NEW ORLEANS – A local law firm and attorney are suing BP along with the Associated Press alleging defamation for stating the firm was involved in fraudulent activities related to Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill claims.
Gilbert “Gibby” V. Andry IV and the Andry Law Firm LLC filed suit against BP Exploration & Production Inc., BP America Production Company, Michael Kunselman and Mark Holstein in the 24th Judicial District Court on July 17.
The defamation accusations were originally filed in the 25th Judicial District in Plaquemines Parish before being removed to the U.S. District Court Eastern District of Louisiana in New Orleans.
In the lawsuit, Andry claims that BP has engaged in a media campaign meant to intimidate the courts and claimants and renege on the settlement agreement.
“BP has systematically attacked others as it suits BP’s interests, including this Honorable Court, Special Master Patrick Juneau, Emeril Lagasse, and the Andry Law Firm LLC, as well as others,” the filing reads.
The plaintiff contends that part of that campaign included a June 21, 2013 report by the Kunselman appearing in the Associated Press using a confidential source who allegedly said that The Andry Law Firm’s claim had been placed on hold over allegations of wrongdoing within the Court Supervised Settlement Program. Andry maintains that the Kunselman’s report was incorrect and that he did not confirm the story before publishing it.
Andry asserts that part of Kunselman’s report was taken from a letter written by "Holstein," a BP attorney, that was leaked to the press before later being submitted to the court record. The letter, according to the lawsuit, claimed that The Andry Law Firm represented 675 claims worth $7.5 million that were being suspended pending an investigation into a situation in which Andry was accused of “money laundering” by Special Master Louis Freeh for paying an alleged referral fee to CSSP attorney Lionel Sutton. However, Andry maintains that The Andry Law Firm does not represent any claimants, outside of the firm’s own $7.9 million claim.
“[N]o information has ever been presented by anyone suggesting that The Andry Law Firm ever paid any fees to Lionel Sutton related to a BP claim, much less its own claim, because it never did,” the filing reads.
Andry claims that BP and Kunselman appeared to confuse The Andry Law Firm with the AndryLerner law firm, of which Andry’s brother, John Andry, is a member. AndryLerner has been accused by Freeh of providing Sutton with a referral fee for a $370,000 claim brought by shrimper Casey Thonn that was later found to be based on false tax returns – a case in which they were ordered to repay legal fees. A similar claim regarding another shrimper who submitted a $50,000 claim based on false tax returns was also allegedly handled by AndryLerner.
Andry asserts that BP knew that The Andry Law Firm and AndryLerner were not the same, but published misleading advertisements linking the two in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post anyway.
An unspecified amount in damages is sought for failing to pay claim, loss of income, loss of reputation, costs and expenses.
Andry is representing himself pro se in the case.
The case has been assigned to Division Judge U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier.
Case no. 2:14-cv-01647.