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SHELBY MAN, JEFFCO FIRM FILE LAWSUIT OVER OIL SPILL AIM TO GET CLASS-ACTION STATUS (THE BIRMINGHAM NEWS)

May 6, 2010

A Shelby County man and a Jefferson County company who own rental property in Gulf Shores have joined a growing number of people filing federal lawsuits against the companies that own and operate an oil rig that exploded last month, creating a massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The lawsuit was filed Monday by attorneys for Ben Chenault of Shelby County and CMCO LLC of Jefferson County, in U.S. District Court in Birmingham. The lawsuit names BP Products North America Inc., Transocean Ltd. and several related companies or contractors as defendants.

The offshore drilling rig Deepwater Horizon was owned, operated, chartered or controlled by Transocean and-or BP entities, according to the lawsuit.

An explosion on the rig on April 20 about 50 miles off the Louisiana coast killed 11 crew members and injured others.

Attempts to shut off the subsea blowout preventer to stop oil from flowing into the Gulf have been unsuccessful, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit maintains the defendants ''were negligent in responding to the disaster, particularly with respect to downplaying the nature, size and extent of the leak and failing to employ adequate responders and/or equipment in (the) field to control the oil slick.''

As a result, the property values of the plaintiffs have been diminished, the lawsuit says. ''Plaintiffs have similarly and will continue to suffer economic losses and other damages to include loss of rents and loss of use,'' the lawsuit states.

Shane Lucado, an attorney for CMCO and Chenault, said more than one rental property is at issue in the lawsuit and there have been rental cancellations since the spill began. He did not provide specifics.

Lucado said the ideal situation would be that the oil washes out to sea and is successfully skimmed up. ''But the reality is, that is probably not going to happen,'' he said.

The lawsuit proposes to make this a class-action suit to cover others who may have been damaged as a result of the oil spill.

Mobile-based law firm Cunningham Bounds LLC also announced Tuesday that it has filed three proposed class-action complaints this week on behalf of marinas, restaurants and boat dealerships.

The lawsuits join a growing number being filed in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Florida by individuals and businesses since the explosion and spill.

Transocean e-mailed a statement to The Birmingham News on Tuesday that says the company has a policy not to comment on pending litigation. ''At this point, our focus remains centered on meeting the needs of family members during this difficult time - as demonstrated by the efforts of our family response team members - and in providing support to BP and the unified command,'' according to the Transocean statement.

Robert Wine, a BP press officer, confirmed a number of legal actions had been started because of the incident, but said in an e-mail that the company cannot comment on specifics of individual cases.

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