After a tug-of-war between plaintiff and defense attorneys, a panel of judges has decided the hundreds of lawsuits against BP over the Deepwater Horizon oil spill will be consolidated and heard in federal court in New Orleans.
The Judicial Panel on Multi District Litigation announced today that it has assigned U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier to preside over approximately 300 suits already filed. The MDL panel heard arguments in Boise, Idaho, on July 29.
Plaintiffs include the families of the men killed when the rig exploded on April 20, fishermen and Gulf Coast businesses who claim they lost revenue because of the oil spill and workers who claim they have become ill from participating in cleanup efforts.
BP had hoped for a venue in Houston, where they believed jurors would be more familiar with the petrochemical industry and where BP’s U.S. headquarters is located.
Plaintiffs’ lawyers and the federal government were pulling for Louisiana, claiming most of the damage occurred there. They also argued that New Orleans was the largest city near the spill site.
Consolidating the BP oil spill lawsuits before one judge as part of an MDL is designed to eliminate duplicative discovery, provide continuity of rulings and streamline the process for the court and parties.
The panel also decided BP investors’ suits over losses tied to the spill will go to federal court in Houston under U.S. District Judge Keith Ellison.
The main MDL case is In Re Oil Spill by the Oil Rig “Deepwater Horizon” in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, 2010, MDL Docket No. 2179.