BP seeks MDL in Houston for Deepwater Horizon cases

Marilyn Tennissen May 19, 2010, 4:37pm

HOUSTON (Legal Newsline) - With more than 100 lawsuits already filed over the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, BP is hoping to have the cases combined into one federal court in Houston.

Since the April 20 explosion and fire onboard the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig and the ongoing oil spill, suits have been filed in various state and federal courts in Gulf states against BP, Transocean, Halliburton and other defendants.

The plaintiffs are filing individual or class actions alleging personal injuries, injury to commercial interests and injury to property. At least 59 of the suits are styled as class actions.

The suits are dispersed across more than seven jurisdictions including courts in Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.

On May 7, BP filed a motion to consolidate the cases before one Multidistrict Litigation Court.

The Judicial Panel for Multidistrict Litigation will hold a hearing on the matter on July 29 in Boise, Idaho.

In the meantime, BP is asking the courts to stay proceedings until the MDL and proper forum are established.

"The need to avoid inconsistent pre-trial rulings, eliminate duplicative discovery and conserve the efforts and resources of the parties and the judiciary all weigh heavily in favor of transferring these cases to a single court for coordinated and consolidated pre-trial proceedings," wrote attorney Andrew Langan of Kirkland & Ellis LLP in Chicago representing BP in a motion to stay.

The Southern District of Texas-Houston Division is the appropriate forum, BP claims, because that is where all of the defendants are headquartered, key witnesses and documents are located there and a majority of the state court lawsuits have been filed there.

In addition, plaintiffs are asserting many of the same claims, including negligence, strict liability, nuisance, trespass, wantonness and violation of the federal Oil Pollution Act. If addressed separately, inconsistent rulings could result, BP claims

Once a multidistrict litigation has been established, federal courts will routinely transfer new cases to it. 

While plaintiffs' lawyers in Louisiana agree the cases should be consolidated into an MDL, many prefer venue in New Orleans, claiming Louisiana has been the state that so far has been hit the hardest by the spill.

Daniel Becnel Jr. of Becnel Law Firm in Reserve, La., who filed the first suit related to the Deepwater Horizon disaster, and others say it would be an inconvenience and expense for thousands of New Orleans plaintiffs to travel to Houston.


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