BP Suits Top 300 on Claims by Workers, Mall, Sheriff

Jul 2010

BP Plc faces more than 300 lawsuits seeking billions of dollars in potential claims as damage from the worst oil spill in U.S. history ripples through the nation’s Gulf Coast economy.

Lawyers will ask a panel of federal judges in Boise, Idaho, on July 29 to consolidate the cases into two multidistrict litigations, or MDLs, to streamline pretrial rulings, evidence-gathering and organization.

One MDL would cover economic loss and environmental damage claims in a dozen states. Most of these cases also name as defendants Transocean Ltd., Halliburton Energy Services, Cameron International Corp. and Anadarko Petroleum, all of whom allegedly played a role in the spill. BP has asked the Boise panel to consolidate the cases in federal court in Houston, while attorneys for multiple plaintiffs are seeking assignment to New Orleans.

The other MDL will cover lawsuits by investors in BP U.S. shares who claim the company’s officers failed to disclose safety problems, artificially inflating stock value, or that management failures led to the spill.

This MDL might not cover the growing number of lawsuits by BP’s U.S. workers claiming the company breached its duty to them in managing the employee savings plan, said attorney Thomas Ajamie in Houston. These lawsuits claim BP and retirement savings plan managers knew or should have know that investing in the oil company was imprudent.

“We don’t think an MDL would be proper for our case,” said Ajamie, who filed a class action in federal court in Chicago July 7 for U.S. BP employees. So far, at least six of these cases have been filed, five of them in Chicago, two this week. The lawsuits are in Chicago because the BP plan is administered there, Ajamie said. Plaintiffs lawyers involved should be able to develop the cases without an MDL, Ajamie said.