U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier issued two orders Feb. 4 pertaining to the multi-district litigation (MDL) surrounding the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion and subsequent BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
The first order extended the deadline for submissions of additional briefings to the court on Oil Pollution Act (OPA) compliance from Feb. 11 to Feb. 28.
Barbier's other Feb. 4 order pertains to a plaintiff's motion to file a local government entity mater complaint and to adopt a local government short-form joinder. The order stated that arguments on this motion will be heard at the next BP MDL status conference on Feb. 25 and oppositions must be filed by Feb. 18.
The motion states that the request for a government master complaint came from counsel representing government entities in the BP MDL. It would give governments a standardized form to fill out akin to those filled out by plaintiffs.
The plaintiff motion, filed Feb. 2, came with a proposed 179-page "Local Government Master Complaint."
The master complaint system is an unprecedented step taken by this MDL in order to simplify the process for which people can file suits against any defendant in the litigation. Plaintiff and defendant counsel approved the use of a master complaint and to create pleading bundles to help organize all the suits filed.
Barbier's newest orders follow one issued Feb. 3 in which the judge stated that Kenneth Feinberg, the administrator of BP's $20 billion Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF), "cannot be considered 'neutral' or totally 'independent' of BP."
It came after plaintiffs filed a motion to monitor communications between BP and the GCCF, and a support motion by Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood, which claimed BP was violating OPA through the GCCF.
Barbier ordered that the GCCF disclose its relationship with BP to all claimants, to inform claimants that they have the right to seek outside counsel and that the GCCF is prohibited from telling claimants that they shouldn't hire a lawyer.
Hood's motion claims that the GCCF is violating OPA because "final payments" and "quick payments" require claimants to relinquish their rights to sue BP and other defendants.
Federal MDL 2:10-md-2179