Hood supports monitoring communications in BP MDL

Alejandro de los Rios Feb. 2, 2011, 7:00am


NEW ORLEANS (Legal Newsline) - Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood has filed a motion supporting the plaintiffs' request for monitoring alleged ex parte communications regarding the Gulf Coast Claims Facility.

He made his stance known in papers filed Tuesday in the BP oil spill multidistrict litigation. The MDL is held in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.

Hood states that he "respectfully submits that court intervention and action is needed to compel BP to cure its failure to provide a claims process that fulfills" the Oil Pollution Act.

The motion argues that, because no one could provide the court with information as to which GCCF claims were accepted and which were denied, Hood "feels compelled to provide the Court with the following background facts regarding the sweeping deficiencies and violations of law that pervade the GCCF."

The motion states that "the amount of damages suffered is far greater than what has been paid, and the number of claims not paid is staggering."

It further states that "when viewed on an individual basis, the sums paid are only remarkable for how seemingly paltry they have been."

Hood is asking the court "to consider the following deficiencies and violations by BP, thru [sic] the GCCF claims process" and then that by failing to pay interim claims, BP "is in violation of OPA."

The suit alleges that BP, by requiring claimants seeking a final payment to waive any right to sue, is violating OPA.

"OPA prohibits ... foreclosing a claimant's right to recover all damages," Hood wrote.

Hood recommends that "the Court should direct that all GCCF claims be processed immediately, and all damages which are presently owed under OPA should be immediately paid."

It also states that the court should eliminate final claims and that "BP and the GCCF should immediately cease and desist from using the Release as drafted."

In December, plaintiff attorneys filed a motion that sought "to ensure that communications with putative class members are neither confusing nor misleading."

The motion claimed that GCCF administrator Kenneth Feinberg is "an agent for the defense" and, "By all appearances, Mr. Feinberg ... seems indistinguishable from a defense attorney attempting to settle cases on behalf of BP."

Last week, Hood called the GCCF "a surrogate for BP."

BP attorneys Don Haycraft, Keith Jarrett, Richard Godfrey, Andrew Langan and Robert Brock filed their opposition Jan. 26.

The defense motion cites a letter from New York University legal ethics professor Stephen Gillers to Feinberg which read, in part, that the "suggestion that you are not independent because you are BP's lawyer is wrong. You are not BP's lawyer."

District Judge Carl Barbier, who is presiding over the oil spill MDL, did not take oral arguments during a Friday status conference, stating that all the arguments had been made in the plaintiff and defense motions.

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Mississippi Attorney General
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Jackson, MS 39201

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