NEW ORLEANS – In a recent ruling, U. S. District Judge Carl Barbier rejected most Deepwater Horizon damage claims of state and local governments and deflected many remaining claims to a BP agency outside his jurisdiction.
On Dec. 9, he dismissed claims of state and local governments against rig operator BP and all other defendants under state laws.
In addition, he dismissed claims against all defendants under maritime law except those that allege physical injury to proprietary interests.
Judge Barbier ruled that governments suing BP under maritime law must present claims to the $20 billion Gulf Coast Claims Facility before taking the claims to court.
Governments suing BP under the Oil Pollution Act cannot proceed if they haven’t first presented claims to the claims facility, he ruled.
He ruled governments can seek punitive damages under maritime law, but denied declaratory judgment that would have voided settlements lacking punitive awards.
Again, he deflected punitive damage claims against BP to the claims facility.
He dismissed all claims of Louisiana parishes and Alabama cities against BP except those under the Oil Pollution Act, and he deflected those to the claims facility.
Barbier’s deflection of Oil Pollution Act claims also applies to rig owner Transcoean, as a responsible party along with BP.
Finally, he dismissed all claims of Mexican states Tamaulipas, Quintana Roo and Veracruz, finding no jurisdiction under any treaty between Mexico and the United States.
Parts of his order copied a previous order rejecting most economic loss claims from private parties.
He left little remaining from a 192-page class action complaint that Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange filed for a plaintiff steering committee in March.
Strange alleged damage, destruction, diminution in property value, loss of tax revenue and other income, loss of use, and costs of response, removal and remediation.
He wrote that tourism accounts for 46 percent of the Gulf Coast economy.
“The Spill will result in at least $7.6 billion in lost tourism revenue in 2010, according to a study done for the U. S. Travel Association,” he wrote.
Strange wrote that the University of Alabama estimated a loss of 24,880 jobs in the state.
He wrote that after the explosion, a moratorium on deep water drilling shut down 33 rigs, affecting 13,000 workers.
Strange and the committee can pursue their claims within the limits Barbier set. Under maritime law, they can seek damages from parties not responsible for the spill.
They can seek damages from rig investors Anadarko Petroleum and Mitsui Oil Exploration under the Oil Pollution Act but not under maritime law.
They can seek punitive damages against Anadarko, Mitsui and other parties not responsible for the spill.
Governments that sued BP after exhausting the process at the claims facility can remain in Barbier’s court.
Governments with current claims at the claims facility can turn to his court later if they have exhausted the process.
Barbier plans a fault allocation trial starting in February.