U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier has approved a motion to expedite claims brought forth by independent contractors claiming BP has failed to pay their full wages during clean up of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
Counsel for the ship captains that participated in BP's Vessels of Opportunity (VOO) program and helicopter pilots that claim they entered into a verbal contract with BP argued that their claims should be dealt with differently than others in the multidistrict litigation (MDL) surrounding the BP oil spill.
New Orleans attorney David Carrigee argued for VOO claimants during the latest status conference in the BP MDL held in Barbier's courtroom in the Eastern District of Louisiana.
Carrigee said that his clients should be bogged down in the extensive discovery taking place for the liability trial scheduled for February 2012.
"We're concerned that we're going to be thrown on the backburner," he said.
BP attorney Andrew Langan said his client is not opposed to fast-tracking the VOO claims, but did oppose their motion to sever their claims form the BP MDL entirely.
Barbier said that he didn't see a need to sever the VOO claims altogether.
"That can be addressed with a different case management order," he said.
Carrigee said he was satisfied with Barbier's ruling and that, in all likelihood, the contract issues will be decided via summary judgment as a matter of law.
New Orleans attorney Christopher Beary spoke on behalf of a group of helicopter pilots who claim that BP has gone back on an oral contract made during the cleanup.
Unlike the VOO claims which share common contract issues but differ on facts, the helicopter claims have to do with individuals disputing an agreement that may or may not have been made.
Beary said his clients made an agreement with a BP representative who then left the company. BP owes $1.3 million on an open account, he said.
Barbier said that the helicopter claims will be included in the case management order expediting the VOO litigation.
Federal MDL 2:10-md-2179