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Litigation

Alabama Leaders Clash Over How To Proceed Against BP

MONTGOMERY, Ala. - A power struggle is developing in Alabama over how to proceed with claims against those responsible for the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

Attorney General Troy King on Aug. 12 sued BP, Transocean and others in the Middle District of Alabama, seeking to halt the defendants' behind-the-scenes efforts to protect themselves in future legal actions.  That same day, Alabama officials presented BP with a $148 million claim for lost revenue.  Incoming BP CEO Bob Dudley stated that King's lawsuit complicates its negotiations with the state.  Alabama Gov. Bob Riley responded by issuing an executive order to limit how much King can pay outside lawyers to pursue his case.  The governor said he was protecting the people of Alabama from having to pay lawyers out of the proceeds of the lawsuit.  He said King's office confirmed that lawyers he sought to hire would receive 14 percent of any compensation from the defendants.

"That's unacceptable to me and to the people of Alabama," the governor said.  Meanwhile, King said he is trying to protect Alabama citizens from BP's delays and broken promises.

"BP is spending millions of dollars on public relations advertising promising to 'make things right,'" King said.  "At the same time, BP is retaining all the best expert witnesses, not because they need their services, but so the experts will be unable to testify against BP.  They are selling off their assets - perhaps, to divest themselves of assets that American courts could reach to satisfy a judgment.  And BP is working to develop a report to argue they were not grossly negligent which would limit their liability.  Obviously, BP's ads are working - they have persuaded some newspapers and politicians to call for more delays.  Shame on BP for running them, and shame on us if we believe them."

In the lawsuit, (Alabama v. BP, No. 2:10cv690, M.D. Ala.), King says BP, Transocean and others knew the risks of their oil drilling and failed to take appropriate measures, resulting in untold damages and the largest marine oil disaster in U.S. history.

He said the state has suffered pollution damages, physical injuries to its resources, destruction of property, lost revenues, cleanup costs, public service costs and long-term stigma.  Claims include negligence, trespass, public nuisance and damages under the federal Oil Pollution Act.  The suit seeks economic and compensatory damages, punitive damages, remediation costs, injunctive relief and attorneys' fees.

King and Assistant Attorneys General Cheairs Porter and Robert Tambling in Montgomery represent the state.

This update first appeared in HB's Oil Litigation & Insurance Coverage Report.  Developments like this and more will be discussed at the conference titled "Oil in the Gulf: Litigation & Insurance Coverage" scheduled for Nov. 4-5 in Miami produced by HB Litigation Conferences.  For more information, visit www.LitigationConferences.com

Lexis.com subscribers can find Deepwater Horizon-related filings here.  If you do not have a lexis.com ID, you can get information on how to subscribe here.