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EMBATTLED BP ASKS FOR STAY OF LAWSUITS; JUDGES HAND DOWN DIFFERING DECISIONS
by Sharon Rondeau
(May 27, 2010) — Lawsuits have been filed in at least five states affected by the Gulf of Mexico oil spill which occurred last month, the cleanup for which British Petroleum (BP) has been deemed primarily responsible.
BP had asked that an Alabama lawsuit be delayed to allow time for a judicial panel to determine whether or not the 130+ lawsuits filed should be heard separately or combined “into a single multidistrict proceeding.” BP had requested that the lawsuits be combined into “one massive case” and is seeking a hearing in that regard in Houston, TX.
However, federal judge Martin Feldman of New Orleans, LA saw it differently when he ruled the same day that “[T]he defendants face the burden of litigation in multiple jurisdictions. More importantly, between the various lawyers and judges on the cases, there is a grave potential for conflicting discovery orders. This poses not only a hardship for the defendants, but mocks an efficient and orderly judicial system.”
BP has reportedly requested that U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes preside over the single proceeding if it is granted. The Miami Herald contends that Hughes “has traveled the world giving lectures on ethics for the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, a professional association and research group that works with BP and other oil companies. The organization pays his travel expenses.”
The multidistrict judicial panel is not expected to issue a decision until July.
The April 20 oil spill caused by the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon has exceeded that which was caused by the collision of the Exxon Valdez in 1989 off the coast of Alaska, according to a Fox News report. Estimates have cited the Exxon Valdez oil spill at 11,000,000 gallons and the Deepwater Horizon spill now estimated at 19,000,000 gallons.
The AP reported that the director of the Minerals Management Service, which oversees offshore drilling, resigned today “as…Barack Obama as moved more aggressively to take charge of the Gulf oil spill.” However, MSNBC, in its own supplemental video report, stated that Elizabeth Birnbaum was fired. Birnbaum’s departure from the agency was made public shortly before Obama held a news conference during which he attempted to assure his audience that his regime was in control of the situation. One of his statements was, “Make no mistake, BP is operating at our direction.” Ten days ago, Obama stated “It’s my job” to head the cleanup of the oil spill rather than BP’s.