Trials & Litigation

Potential Gulf Coast Oil Spill Litigation Has Lawyers in Frenzy


Internet domain names such as bigoilspills.com and highway billboards that read “Oil spill hurt your business?” have cropped up as lawyers rush to expand the size and scope of lawsuits arising from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill as it spreads along the Gulf Coast.

Last week, some lawyers hosted a symposium to trade tips on how to most effectively sue big oil companies, while others sent representatives to Key West, Fla., to sign up clients even though oil has yet to wash ashore there, reports the Wall Street Journal.

Litigants include families of employees killed in the April 20 rig explosion, many of the 115 survivors, and rescuers who plucked people from the burning waters, according to the paper. Shrimpers, oystermen and fishermen, seafood processing plants, deep-sea fishing operations and businesses and municipalities that rely on tourism have also filed claims for economic damage.

Environmental groups and oil industry employees out of work because of a six-month moratorium on deep-water drilling are expected to make legal claims as well.

The opening of criminal and civil investigations by the government will likely fuel efforts by plaintiffs’ attorneys, adds the WSJ.

Some experts predict the Deepwater Horizon litigation is likely to mimic cases stemming from the Exxon Valdez spill – which took about 20 years to resolve. Others say BP’s damages could far exceed the $1 billion paid by Exxon to settle the case, as the Deepwater Horizon spill spans several states and it could be years before the full effects of the spill on the Gulf are known.

One thing is certain as the flurry of suits escalates. “Time is the enemy of the pursuit of deterrents, compensation and justice,” said Elizabeth Cabraser, who represented plaintiffs in the Exxon Valdez spill – some who died before their case was resolved. “All haste must be made.”

Also see:

New York Times: “Cleanup Costs and Lawsuits Rattle BP’s Investors”

Clarion Ledger: “Flow of oil spill litigation gushing faster than BP’s oil”

Bloomberg: “Judges Quit BP Gulf Oil-Spill Suits Over Conflicts of Interest”

USA Today: “Gulf oil leak sets off ‘unbelievable array’ of legal issues”

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