August 10, 2010
BP oil cases transferred to New Orleans by U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation
On August 10, 2010, the U.S Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation ("JPML")issued a Transfer Order which effectively transfers all federal lawsuits arising out of the enormous BP Oil Spill to the U.S District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, which is located in New Orleans.
The panel's order aims to centralize a wide variety of claims in New Orleans before U.S. District Judge Carl J. Barbier, who has been appointed by the JPML to serve as the transferee judge. The panel cited; Barbier's long career along with his considerable MDL experience in explaining their selection. They further expressed their confidence that he will perform his duties impartially and make any necessary difficult decisions "without engaging in any location-specific favoritism."
The selection of the location for the consolidation of these cases follows a July 29, 2010, hearing in Boise, Idaho where attorneys for both plaintiffs and BP along with other defendants suggested a variety of locations.BP originally attempted to transfer these oil spill cases to Texas, where its U.S. operations are based and where defendants Halliburton and Transocean, among others, also have substantial presences.
After JPML's careful consideration of numerous briefs and oral arguments, the panel selected New Orleans, based on multiple key factors:
1) The actions "share factual issues concerning the cause of the Deepwater Horizon explosion/fire and the role, if any, that each defendant played in it."
2) Inclusion of the currently pending personal injury/wrongful death actions does "not overlap factually with the other actions " in the docket, and the transferee judge has broad discretion to employ pretrial techniques to address any differences among the cases and promote judicial efficiency.
3) The panel was unable to find any "strong reasons for separate treatment of claims brought under the Oil Pollution Act."
The JPML panel gave a summary of their decision upon the Eastern District of Louisiana as the most appropriate district with the following statement: "Without discounting the spill's effects on other states, if there is a geographic and psychological ?center of gravity' in this docket, then the Eastern District of Louisiana is the closest to it."