Judge tries to streamline BP lawsuit process

July 3, 2010 4:59:00 PM PDT
A federal judge in New Orleans is trying to streamline the legal process for more than 30 lawsuits arising from the oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico. An order filed this week from U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier temporarily consolidates the lawsuits for pretrial purposes.

The suits represent only a fraction of the more than 200 lawsuits filed in courts in Louisiana, Texas and elsewhere since the rig BP was operating exploded on April 20 and sank.

Barbier said suits pending in his section will be administratively consolidated pending a ruling by a multidistrict panel on how to handle all of the suits filed nationally. That panel meets July 29.

Barbier has appointed lawyers to act as interim liaisons between the parties and the court on behalf of all the plaintiffs and defendants in cases in his section.

Some attorneys want Barbier to oversee all cases filed nationally. BP wants U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes of Houston to hear all the cases.

BP has taken the brunt of criticism about the oil spill because it was leasing and operating the Deepwater Horizon. It also is a majority owner of the undersea well that is spewing oil into the Gulf.

Swiss-based Transocean Ltd. owned a majority interest in the rig. Anadarko Petroleum, based in The Woodlands, Texas, has a 25 percent non-operating interest in the well.

Suits filed in various states have been brought by, among others, fishermen who have lost their livelihoods, investors who are seeing their nest eggs decimated by the plunge in BP's stock price, and underwriters of insurance policies who are trying to block BP from collecting.


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