Attorneys for BP have filed a motion in opposition to a recent plaintiff filing asking that U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier supervise communications between defendants and the Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF) in the Gulf oil spill litigation.
In December, plaintiff lawyers filed a motion that claimed GCCF administrator Kenneth Feinberg "seems indistinguishable from a defense attorney attempting to settle cases on behalf of BP."
Barbier presides over the multi district litigation (MDL) involving the Deepwater Horizon explosion and ensuing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
BP attorneys Don Haycraft, Keith Jarrett, Richard Godfrey, Andrew Langan and Robert Brock filed their opposition Jan. 26.
It claims that "the factual record before the Court does not support – but contradicts – the need for relief sought by plaintiffs."
The defendants point to a letter by New York University legal ethics professor Stephen Gillers to Feinberg as ethical counsel on the matter. Gillers wrote that the plaintiff's "suggestion that you are not independent because you are BP's lawyer is wrong. You are not BP's lawyer."
The defendant's motion claims the recommendations Gillers submitted to Feinberg regarding the language used by the GCCF when dealing with claimants "are already in place." The motion stresses that anyone making a claim is informed that the GCCF is neither their lawyer nor can act as legal counsel and that the GCCF does not represent BP or any other defendant.
The motion also argues that the plaintiffs are asking the court "to censor the speech of non-parties (Mr. Feinberg and the GCCF) and then dictate what they must say. ... The law permits no such thing."
The motion denies any claims by the plaintiffs that BP is controlling the GCCF or that Feinberg reports to BP, stating "the record is clear that while the GCCF is funded by BOP and has a contract with BOP, subject to the legal requirements of [the Oil Pollution Act], the Feinberg Rozen firm makes OPA claims decisions for the GCCF, not BP."
Barbier will hear oral arguments regarding the plaintiff and defense motions at the BP status conference Jan. 28.
Federal MDL 2:10-md-02179