The Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) last month refused a request to carve out a new multidistrict litigation (MDL) to cover claims by parties that were excluded or opted out of settlements with BP over losses suffered in the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion and spill. The panel said the request was extraordinary and unmerited. The JPML denied a transfer motion filed by Plaintiffs in two suits pending against BP that sought to create a new MDL in the Southern District of Mississippi to address their claims and those of Plaintiffs in 16 other actions. That motion was almost universally opposed by the responding Plaintiffs and Defendants, most of whom argued the actions belong in the MDL the JPML created in the Eastern District of Louisiana in August 2010.
In the ruling, the JPML said it could not justify forming a new MDL that would comprise the claims of individuals, businesses and government entities that were either excluded or opted out of two settlements BP has reached with litigants over claims related to the disaster. “This is an extraordinary request, and we can find little to recommend it,” the panel’s ruling said.
As we have reported on numerous occasions, in March 2012, BP and Plaintiffs’ lawyers agreed to settle hundreds of thousands of claims over the spill, resolving most of the property damage, economic loss and medical claims in the multidistrict litigation. Some potential claimants have opted out and filed their own suits. To recap things, one of the two settlements covers economic losses — including business and individual lost profits, coastal property damage, wetlands destruction, and vessel property damage. The agreement sets aside about $2.3 billion for economic losses the Gulf seafood industry suffered following the spill, which is the only capped portion of the settlement. The rest has no cap.
The second settlement compensates cleanup workers and Gulf residents who suffered respiratory, neurological and other health problems as a result of the spill. The movants who requested creation of the new MDL argued that those who opted out of or were excluded from the settlements with BP are in “litigation limbo” pending the outcome of the multi-phase trial in the Lousiana MDL. The JPML disagreed, saying that trial involves issues central to all the actions over the Deepwater Horizon disaster — including the 18 actions subject to the instant transfer motion. Creating a new MDL would result in a duplication of efforts, the order said. The panel’s order said:
Given this extensive overlap, we find it quite impossible to see how a new Deepwater Horizon MDL would not result in duplicative discovery and pretrial motion practice, as well as other redundant pretrial procedures. In our considered opinion, creation of another Deepwater Horizon MDL is not a solution to whatever challenges the current litigation may present. The panel does not aspire to the role of an appellate court for disaffected MDL litigants.
The lawyers in our firm, who are working virtually full time on BP issues believe the decision made by the JPML is the correct one. I also believe that to be the case. If you need more information on this subject, contact Parker Miller, one of our lawyers who has been in the BP litigation from the outset, at 1-800-898-2034 or by email at Parker.Miller@beasleyallen.com.
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