By Brendan Kirby in Mobile Press-Register
MOBILE, Ala. -- The flow of lawsuits has begun, but Alabama's top lawyer suggested Friday that they may be premature.
Attorney General Troy King will meet with his counterparts from four other Gulf Coast states in Mobile on Sunday to discuss plans to hold BP accountable for the costs of last week's drilling rig explosion that has caused an ever-growing oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico.
In the meantime, King said in a prepared statement, attorneys should refrain from rushing to court.
Alabama oil lawsuits
Here is a list of plaintiffs and who they seek to represent in class-action lawsuits filed in Mobile this week:
· Anchor Realty (as of Friday afternoon, a civil complaint was not yet available).
· Bon Secour Fisheries, on behalf of all Alabama residents who own or lease residential or commercial property that has been or will be affected by the spill.
· Peter Burke, on behalf of people and businesses who have suffered or will suffer damages.
· Fishtrap Charters, Action Outdoors, TNT LLC and Jon Ingram, on behalf of charter boat owners, captains and deck hands.
· Fort Morgan Sales, Rental & Development, Prickett Properties and Margaritaville LLC, on behalf of real estate owners, rental managers and rental agents along the Alabama coast.
· James F. Mason Jr., on behalf commercial fishermen.
· George C. Simpson, on behalf of owners of rental properties within 10 miles of the Gulf Coast in Alabama.
· Jud and Sherri Smith, LP Properties, Ben McLeod, Ben-Rip-J Inc., Harry Barnes and Necessity Fishing, on behalf of all Alabama residents who live or work in or derive income from the coastal zone.
· Shannon Trahan and Dr. John Gonzales, on behalf of property owners and residents who live in, work in or derive income from the Alabama coastal zone.
· Billy Wilkerson, Tessa Wilkerson, T&E Seafood Inc., Jubilee Seafood Inc., Malay Inc., Country Inc. and Deep Sea Foods Inc., on behalf of fishermen, oystermen, crabbers, shrimpers and seafood processors.
"This is not a time for class-action lawsuits and profit taking," he said in a statement. "This is a time of preparedness and prayer."
That has not stopped some of the state's most prominent lawyers from filing lawsuits. As of Friday afternoon, 10 separate class-action suits had been filed in Mobile's federal court alone against BP Plc and other companies involved with the Deepwater Horizon.
"We've dealt with oil companies," said famed Alabama trial lawyer Jere Beasley, who represents Bon Secour Fisheries. "If anybody believes BP is going to adequately compensate people for this, they're going to be in for a rude awakening."
BP said Friday that it is responsible and that it will compensate those impacted.
"We are taking full responsibility for the spill and we will clean it up and where people can present legitimate claims for damages we will honor them," BP Chief Executive Officer Tony Hayward told Reuters. "We are going to be very, very aggressive in all of that."
The Bon Secour Fisheries suit seeks to represent everyone in Alabama who owns or leases residential or commercial property that is threatened by the oil slick.
Prominent Mobile law firm Cunningham Bounds has filed three separate class-action suits in Mobile and two more in Florida. The suits seek to represent charter boat owners and captains, real estate owners, rental managers and agents, and commercial fishermen.
"It's just a potential disaster with ripple effects like a stone in a lake," said attorney Robert Cunningham.
Cunningham said it is too early guess at the economic impact from the accident or BP's capacity to make everyone whole.
"That all remains to be seen," he said. "Fortunately, they are a multibillion-dollar corporation."
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 is designed to shut off the oil flow.
Representatives from those companies have declined to comment on pending litigation.
Halliburton officials told the Associated Press, however, that company workers had completed a cementing operation 20 hours before the rig exploded. A number of lawsuits have alleged that the operation contributed to the accident.
Lawyers involved in the litigation said it is likely that all of the class-action lawsuits will be consolidated and assigned to a single federal judge in one of the affected states. If the cases were to go to trial, they could be sent back to the original jurisdiction.
Of course, they may never get to a jury.
"Quite often, they settle," Beasley said.
OIL SUITS FLOW, BUT TROY KING URGES PRAYER (MOBILE PRESS-REGISTER)
By Brendan Kirby in Mobile Press-Register