BP Lawsuits Continue to Rise

July 19, 2010

BP faces at least 307 U.S. lawsuits arising from its role in the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, considered by many the biggest environmental disaster in U.S. history.

Most of the lawsuits have been filed on behalf of businesses, including commercial fishermen, charter boat captains, shippers and resort operators who say they have been harmed by the spill, according to the latest tally available through the Westlaw database. Westlaw is a unit of Thomson Reuters.

At least 10 lawsuits also have been filed on behalf of BP shareholders, who saw the company’s American depositary receipts fall as much as 56 percent after the April 20 drilling rig explosion. As of July 15, the ADRs had fallen 36 percent since the explosion.

BP also faces wrongful death lawsuits by families of the 11 workers who were killed.

Analysts have said BP’s cleanup and legal costs could reach tens of billions of dollars.

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 lawsuits, including at least 268 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 U.S. states that border 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 U.S. 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.
  • Other 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.

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