Umphrey adds plaintiffs in BP oil spill suit

Steve Korris Oct. 13, 2010, 10:00am


NEW ORLEANS – Beaumont, Texas lawyer Walter Umphrey has added Luck In A Bucket Bait Shop of Port Arthur and Paul's Seafood of Vidor to a federal suit over the Gulf oil spill.

On Oct. 8, he included them in an amended complaint seeking recovery of economic losses from oil rig operator BP, rig owner Transocean, and other companies.

He filed it with U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier of New Orleans, who presides over oil spill cases by appointment of the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multi District Litigation.

Umphrey started the suit in Jefferson County district court, in June.

He wrote that "a substantial part of the events or omissions that give rise to the claim occurred in whole or in part in Jefferson County, Texas."

The plaintiff roster didn't quite bear that out.

Except for lead plaintiff Floyd, Floyd, Pearce of Beaumont, a limited partnership, and Ricky Lane and Lane's bait shop in Port Arthur, no other plaintiff had its principal place of business in Jefferson County.

Partnership operators Bret Floyd of Pearland, in Brazoria County, and Floyd Landry of Spring, in Harris County, claimed damages as individuals.

They also claimed damages at Floyd's Cajun Seafood House of Webster, in Harris County, Floyd's Cajun Seafood and Texas Steakhouse of Pearland, and Coastline Seafood International of Webster.

Umphrey also claimed damages on behalf of Catfish Cabin and owner Tim James of Lumberton, in Hardin County.

Tim and Rebecca Berryman, owners of Catfish Cabin at Jasper, in Jasper County, also claimed damages.

So did Big Johnson's Charters of Mobile County, Ala., and owners Jeremy Johnson of Houston and Nicholas Johnson of Marietta, Ga.

Cameron International, supplier of blowout prevention services at the rig, removed the suit to federal court in Beaumont in July.

Cameron argued the suit must proceed under federal laws that generally govern oil spills and specifically govern the continental shelf, where the rig exploded.

Umphrey moved to amend the complaint, writing that he would add plaintiffs.

On Sept. 21, multi district judges in Washington transferred the case to Barbier.

Umphrey then amended the complaint to assert claims for Paul Malin of Orange, his seafood business in Vidor, Ricky Lane of Port Arthur, and Lane's bait shop.

Umphrey's new complaint didn't bring his allegations up to date.

"At the time of this filing, the wellhead has not been capped and the flow of oil continues unabated into the Gulf waters," he wrote.

He wrote that a relief well might take months to complete.

A three foot wave would lift the slick over barriers, he wrote, and he warned that the Gulf experienced seven to 10 foot swells over the past days.

"May is spawning season for some sea life and migration time for the young of some species of shrimp and various pelagic fish," he wrote.

His clients seek to recover lost profits, earnings, and earning capacity.

They seek more than $150,000 for pain and suffering, plus punitive damages.

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