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31 Oct 2011

Amanda Bronstad, The National Law Journal

Judge dismisses Deepwater Horizon-related claims [USA]

Barbier has not issued a final judgment. He gave both sides until Oct. 31 to propose language for that document, which when finalized would allow the unhappy party to appeal. But the lawyers began sparring over the details — in particular, whether the judge had exonerated the emergency responders for negligence or whether he had simply declared that they were not liable for damages. Also unresolved was whether the plaintiffs should pay the responders' legal costs...The 13 plaintiffs in those cases — a group of landowners, commercial fishermen and employees in the oil and gas industry — sued six emergency responders, alleging that they should have known that the water they sprayed for 36 hours on the Deepwater Horizon would cause the rig to sink, uncapping a riser pipe and allowing oil to gush into the Gulf of Mexico. The plaintiffs filed a proposed class action seeking economic and property damages under general maritime law and the U.S. Oil Pollution Act of 1990...[T]hey claimed negligence under Louisiana state law...Barbier concluded that the Oil Pollution Act claims should be dismissed because the oil had discharged from the Deepwater Horizon, not the emergency responder vessels. He ruled that federal maritime law pre-empted the claims under Louisiana law...The dismissal was with prejudice, but plaintiffs still could file their claims against BP...and some of the other defendants, according to Barbier's order.