Oil spill legal battle may be costliest ever

Legal experts and attorneys nationwide are predicting that the legal battle between BP, Transocean, Cameron International, Halliburton Co. and the thousands of victims of the spill in the Gulf may be the costliest ever of its kind. So far about 300 federal lawsuits have been filed in 12 states against BP and the three other main companies involved in the April 20 explosion on board the Deepwater Horizon rig. BP leased the rig, Transocean owned it, Cameron built the failed blowout preventer and Halliburton was the well contractor.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuits are a diverse range of businesses and individuals along the Gulf Coast: shrimp boat captains, oystermen, charter boat operators, restaurants, bars, taxi cab operators, seafood suppliers, bait and tackle shops, hotel and condo owners and others.  A few wrongful death and injury lawsuits have been filed by surviving workers and some family members of the 11 men who perished.

BP’s liability is already larger than the Exxon Valdez case, which ultimately led to a $500 million payout to affected fishermen and other residents.  The BP case will differ in important ways from other mass tort lawsuits such as Vioxx or asbestos where people died or suffered illness as a direct result of the product.  While it may be relatively straightforward for an oysterman whose oyster beds were choked with oil to prove his losses, how do you prove losses for a beach front hotel owner whose business dropped off, or a property owner selling a beach house whose property is now worth less?

Read the Houston Chronicle story on the anticipated cost and problems of the legal battle against BP here.