PLAQUEMINES PARISH — After securing a settlement on behalf of Plaquemines Parish in a case involving damage from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, a group of attorneys is seeking to get paid themselves.
Under a $45 million settlement between BP and the government of Plaquemines Parish, an initial $25 million was to be paid this year and $5 million would be paid every subsequent year for four years. The original agreement between Martzell, Bickford & Centola APC; King, Krebs & Jurgens PLLC; and David Landry, special counsel for the parish, said that counsel would retain 15 percent of the initial $25 million and 10 percent of any funds over that amount, according to court records.
Settling the matter for $45 million meant the attorneys would receive a total of 12.7 percent, which equals $6.4 million, The Times-Picayune reported.
But it didn’t work out that way for the group of attorneys, who reportedly put out more than a half-million dollars of their own money to pursue the settlement. When contacted for comment, Landry declined to discuss the motion with the Louisiana Record.
“Everything we have to say is in our pleadings,” Landry wrote.
After the Plaquemines Parish government declined to accept a $20 billion settlement reached between the oil company and a number of government entities, claiming it was not a fair reimbursement, Martzell, Bickford & Centola were hired. King, Krebs & Jurgens was also brought on. After the attorneys collaboratively succeeded in settling for more than the government was originally offered, a parish lawyer inquired whether they had been “properly hired,” according to The Associated Press, and the attorneys' fees were placed in escrow.
According to an Aug. 15 court motion, the attorneys "respectfully move for attorney fees and costs pursuant to their contingency fee contract with Plaquemines Parish government."
Plaquemines Parish attorney Peter A. Barbee did not return the Louisiana Record's request for comment.
A Sept. 26 phone conference between U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph Wilkinson and attorneys Barbee, Scott Bickford and Landry recently pushed the proceedings to Oct. 25, allowing time for documents to be prepared by Barbee for Plaquemines Parish’s motion to intervene and dismiss.
"Counsel for the proposed intervenors advised that he will file a motion for summary judgment regarding the validity of the subject attorney’s contingency fee contract between the parties within one week of the court’s determination of the motions to intervene and for dismissal, if appropriate," according to the motion docket.