Monday, May 17, 2010


Apres Le Deluge...

...well, comes the real deluge -- the lawyers:
On April 21, with the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig still in flames, John W. Degravelles and a group of other lawyers sued for damages. In the first of at least 88 suits filed since the disaster, they were seeking compensation for the widow of a Transocean worker who went missing and is presumed dead.
It marked the beginning of legal action that is spreading as inexorably as the oil that threatens the wildlife and economy of five states along the Gulf of Mexico.
"On Thursday, I could smell the oil and, being a toxic tort lawyer, I realized that the fact that you're smelling something means that you're inhaling something," Stuart Smith, a New Orleans lawyer, said this month when breezes were carrying the scent of the oil slick toward the city. Smith, who has sued major oil companies before, immediately contacted toxicologists and air monitors to start doing tests that could be used as evidence.
The law firms now assembling are members of the all-star team of plaintiffs' attorneys. They have experience suing big companies over asbestos, tobacco, oil company waste, breast implants and Chinese drywall. They have represented Ecuadoran shrimp farmers and New York lobstermen, patients who have swallowed Vioxx and investors who lost money on shares of Enron. And their ranks include the likes of Erin Brockovich, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and former partners of Johnnie L. Cochran Jr.
"When we put together the team for tobacco . . . it was the A-team of lawyers, and this is the same thing developing here," said Mike Papantonio, who cut his teeth on asbestos litigation and is a partner in Florida-based Levin, Papantonio, Thomas, Mitchell, Echsner & Proctor. The firm says it has won $2.5 billion in jury verdicts, including a dozen of more than $10 million each.
Geez, didn't you kinda prefer Erin Brockovich when she was just this hard-working secretary, who stumbled on some presumed ultility-company malfeasance?  Now, she's a pro, swooping down with the rest of the legal flock -- with a gusto that would shame vultures in the desert.  And you just gotta love an attorney identifying himself -- without any sense of irony -- as a "toxic tort lawyer." 

Of course, there's some legitimate liability issues here, both in terms of the loss of life of the 11 oil workers and damage done to the environment.  Even so, the rapacious glee of the legal "eagles" descending is still appalling. Is driving a major oil company out of business a desired goal -- either economically or in terms of energy development and supply?  Because that's what BP is facing: 
Smith, suing on behalf of fishermen, the Louisiana Environmental Action Network and four large hotels, alleges that BP and others were "grossly negligent" in allowing the blowout to occur. Damage includes removal costs, property damage and the loss of income and profits for people and businesses. Because the spill has been lingering offshore, the plaintiffs who can claim damages so far are mostly out-of-work fishermen and tourist resorts that are getting cancellations.

 As rich as BP is, "if this well keeps leaking for three or four months, it's Katie bar the door," Smith said. "I don't think they have enough money." He said fishing beds might need one or two generations to recover.
Some lawyers say the case also offers a chance to take on the oil industry's political ties. Papantonio wants to depose the person who ran the Minerals Management Service under President George W. Bush to find out why the agency did not require certain types of safety devices.
Yep, driving oil companies out of business and making a political statement too! What's Julia Roberts doing these days? I smell something in the air too -- a "toxic" sequel!

Labels: , , , ,

Bookmark and Share

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Weblog Commenting and Trackback by AddThis Social Bookmark Button
Technorati search
Search Now:
Amazon Logo
  •  RSS
  • Add to My AOL
  • Powered by FeedBurner
  • Add to Google Reader or Homepage
  • Subscribe in Bloglines
  • Share on Facebook