Summary: Lawyers involved with the BP Oil Spill litigation will divvy up a huge pot of legal fees.
The 2010 BP Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico was an environmental disaster but a huge payday for the 122 law firms involved in the class-action lawsuit following the incident. According to The Salt Lake Tribune, the firms will divide $700 million in fees from the litigation, and two Louisiana law firms will get a large chunk of the money, roughly $87.8 million each.
On April 20, 2010, an explosion occurred on the Deepwater Horizon offshore rig on the BP (British Petroleum)-owned Macondo Prospect in the Gulf of Mexico. The accident resulted in 11 workers losing their lives, and millions of barrels of oil spilling into the surrounding water for 87 days. Because of the oil Spill, recreational beaches and wetlands were polluted, and many wildlife were killed.
The oil spill resulted in a two-phase trial that lasted for several years and involved expert testimony and settlement negotiations, according to NOLA. The class-action consolidated multiple lawsuits and were centralized in New Orleans.
Following the disaster, courts deemed BP responsible, and the oil company said that the costs of cleaning the spill, restoring the area, and paying legal settlements to local residents and businesses cost them more than $61 billion. Part of that money included a $20 billion penalty for violating the Clean Water Act.
Transocean, which leased the rig that exploded, and contractor Halliburton were also deemed responsible and reached their own settlements with individuals, the government, and local businesses.
BP, Transocean, and Halliburton were ordered to pay plaintiffs’ attorney fees. BP agreed to pay $555 million and Transocean and Halliburton agreed to pay $124 million.
Domengaux Wright Roy & Edwards and Herman, Herman & Katz “oversaw and steered the entire litigation effort” against BP, according to the group of attorneys involved; and they stand to each get $87.8 million if a New Orleans-based federal judge approves the amounts.
Cunningham Bounds of Alabama, and Weitz & Luxenberg of New York will receive $42 million each if the allocation recommendation is approved. Dozens of New Orleans-based law firms are expected to divide $243 million, according to NOLA.
The recommendation filed in court this week stated that the firms representing the plaintiffs worked tens of thousands of hours on cases involving common issues from the spill.
“The fee committee felt confident that a minimum of 518,250 hours were reasonably expended through the end of 2015 for the common benefit of class members and others affected by the Deepwater Horizon incident,” the filing said, according to NOLA.
Lawsuits concerning the spill were consolidated and overseen by New Orleans judge, Carl Barbier, who will rule on whether the fee allocation is clear or not. The 50-page allocation recommendation may not pass if challenged, and The Salt Lake Tribune said that some firms have already disputed their allotment.
Barbier said that this case was the largest multi-district litigation in history, and he said the sheer size was surpassed by its complexity.
“Over 130,000 individual civil actions and/or claims-in-limitation were filed by private businesses, individuals, and local governments,” Barbier said. “Yet even greater than its sheer size was the MDL’s complexity.”