Louisiana Lawsuit Abuse Watch (LLAW) Executive Director Lana Sonnier Venable said it is a shame that a national panel of federal judges recently rejected a request by oil and gas companies to consolidate several wetland damage lawsuits brought by a half-dozen Louisiana parishes.
“It is disappointing that the more than 40 coastal wetlands lawsuits were not consolidated based on their similar allegations against the job-creating energy industry,” Venable told the Louisiana Record.
These cases clearly belong in federal court, according to Venable, who was the public and government affairs adviser for ExxonMobil for 11 years.
However, the federal judicial panel did not feel the same, according to a July 31 Times Picayune report. “The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation found that there are enough differences between the cases that using the multidistrict process is not necessary,” according to the Times Picayune.
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Oil and gas lawyers brought the 42 lawsuits filed by the parishes to federal court “months after individual federal judges had ruled that the wetlands damages suits should be heard in state courts in the respective parishes,” according to the report, adding the matter was brought before Senior U.S. District Judge Sarah Vance of the Eastern District of Louisiana.
But Venable disagrees with the final ruling.
“The second removal was triggered in May when parish attorneys in the first cases scheduled for trial in Plaquemines filed reports of expert witnesses that show some of the actions claimed to be violation of state laws actually took place before those state laws existed, and instead were taken to comply with federal directives dating back to World War II,” the Times Picayune reports.
Venable said it is nonsense. “Instead, these baseless suits will continue to clog our court system, requiring hearings by multiple federal judges to determine whether they will ultimately be heard in state or federal courts,” Venable said.