NEW ORLEANS – Plaintiff attorneys in a class action suit filed against BP for an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico are seeking $600 million for fees and expenses.
The 107 law firms involved represent a myriad of plaintiffs against BP and other companies with ties to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. They have filed a court petition to receive the full $600 million that BP has set aside for attorney fees and expenses.
The Deepwater Horizon oil spill stems from the explosion of an oil rig placed in the Macondo oil prospect that killed 11 people and leaked oil and gas on the ocean floor off the coast of Louisiana. It is considered the worst oil spill in history, leaking 3.19 million barrels of oil in the Gulf of Mexico, affecting the surrounding areas and requiring a major cleanup effort.
The petition filed by the plaintiffs' steering committee with the District Court of Louisiana in the Eastern District details how much time and expenses were involved in creating the class action case against BP. The law firms involved with the suit said they had collectively spent 527,000 hours on the claim, which yielded more than $25 billion from BP and an additional $10 to $13 billion for economic and medical damages.
The law firms also maintained that they spent $45 million of their own funds during this legal process, with many of them dedicating their entire firm to the multi-district litigation. The petition outlines their work, which includes 7407 exhibits, 2739 hours of video and 130,6422 pages of depositions. They are seeking the full $600 million that BP has capped to pay for their fees. This leaves $555 million after their initial expenses, which falls under the $600 million cap.
“So many of the original claims against BP were fraudulent, and now the utterly shameless plaintiffs’ bar wants up to a $600 million bonus for that fraud,” Darren McKinney, director of communications at the American Tort Reform Association told the Louisiana Record. “Judge Barbier and others allowed this disgraceful spectacle to get out of hand early, so no one should be surprised by what is happening as it finally winds down.”
The petition will be reviewed by U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier and Magistrate Judge Sally Shushan. Clients for the 107 law firms in the class action suit include individuals, businesses and governmental agencies.
With a high profile case such as this, it isn’t expected that BP or Transocean and Halliburton, which were also named in the case, will challenge the fee request, McKinney said.
“But certainly large mass torts such as this (and many class actions) often result in gigantic claims of plaintiff attorneys’ fees and subsequent back and forth with judges and defense counsel before final figures for fees are agreed to or ordered,” McKinney said. “And, while there’s always some degree of fraud in mass tort litigation, with at least a few shameless shysters trying to get over on the civil justice system, the well-documented widespread fraud perpetrated by much of the plaintiffs’ bar during the course of the BP litigation is uncommon and will, I imagine, still be talked about in legal ethics classes and lectures 50 years from now.”