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Gulf oil spill: the lawsuits are piling up

Gulffire Drill, baby, drill is turning into sue, baby, sue. Class-action lawsuits against operators of the exploded Gulf of Mexico oil rig multiplied Friday as the oil began washing onto Louisiana shores. Commercial fisherman, shrimpers, charter-boat operators and beachfront property owners began signing up as plaintiffs in at least 18 proposed suits already filed in courthouses from Texas to Florida. More court actions were expected.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., president of the Waterkeeper Alliance, jumped into the fray, filing suit on behalf of Louisiana commercial shrimpers. Four Waterkeeper groups are active in the region, Louisiana Bayoukeeper in Barataria; Mobile Baykeeper in Alabama; Emerald Coastkeeper in Pensacola, Fla.; and Lower Mississippi Riverkeeper in Baton Rouge, La. "The Waterkeeper Alliance can answer the following question,  "Is burning fuel the right move for the environment, human health and the Gulf economy?" a public relations firm representing the group e-mailed media contacts.

"The fire, explosion and resulting oil spill was caused by the joint negligence and fault of the defendants,"  the Kennedy complaint charged. It accused BP and other companies of "failing to properly operate the Deepwater properly inspect the Deepwater Horizon to assure that its equipment and personnel were fit...Acting in a careless and negligent manner without due regard for the safety of others. Operating the Deepwater Horizon with untrained and unlicensed personnel...Failure to react to danger signs."

High-powered law firms experienced in multimillion-dollar environmental lawsuits were issuing news releases touting their previous victories. Beasley, Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis & Miles of Montgomery, Ala., filed a class-action against British Petroleum and several other companies with ties to the Deepwater Horizon drill rig, and declared that it "seeks to represent individuals and businesses that have incurred damages related to the disaster."

"It looks like this will be a major piece of litigation for a lot of years if it hits as predicted," Mobile, Ala.,  attorney Robert Cunningham, whose firm has filed five suits, told Bloomberg News. "There are big losses already. The condo owners are having cancellations right and left over concerns about fouled beaches. Its going to be a tremendous disaster if it comes ashore."

Alabama and Florida beachfront property owners filed at least eight suits claiming the spill will damage rental income. The "sugar sand" beaches of Mississippi and Florida are prized by vacationers.  Plaintiffs also include families of at least ten of the 28 crew members killed or injured in the Deep Water explosion who have sued London-based BP and Geneva-based Transocean, the world's largest offshore driller.

Neither Transocean nor BP spokesmen responded to requests for comment on the litigation.

--Margot Roosevelt, with wires

Oil from rig explosion hits Louisiana coast
Photos: Oil spill spreads in the Gulf of Mexico
Efforts to fight Gulf of Mexico oil spill are ramped up
Interactive: Burning spilled oil

Photo: In this aerial file photo taken Wednesday, April 21, 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico, more than 50 miles southeast of Venice on Louisiana's tip, an oil slick is seen as the Deepwater Horizon oil rig burns. Credit: AP Photo/Gerald Herbert

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Cathie, You are lucky you actually received your check from EXXON (19+ years later) We haven't received ours. One of the reasons might be that they wait for all of the old-timers to die off. They could easily afford to pay, but they don't, probably out of corporate principle, and all I'm doing about it is griping on my computer.

We as humans will pay for our criminal violations of the natural world.

And where is the "Drill, Baby, Drill" shrew on this one?

Re: the oil rig disaster: It seems that in the most critical period of all - early days of the disaster - many were far more interested in filing lawsuits than in saving as much as possible of the environment and wildlife.

Afaic, that, also, is criminal negligence.

Re the Gulf Coast Disaster, in the early stages - the most critical time of all - it seems a lot of people were far more interested in filing lawsuits than in doing as much as possible to save the environment and wildlife.

Afaic, that, also, is criminal negligence.

To all you folks against alternative energy and/or in favor of offshore drilling off the Southern California coast: I can't WAIT till this happens to US.

If you win, you should see checks in the mail in about.........30 years!

What until they get the bill from the U.S. I would love to be a fly on there wall.

This is a terrible tragedy for everyone - human and animals in the Gulf regions. These lawsuits Must be filed Immediately. As a survivor of the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill, we received compensatory damages that only covered the 1989 fishing season. I am a plaintiff in the Exxon Valdez punititive damages case that was settled by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2008 - our award was cut in half to approx. $500M. Last year, Exxon agreed not to fight the interest accrued on our award - bringing our total settlement to apprx. $1B. Most of us are still waiting for our checks!


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