Hood says suit against oil spill claims facility belongs in state court

John O'Brien Sep. 16, 2011, 10:48am


JACKSON, Miss. (Legal Newsline) - Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood is arguing that his lawsuit against the Gulf Coast Claims Facility, which processes BP oil spill claims, should be heard in a state court.

Hood filed his motion to remand the lawsuit on Monday, arguing that his attempt to enforce a subpoena against the GCCF is not a "civil action" that can be removed to federal court. He filed his action in Hinds County Chancery Court earlier this year.

Hood has served a subpoena on the GCCF and administrator Kenneth Feinberg, asking for information about its process for paying out claims. He asked for full access to the GCCF's claims records, but Feinberg refused, leading to Hood's July lawsuit.

"The state of Mississippi has not filed a substantive complaint stating a cause of action and requesting relief; therefore, it has not initiated a civil action in this matter," Hood's motion says.

"The attorney general is engaged in a strictly pre-litigation investigation of the activities of the GCCF and Mr. Feinberg pursuant to the attorney general's duty under the Mississippi Consumer Protection Act."

In August, Feinberg had the suit removed to federal court in Jackson. He wants the matter stayed until it is determined if the suit should be transferred to the BP oil spill multidistrict litigation in New Orleans.

This court should stay this case pending the (Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation's) decision whether to transfer it to MDL 2179 so as to prevent the needless waste of time and resources of the parties and the court and to avoid potentially inconsistent rulings," attorneys for Feinberg and the GCCF wrote Aug. 30.

"Given the accelerated schedule by which the JPML will likely issue a final transfer order, the plaintiff will not suffer any undue prejudice as a result of the temporary stay requested here.

"Where, as here, the JPML has already decided that coordination of cases stemming from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill is appropriate, and has designated a venue for the coordinated proceedings, a stay is particularly appropriate while a conditional transfer to those proceedings is pending."

Briefing on the MDL issue is to be completed by Sept. 28.

Feinberg argued in his removal notice that the lawsuit should be heard in federal court because it concerns the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act and the Class Action Fairness Act.

"The state court action arises out of or in connection with BP's Deepwater Horizon drilling activities, which were an operation conducted on the Outer Continental Shelf that involved the exploration, development or production of minerals of the subsoil and seabed of the Outer Continental Shelf within the meaning of (federal law)," the notice says.

Feinberg is also making the argument that Hood's lawsuit involves more than $5 million and a large number of Mississippi citizens, making it a class action. It's a similar argument that has been made in other recent cases involving state attorneys general, including lawsuits filed by Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell and West Virginia Attorney General Darrell McGraw.

An explosion and fire occurred on Transocean's drilling rig Deepwater Horizon, licensed to BP, on April 20, 2010, killing 11 workers and resulting in the largest offshore spill in U.S. history.

From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien by e-mail at jobrienwv@gmail.com.

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State of Mississippi
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