Archive > June 2010

To lawyers, BP’s PR strategy isn’t puzzling

admin » 24 June 2010 » In Legal News » No Comments

To lawyers, BP’s PR strategy isn’t puzzling

To a nation frustrated by the Gulf oil spill, BP’s attempts at damage control have sometimes been infuriatingly vague. But from a legal standpoint, that’s exactly the point.

With the company facing more than 200 civil lawsuits and the specter of a Justice Department investigation, saying the wrong thing could expose BP to millions of dollars in damages or even criminal charges for its executives.

bp oil

Inside the company, experts believe, there is a natural tension between public relations people who want BP to project a positive image and lawyers who don’t want to be boxed into a corner.

It’s a balancing act with billions of dollars — perhaps even BP’s survival — at stake.

“BP must weigh the cost of admitting things that could be used against it later against the cost now of bad publicity,” said Michael Siegel, a University of Florida law professor and former federal prosecutor.

In an effort to clean up its image, the company Wednesday put Bob Dudley, its Mississippi-bred managing director, in charge of the spill response. He replaces CEO Tony Hayward, whose gaffes, notably that he’d “like my life back,” have angered Americans.


Continue

Continue reading...

New BP Oil-Spill Fund To Have Little Impact On Insurers

admin » 17 June 2010 » In Legal News » No Comments

New BP Oil-Spill Fund To Have Little Impact On Insurers

There are plenty of questions surrounding the new fund that BP PLC (BP.LN) agreed to establish on Wednesday, but those who track insurance companies are speculating that the $20 billion pool will have little impact on insurers’ obligations tied to the oil spill.

Ken Feinberg, the administrator of the new fund, has handled a job like this before: He oversaw the compensation program for victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. If the BP fund operates like that earlier program, people and businesses affected by the spill will likely be paid less if they have insurance that covers some of their losses, said Richard Bieder, president of Trial Lawyers Care, which represented families of Sept. 11 victims pro bono.

That coverage may not amount to much compared to their actual costs. Estimates are that insurers will pay $2.5 billion to $3.5 billion in claims–just a fraction of the $20 billion that BP has agreed to put into the fund.

Continue

Continue reading...

Tags:

BP Oil Spill: First the Spill, Then the Lawsuits

admin » 11 June 2010 » In Legal News » No Comments

APTOPIX Gulf Oil Spill

BP Oil Spill: First the Spill, Then the Lawsuits

“Oil spill damages? You May Be Entitled to Compensation,” reads a billboard in LaFourche Parish, Louisiana.

It is just one of the tactics lawyers are using to sign up clients to sue BP, along with running advertisements on Gulf Coast television stations, buying Internet addresses like GulfOilSpillLawFirm.com, and holding informational seminars — with free food and drinks — for those who feel the oil company owes them something.

Lawyers across the nation have filed nearly 200 lawsuits so far related to the April 20 oil disaster, including death and injury claims for those aboard the rig, claims of damage and economic loss for people whose livelihoods are threatened by the slick, and shareholder suits over BP’s plunging stock. Cases have even been filed on behalf of the oil-coated fish and birds. Lawyers also plan to file a civil racketeering action alleging a corporate conspiracy with the Bush administration.

At a seminar on Tuesday evening at the Emerald Grande hotel in Destin, Fla., 150 residents and business owners heard a presentation by two lawyers, Robert J. McKee of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Stuart H. Smith of New Orleans, about dealing with the BP claims process.

Mr. Smith, who had flown his private plane from his home in New Orleans for the event, called the continuing gusher under the gulf “a disaster on the installment plan.”

They introduced a team of experts they have assembled to fight BP in court, including accountants, an oceanographer, chemist and toxicologist, and explained to the audience how to gather records to improve their chances.

Mr. McKee’s advice to the group — and it was just advice, because he had to stay on the proper side of the ethical line that bars solicitation of clients — was blunt. Should they decide to sue, he said, “You find someone competent who can kick their butt and take what is owed to you for full, fair and honest compensation.”

Because thousands of plaintiffs’ lawyers from across the country are trying to join in the kicking, consolidation of the federal suits is almost certain. The decision will be made, oddly enough, some 2,000 miles away from the Gulf Coast, by a panel of judges meeting on July 29 in Boise, Idaho, to manage what is known as multidistrict litigation.

Continue

Continue reading...

Tags:

Looking for Liability in BP’s Gulf Oil Spill

admin » 07 June 2010 » In Legal News » No Comments

Looking for Liability in BP’s Gulf Oil Spill

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. made a commitment during a visit to the Gulf Coast last week that the Justice Department would be looking at both civil and criminal charges to ensure accountability for anyone responsible for the oil spill at BP’s oil rig. In his statement, the attorney general said that “if we find evidence of illegal behavior, we will be forceful in our response.”

The likelihood of civil enforcement proceedings for violations of various environmental laws is almost guaranteed for BP and Transocean, the operator and owner, respectively, of the Deepwater Horizon rig that exploded back in April. Halliburton was working as a contractor for Transocean in cementing the well, so it also may be named.

Mr. Holder’s emphasis on using criminal provisions makes it clear that the companies, and perhaps even some individuals at them, will be the targets for prosecution. Here is a preliminary assessment of the various types of litigation the environmental disaster is likely to spawn.

Continue

Continue reading...

Tags:

Gulf oil leak sets off ‘unbelievable array’ of legal issues

admin » 04 June 2010 » In Legal News » No Comments

fishery_closure_06_1_10

Gulf oil leak sets off ‘unbelievable array’ of legal issues

Fishermen and property owners along the Gulf Coast have filed hundreds of lawsuits since April against oil company BP and its contractors amid a legal landscape that has changed dramatically since the Exxon Valdez tanker spill sullied Alaska’s Prince William Sound 21 years ago.

The Valdez spill prompted Congress to pass the 1990 Oil Pollution Act — intended to give fishers and others harmed by such spills a quicker route for settling their claims — and nearly two decades of litigation over that spill also has redefined centuries-old maritime law on the issue.

Now, as hundreds of spill victims test those laws, attorneys say many questions remain about how far the protections will go and how long it will take to compensate the fishers, landholders and beachside cities that have suffered from the spill.

“There are an unbelievable array of issues in this case,” said Stanford law professor Jeffrey Fisher, who argued the Exxon Valdez case for the commercial fishermen and other Alaska businesses before the Supreme Court. “One of the most painful things about the Exxon case was that it took us 20 years to get the case finished and get the money in the pockets of the victims. One can’t help but wonder if the same thing is going to happen here.”

Source

Continue reading...