Here come the lawyers…a day in Judge Barbier’s court…

Making things right...one attorney at a time...

Okay, so first we acknowledge the obvious:

Lawyers being lawyers, and British Petroleum having long since given up that whole “making things right,” and “actions, not words” schtick – at least in reality – of course BP is going to try to use every legal maneuver to pay as little as possible to anyone. Their company’s in trouble now that the Rosneft deal looks blown so yeah, that whole Gulf Coast thing…it’s one big financial/legal liability and since the media interest flags, it’s time for corporate law to rear the ugliest of heads to take the biggest bite they can…

So stated, let’s move on to the latest from British Petroleum’s attorneys in Judge Carl Barbier’s court, shall we?

Turns out (surprise) British Petroleum is of the legal opinion that the claims for economic and punitive damages as a result of their little ‘ol spill, including those who lost jobs/wages as a result of the drilling moratorium, including those first responders who got sick during the cleanup, including basically…everybody, should be summarily dismissed by Judge Barbier.

Oh…but why?

Because these people must go through Feinberg’s GCCF claims process, first.

Oh…but why?

That pesky Oil Pollution Act of 1990, that’s why. Andrew Langer, BP’s head legal talking head argues that OPA states claimants must first attempt to redress their grievances with the responsible party – BP, and if they are then denied by the responsible party, only then can they file a claim in court. Langer also claims the Oil Pollution Act supersedes maritime law, and since OPA doesn’t allow for the punitive damages allowed under maritime law, these claims must be dismissed as well.

Dismissed, just like that…upwards of 130,000 legal claims.

Judge Barbier gave no timeline on when he would rule on the matter, but perhaps Feinberg now should really want to hold off on closing all those GCCF claims offices, you know, just in case.

BP’s desire isn’t surprising, it makes sense they would want these people to go through the GCCF. Much as the oil company would like to control a United States court of law, they don’t, but the GCCF and Feinberg are a different matter. There they hold much more sway. Hell, their guy wrote the rules, the same man Judge Barbier already ruled can’t claim himself as independent of BP. Good ‘ol Ken, the lawyer whose law firm is paid $1.25 million dollars a month by BP. Way back when, the GCCF and Feinberg’s stated mission was to keep people out of court, but this didn’t entirely happen, especially when his “generous” payments turned out to not be so generous after all. So now British Petroleum argues Judge Barbier should rule in their favor and complete Feinberg’s mission for them, kick the claimants into BP’s court, where they can be delayed, stalled, and hopefully, so frustrated that some throw up their hands and take Feinberg’s “generous” claims instead of heading back into court to be delayed, stalled and frustrated anew by BP’s lawyers.

From a legal standpoint, it makes sense. What does British Petroleum really have to lose? Self respect? The goodwill of the Gulf Coast? Well, self-respect and goodwill ain’t worth a dime and this whole mess has appeared to be about the money for this company since day one. 

The plaintiffs’ attorneys, of course, disagree with BP, arguing OPA was created after the 1989 Exxon-Valdez spill because legal remedies available at the time were insufficient. They further argue the companies involved in the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon shouldn’t be able to now use OPA as a legal shield to escape punitive damages and throw these legal claims into the GCCF mess. Besides, the oil pollution act of 1990 doesn’t expressly declare an intent to displace maritime law, whereas other statutes that prevent punitive damages do specifically prohibit them.

Judge Barbier, who questioned both sides’ arguments, asked how it is he is supposed to go through the 130,000 cases to determine which should be thrown out and which should be allowed to proceed. Nobody seemed to have an answer on this, beyond saying such a process will be exceedingly time-consuming.

Even more so pehaps, then the GCCF’s claim process.

But British Petroleum wasn’t the only company to get in on this four-hour hearing, and all involved had an argument on why these pesky economic claims should be dismissed. Represented in court were Anadarko, Halliburton, Cameron International and Transocean. Transocean argued that since BP is the responsible party, economic claims should only be made against BP under OPA, and then it would be BP’s right to go after the other companies to pay their share. You see, the people have filed suit against the wrong companies in the wrong order.

In other words, much like Feinberg’s screaming about unsatisfactory documentation, all of the big companies on the hook here are claiming the businesses and the people of the Gulf Coast are doing it wrong, not adhering to the correct process, not filing suit against the right company, not going through the GCCF process first, where they would inevitably be unable to document their claims in the correct way.

Or in other, other words…the claimants, the victims in this colossal fuck-all, the right thing for them to do would be to do as they are told, hurry up and wait, and go back to a GCCF process many consider long since broken.

All unless Judge Barbier, much like finally declaring Feinberg not independent, sides again on behalf of the people so harmed by this disaster, a catastraphuk not of their own creation.

Oh, but that’s not all, there’s more…

On the drilling moratorium: BP also asked for a dismissal of the claims by people who lost jobs/wages as a result of the drilling moratorium, saying it was the government who declared the moratorium, not BP, so why are they at fault? According to the plaintiffs’ attorneys, the moratorium was something the government would reasonable feel was necessary when they realized, hey, those oil rigs aren’t as safe as we ignored/were led to believe and you know what? We don’t have the resources to fight off these kind of spills so we better do a safety check. The plantiffs’ attorneys are also guessing the moratorium wouldn’t have happened had the Deepwater Horizon not exploded and since, under OPA, BP is the responsible party…well…they should be liable because one plus one usually equals two.

Unless you’re watching the latest “making it right,” advertisement by British Petroleum.

Attorneys for Nalco were also in court, the makers of Corexit dispersant and they argued they should have immunity from damage claims by people who got sick inhaling their toxins because the Federal government was in charge of the response, and it was the federal government who chose to use Corexit, “This was a spill of national significance, which put all of the decision-making in the hands of the federal government,” said their attorney.

One might wonder if this attorney is referring to the same government whose EPA expressly ordered British Petroleum to stop using Corexit dispersant, only to have BP refuse…somehow equating BP’s ability to do as they wished throughout the spill response with the ability of the government to be in charge of all the decision-making. 

There’s also the matter of all the private contractors who claim they deserve immunity too because they were doing cleanup under the same fully authoritative decision-making of the same federal government who had everyone listening intently on that whole Corexit deal. The plaintiffs’ attorneys in this case rightfully argued said contractors weren’t working for the government, they were hired by and working for BP and thus, why should they have immunity?

The entire hearing lasted a total of four hours and there’s more, but damn, my fingers are getting tired so perhaps I should just try wrapping this up:

British Petroleum, Transocean, Anadarko, Cameron International, Nalco…dismiss everything so we can better direct our funds to making things right for the Gulf Coast…

Residents and businesses of the Gulf Coast…get out of their way, you’re doing it wrong so go talk to Feinberg and he’ll tell you in no uncertain terms just how wrong you all are, while he painstakingly helps you to move on, being the loyal neutral arbitrator that he is…

The lawyers? Well, they’re busy being lawyers…

But most importantly, Judge Barbier, it’s up to you now and I for one, hope your ruling continues the process of finally making things right for all the people along the Gulf Coast that British Petroleum has made so wrong.

Read the article:

Defendants in oil spill litigation seek to have groups of claims dismissed

Have a nice day.

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