABAJournal.com: “Kirkland & Ellis Is to Represent BP in Big-Ticket Oil Spill Litigation”

ABAJournal.com: “Kevin Costner & Trial Lawyer Partner Come to BP’s Aid With Oil Spill ‘Vacuum Cleaner’”

Associated Press: “Feds: Government can’t push BP aside on oil spill”

Orlando Sentinel: “Documents show BP chose a less-expensive, less-reliable method for completing well in Gulf oil spill”

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