Friday, August 13, 2010

BP Oil Spill MDL Sent to New Orleans

Last month we covered the hearing before the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) on the BP Oil Spill litigation (In Re: Oil Spill by the Oil Rig “Deepwater Horizon” in the Gulf of Mexico, on April 20, 2010, MDL No. 2179). This week the JPML ordered, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1407, that actions relating to the BP Oil Spill be transferred to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana and assigned to Judge Carl J. Barbier for consolidated pretrial proceedings.

From the panel’s opinion:

The actions before the Panel indisputably share factual issues concerning the cause (or causes) of the Deepwater Horizon explosion/fire and the role, if any, that each defendant played in it. Centralization under Section 1407 will eliminate duplicative discovery, prevent inconsistent pretrial rulings, including rulings on class certification and other issues, and conserve the resources of the parties, their counsel, and the judiciary. Centralization may also facilitate closer coordination with Kenneth Feinberg’s administration of the BP compensation fund. In all these respects, centralization will serve the convenience of the parties and witnesses and promote the more just and efficient conduct of these cases, taken as a whole.

. . .

The parties have advanced sound reasons for a large number of possible transferee districts and judges. Upon careful consideration, however, we have settled upon the Eastern District of Louisiana as the most appropriate district for this litigation. Without discounting the spill’s effects on other states, if there is a geographic and psychological “center of gravity” in this docket, then the Eastern District of Louisiana is closest to it. Considering all of the applicable factors, we have asked Judge Carl J. Barbier to serve as transferee judge. He has had a distinguished career as an attorney and now as a jurist. Moreover, during his twelve years on the bench, Judge Barbier has gained considerable MDL experience, and has been already actively managing dozens of cases in this docket. We have every confidence that he is well prepared to handle a litigation of this magnitude.

The order includes “the relatively few personal injury/wrongful death actions” as well as the “putative class actions seeking recovery for property damage and other economic losses.”  

The panel’s full opinion is available here. For additional coverage, see ABA Journal; Associated Press; Bloomberg; National Law Journal.


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