A Look at the More Than 240 Lawsuits Against BP in U.S.

June 25, 2010

BP Plc faces at least 243 U.S. lawsuits so far arising from its role in the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, in what is considered by some the biggest environmental disaster in U.S. history.

The vast majority of the lawsuits have been filed on behalf of businesses, including commercial fishermen, charter boat captains, shippers, resort operators and others harmed by the spill, according to the Westlaw database. Westlaw is a unit of Thomson Reuters.

A handful of lawsuits also have been filed on behalf of BP shareholders, who through June 23 have seen BP’s American depositary receipts lose 51 percent of their value since the April 20 drilling rig explosion, which killed 11. BP also faces wrongful death lawsuits by families of the killed workers.

With relief wells to cap the leaking oil unlikely to be ready before August, both the number of lawsuits filed and the potential scope of damages are expected to rise.

Analysts at Credit Suisse said this month that BP’s cleanup and legal costs could reach $37 billion.

The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation is expected to meet July 29 in Boise, Idaho to consider how best to combine many of the existing lawsuits, including more than 180 on the panel’s docket so far.

Here are some basic details about the lawsuits:

  • Most of the cases have been filed in the five states that ring the Gulf of Mexico: Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. The three states with the most lawsuits
  • Florida, Louisiana and Texas — have the longest Gulf coastlines. Many lawsuits have also been filed in nearby southern states including Georgia and Tennessee.
  • Most of the lawsuits are in federal courts, while some are in U.S. state courts.
  • The plaintiffs generally assert claims relating to damage to land or personal property, environmental damage, negligence, and personal injury. Some also allege violations of federal securities fraud or racketeering laws. At least six lawsuits have been brought on behalf of BP shareholders.
  • Others companies named as defendants in some lawsuits include Transocean Ltd, which operated the drilling rig; Anadarko Petroleum Corp., which owns one-fourth of the well; Cameron International Corp., which provided a blowout preventer; and Halliburton Co., in charge of cementing the oil well to stabilize its walls. BP Chief Executive Tony Hayward is also a defendant in many lawsuits.
  • BP has asked that the multidistrict litigation be overseen by U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes, who sits in Houston and was appointed to the federal bench by former President Ronald Reagan.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)

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