Provost Umphrey law firm files first BP lawsuit in Jefferson County

David Yates May 19, 2010, 10:35am


Even an oil engineer with a law degree may be hard pressed to determine what is spreading faster: the oil oozing from BP's Deep Water Horizon or the lawsuits filed as a result.

In the past month, about 100 suits have been filed in state and federal courts along the Gulf Coast.

On Tuesday one of Southeast Texas' most well known restaurants, Floyd's Cajun Seafood, joined with several other eateries and fishing companies to file suit against BP America and Halliburton, alleging the companies are responsible for the offshore drilling disaster which claimed the lives of 11 workers. Some estimates show the blown well to be leaking 200,000 gallons of oil per day into the Gulf of Mexico.

Plaintiff's attorney Walter Umphrey, co-founder of the well known Provost Umphrey law firm, filed the suit in Jefferson Country District Court on behalf of Floyd's, Coastline Seafood International, Catfish Cabin, Tim James and Big Johnson Charters.

"As the oil continues to make landfall along the Gulf Coast, it will cause severe damage to the delicate wetlands and intertidal zones ... destroying the habitats where fish, shellfish and crustaceans breed, spawn and mature."

In addition to BP, the other defendants named in the suit are Anadarko Petroleum, Moex Offshore, Transocean and Cameron International Corp., plus several of their subsidiaries.

The plaintiffs contend that the negligence of the defendants to maintain and operate the Deepwater Horizon will ruin the Gulf of Mexico, making it impossible for them to earn a living.

Similar suits have been filed by seafood restaurant owners in Galveston, Louisiana and Mississippi.

One of the largest offshore rigs of its kind, the Deepwater Horizon was leased to BP by Transocean through September 2013, court papers say. In turn, BP leased the rig to drill exploratory wells at the Macondo prospect site off the coast of Louisiana.

On April 20, the Deepwater Horizon was creating a cement seal and plug of the wellhead as part of the final phases of turning the Macondo well from an exploratory well into a production well.

"Cementing is delicate work that carries the risk of a blowout, which is the uncontrolled release of oil from the well," the suit states.

"During the course of this cementing work, an explosion occurred on the Deepwater Horizon and it caught fire. Investigators believe the explosion was a blowout, likely caused by the cementing. The fire burned for two days, and the rig began to list progressively more until it finally sank on April 22."

The suit continues by saying the rig was fitted with a blowout preventer, known as a BOP.

"If the BOP on the wellhead had been functional, it could have been ... activated right after the explosion, cutting off the flow of oil ... and thereby sparing plaintiffs millions of dollars in losses and damages," the suit states.

On top of negligence, the suit accuses the defendants of violating the Oil Pollution Act of 1990.

The plaintiffs are seeking millions of dollars in economic, compensatory and punitive damages.

The case has been assigned to Judge Milton Shuffield, 136th District Court.

Case No. D186-902

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