SPILL OF LAWSUITS FOLLOWS QUICKLY WITH DEEPWATER HORIZON OIL DISASTER IN GULF (AL.COM)
The flow of lawsuits has begun.
Prominent Mobile, Ala., law firm Cunningham Bounds has filed a slew of separate class-action lawsuits on behalf of various groups impacted by the massive oil spill gushing from Deepwater Horizon, an offshore drilling rig that exploded and sank last week in the Gulf of Mexico.
And in Gulfport, Miss., the owner of a Mississippi seafood company filed a federal class-action lawsuit today over the rig explosion and resulting oil spill. Jerry Forte, owner of Jerry Forte Seafood in Pass Christian, claims the spill could damage the commercial seafood industry.
Cunningham represents residents and businesses that own rental property in Orange Beach and Gulf Shores and seafood processors and harvesters.
"We all hoped and prayed that the oil would never reach the coastline," attorney Robert T. Cunningham said in a statement.
"However, now that it has happened, the oil spill and the inability of those who are at fault to stop the spill from continuing, and their inability to prevent its migration toward the Gulf Coast, has already damaged the fishery eco-system and caused numerous rental cancellations of condos, charter boats, and the like and substantial financial losses to innocent fishermen, oyster harvesters, business owners, boat owners and crews, managers and others."
"BP and other responsible parties should ultimately be held legally responsible for those losses, and that is the reason our clients have filed lawsuits in Alabama and Florida."
The Gulfport suit was filed by Jerry Forte, owner of Jerry Forte Seafood in Pass Christian, and claims the spill could damage the commercial seafood industry.
Forte's attorneys filed the suit in U.S. District Court in Gulfport.
The suit seeks at least $5 million in compensatory damages, plus an unspecified amount of punitive damages against Transocean, BP, Halliburton Energy Services Inc. and Cameron International Corp.
Shrimpers have filed similar lawsuits in federal courts in Louisiana and Alabama.
Other law firms have filed suits on behalf of property owners. A Birmingham firm, for instance, sued on behalf of a Jefferson County man who owns Gulf Coast condo unit. The plaintiff, Peter Burke, seeks to represent all condo owners along the Alabama coast. The civil complaint contends that the spill already has affected Burke's ability to rent his condos.
Another class-action suit seeking to represent coastal Alabama property owners was filed by two Louisiana residents who own property in Baldwin County.
On Thursday, a Bayou La Batre shrimper became the first person to sue in Mobile's federal court.
All of the lawsuits target the same companies: BP Plc; Transocean Ltd., which owned the drilling rig; Halliburton Energy Services, whose employees were working on the platform; and Cameron International Corp., which manufactured the blowout preventer that failed to shut off the oil flow.
Representatives from those companies have declined to comment on pending litigation.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)