Oil Spill MDL Judge Expected To Move Quickly

Oil Spill MDL Judge Expected To Move Quickly

MIAMI BEACH - The judge overseeing the BP oil spill litigation MDL is expected to move the massive litigation along quickly, a plaintiff attorney reported Nov. 4.

Scott Sumy of Baron & Budd in Dallas made his remarks at HB Litigation Conferences' Oil in the Gulf - Litigation & Insurance Coverage conference at the Fontainebleau here.

In an MDL update, Summy said there are currently 302 cases from 12 states in the MDL overseen by U.S. Judge Carl Barbier of the Eastern District of Louisiana. All but three of the cases were filed in federal courts.

"Judge Barbier is not playing around on timelines," said Summy, one of four attorneys appointed to the Plaintiffs' Executive Committee of the MDL. "He is going to push this thing like crazy."

Summy said Judge Barbier has named the members of the plaintiff and defense steering committees and issued a number of pretrial orders.  He said the judge has scheduled a liability trial for spring 2012.

"That is going to go extremely fast," Summy said of the trial.

He said written discovery is starting and depositions will begin being taken in January.

Summy said the nature of lawsuits consolidated in the New Orleans MDL include antitrust, environmental, Jones Act admiralty/personal injury, Oil Pollution Act (OPA), Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act and RICO racketeering cases. Ervin Gonzalez of Colson Hicks Eidson in Coral Gables, Fla., a member of the Plaintiffs' Steering Committee, said bellwether, or test, trials have been set up for such cases that deal with such issues as business damage, hotel damage and injured seamen. Stephen J. Herman of Herman Herman Katz & Cotlar LLP in New Orleans, a member of the Plaintiffs' Executive Committee, said OPA test trials are being set up and one could be held next spring.

Summy said the most cases have originated from Louisiana, 116, followed by Florida with 66, Alabama with 47, Texas with 40, Mississippi with 18, South Carolina with four, Virginia with three, Georgia, Kentucky and Tennessee, with two apiece, and California and Colorado with one each. The three state lawsuits that were transferred to the MDL were filed in Alabama, Florida and Colorado, he said.

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