U.S. District Judge Kristi DuBose of the Federal District of Alabama denied motions brought by defendants BP PLC and Halliburton Energy Services Inc. to stay the time in which to file answers in two cases. Both cases, Bon Secour Fisheries Inc., et al. v. BP and Deupree Outdoor Guide Services Inc. v. BP, involve proposed class actions over economic losses caused by the recent Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
The two decisions by DuBose were issued without comment, but come on the heels of a similar ruling by another Alabama judge, Chief U.S. District Judge William Steele, denying a motion for a stay in another oil spill action, Billy’s Seafood Inc. v. Transocean Holdings Inc., et al. In denying that motion, Steele wrote that the proposed delay seemed “both unnecessary and unwarranted,” calling it a “three-month reprieve.”
Defendants in all three matters have argued that proceedings should await the decision of the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation on whether the more than 130 lawsuits filed in federal courts in response to the oil spill should be combined into a multidistrict proceeding. BP filed a petition with the panel on May 7 seeking to consolidate the cases in the Southern District of Texas, where defendants are headquartered. Plaintiffs filed their own petition on that same day, arguing that the lawsuits should be heard in the Eastern District of Louisiana because it is the home of most of the victims and the place closest to the accident site.
Steele, however, indicated that defendants’ concern was misplaced, writing that a stay “would not rescue defendants from material hardship or the risk of inconsistent adjudications; after all, they must answer the complaint anyway."
Recent rulings have not always favored the plaintiffs in oil spill cases. On the same day the Alabama motions were denied, Louisiana U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman granted BP’s motion for a stay in Cajun Offshore Charters LLC v. BP PLC, et al. without a hearing. In his ruling, Feldman took note of the burden placed on defendants by having to litigate in multiple jurisdictions and emphasized “the grave potential for conflicting discovery orders” as an obstacle to judicial order and efficiency.
If you own or operate property or a business that has been affected by the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, contact Newsome Law Firm and fill out a case evaluation form today. Our team of attorneys has experience specific to complications associated with environmental disasters. Not only can they give you the legal guidance you need, they can help you get the compensation you deserve.