Decision Handed Down on MDL Hearing re. Gulf Oil Spill

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New Orleans will be the scene of what many legal eagles are predicting to be "a trial of the new century."

In BW's coverage of the recent multidistrict litigation panel hearing in Boise, we reported that scores of some of the nation's most prominent lawyers came to Boise for what resulted in a fast-paced exercise of "speed lawyering." Attorneys had precious minutes to convince a panel of seven federal justices of how or where to consolidate the hundreds of lawsuits lodged in the wake of the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig and subsequent spill which lasted more than 100 days.

Lawsuits have been filed on behalf of survivors of rig workers killed in the blast, and hundreds of homeowners, fishermen, restaurateurs and environmentalists all impacted by the millions of gallons of oil which crippled the Gulf of Mexico for months.

In a ruling handed down Tuesday, Aug. 10, the MDL panel settled upon the Eastern District of Louisiana as "the most appropriate district for the consolidated litigation."

Writing for the panel, Justice John Heyburn of Kentucky wrote, " 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 closest to it."

"We also conclude that it makes sense to include the personal injury/wrongful death actions in the MDL," wrote Heyburn. "While these actions will require some amount of individualized discovery, in other respects they overlap with those that pursue only economic damage claims."

The panel has also asked Judge Carl Barbier of Louisiana to serve as judge.

"We have every confidence that he is well prepared to handle a litigation of this magnitude."

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