US Deepwater Horizon explosion & oil spill lawsuits - Livelihood

Lawsuits over loss of livelihoods related to US Deepwater Horizon disaster

An emblematic case

On 28 July 2010, a complaint was filed in US District Court in Louisiana against BP, Anadarko, MOEX, Transocean, Halliburton, Cameron and other companies.  Plaintiffs are commercial shrimpers, crabbers, captains and owners of commercial vessels, restaurant and deli owners and employees, crab meat processing plant employees, seafood wholesalers and retailers and nail salon owners who earn their livelihood from Gulf waters or the tourist industry in the region.  The complaint alleges that the oil spill has and potentially will have severe impacts on fisheries, tourism and tourism-related business in the Gulf area.  It alleges that the defendant companies were aware of the risks connected to offshore drilling from a floating rig, as opposed to a permanent rig; the high blow-out risks attached to the type of cementing used; and the increased risks when drilling at the depth of this well.  The plaintiffs further allege that the defendant comapnies were not using back-up measures and equipment available to reduce such risks and used on other deepwater oil rigs.  The plaintiffs argue that this is part of a record at BP of poor safety.

The complaint alleges negligence of the defendant companies in relation to the explosion, the sinking of the rig and the resulting oil spill.  It further alleges product liability for defective, malfunctioning or improperly designed or improperly used equipment and materials, including the rig itself, the well and its casings, seals and cementing, and the blowout preventer.  It argues that the defendants are jointly liable for the plaintiffs’ damages arising from the closure of Gulf waters including loss of wages.  The plaintiffs seek economic and compensatory damages, as well as punitive damages.  The case has been transferred to the federal Multidistrict Litigation consolidated proceedings.

Proceedings on loss of livelihoods following consolidation

On 15 December 2010, a master complaint regarding private economic loss claims following the Deepwater Horizon blowout, explosion and subsequent oil spill was filed in the U.S. federal court in New Orleans.  Aside from claims of negligence, many plaintiffs filed claims of economic loss under the Oil Pollution Act (OPA) of 1990.  Between February and May 2011, BP and Transocean have sought to dismiss all OPA claims, alleging that the plaintiffs failed to follow the terms of the OPA, in that they should have filed their claims through the Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF) before filing a suit against BP and the other companies.

On 3 Mar 2012, BP announced an out of court settlement with the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee.  BP is to pay $7.8 billion to settle private plaintiffs’ claims for economic loss, property damage & injuries.

- "BP Reaches Estimated $7.8 Billion Deal With Spill Victims", Jef Feeley, Bloomberg, 5 Mar 2012
- "BP Rejects Claims for Drill-Ban Losses, Cleanup-Boat Damages", Laurel Brubaker Calkins, Margaret Cronin Fisk, Bloomberg, 10 May 2011
- "BP Sued by Pointe Au Chien Indian Tribe Over Spill Damage, Fishing Losses", Laurel Brubaker Calkins, Allen Johnson Jr, Bloomberg, 18 Apr 2011
- "BP, others ask judge to dismiss oil spill claims", Associated Press, 28 Feb 2011
- “Weitz & Luxenberg Files Louisiana Lawsuits After Fishermen, Other Workers, Lose Livelihoods Due to Gulf Oil Spill”, Weitz & Luxenberg P.C. [press release], 3 Aug 2010
- “Free Downloads of 3 Gulf Oil Spill Lawsuits from Weitz & Luxenberg For Plaintiffs Suffering Lost livelihoods Due To BP-Deepwater Oil Rig Exploision”, Lexis Nexis, 5 Aug 2010
- “Lawsuits Surge as Gulf Oil Spill Washes Ashore”, Bloomberg, 1 May 2010
- “Shrimpers, fishermen, hotels feel oil spill’s trickledown effect”, Julie Smith, USA Today, 13 May 2010
- [PDF] Complaint Le et al. v. BP Exploration & Production, Inc. et al, 28 Jul 2010