Louisiana, Alabama can pursue punitive damages over Gulf spill

By Alejandro de los Rios | Nov 17, 2011


NEW ORLEANS (Legal Newsline) - U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier has ruled that the states of Louisiana and Alabama can seek punitive damages against BP and its partners over the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oilrig explosion and subsequent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Barbier issued the ruling Monday in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana where he is presiding over the massive multidistrict litigation surrounding the oil spill.

The order also dismisses claims brought by Louisiana and Alabama under their respective state laws because federal laws preempt those claims.

Louisiana and Alabama sought to bring nuisance and trespass claims against BP and general maritime negligence claims against Anadarko and MOEX Offshore, which were partners with BP in the Deepwater Horizon.

Louisiana and Alabama argued successfully that they were entitled to punitive damages under the Oil Pollution Act (OPA) and general maritime law.

"The States have stated causes of action under general maritime law," Barbier wrote in his ruling. "Consequently, punitive damages may also be available to the State where their claims arise under general maritime law."

Barbier ruled that the states met OPA's presentment requirements in making their claims for punitive damages for oil spill damage and cleanup costs in the master complaint filed by the plaintiffs at the start of the MDL.

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