Alaskan litigants must join BP shareholder suit in Houston

By Steve Korris | Aug 23, 2011

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – BP shareholders seeking derivative damages from directors and officers in Alaska state court must join national litigation in Houston, Superior Court Judge Sharon Gleason decided on Aug. 15.

She stayed a suit shareholders filed after the Deepwater Horizon explosion, in favor of proceedings before U.S. District Judge Keith Ellison of Houston.

She wrote that plaintiffs would be bound by his decisions and judgments.

Her decision clears the field for Ellison, because plaintiffs in state courts of Louisiana, Delaware and Texas previously agreed to stay their cases.

Alaska plaintiffs opposed a stay, arguing the federal action wouldn't focus on Alaska-related claims.

They predicted along delay in resolution of claims in Houston.

They argued their case pertained to ongoing problems in Alaska.

They argued they sued under Alaska law.

Gleason didn't share their fear that Ellison would ignore the state.

She quoted five allegations in the complaint that mentioned Alaska, and she counted 17 paragraphs of details on operations in Prudhoe Bay.

"A derivative suit, by its very nature, is not about an alleged injury to individual shareholders or to a certain group of shareholders," she wrote.

"It is about an alleged injury to the corporation," she wrote.

"As the Alaska Supreme Court has recognized, the purpose of a shareholder derivative suit is to obtain compensation for the corporation from a wrong doer, and, in so doing, make each shareholder whole," she wrote.

She wrote that her plaintiffs and Ellison's possess the same rights and pursue substantially the same goals.

She wrote that if she didn't stay the suit, discovery disputes were bound to occur and defendants would undoubtedly face greater expenses.

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