Issues To Be Managed Broaden for BP and Other Repeat Players in Mass Disaster Litigation

A Law.com article from this morning provides an interesting view of the reality that BP and some other corporate entities are repeat defendants in the world of mass disaster litigation. Likewise, some of the plaintiff’s lawyers also are repeat players against the same entities. Note especially three points as to how repeat player status may impact strategies and issues across a range of topics.

Note first that the plaintiff’s bar already is posturing to argue that BP’s past and current acts are part of pattern of over-risky corporate behavior, and that the oil well disaster should be considered in a broader context of corporate acts. Claims of that sort could lead to wide-ranging discovery. Second, those claims and the discovery could impact D & O claims. Third, note that BP is now starting to face claims of withholding information. These points raise the stakes for and scope of issues to be managed when dealing with a mass disaster. The point are illustrated by the following quote:

What he witnessed then, [plaintiff’s lawyer Brent} Coon said, is no different than what he’s seeing now: BP in 2005 said it was being transparent and that it would take responsibility for the accident, he said, yet it kept many documents sealed. Fast forward five years, BP again is claiming to be responsible, Coon said, yet it’s refusing to disclose certain information, including the complete video images of what’s occurring on the ocean floor.

"They get into PR and damage control, tell everyone you’re sorry, and in the meantime spin this to blame other people," Coon said, noting that he recently asked a federal court to revoke the probation and plea agreement reached in the 2005 explosion. Under the agreement, BP was supposed to improve safety conditions at its facilities. "Their behavior has not improved," Coon said, adding the Gulf disaster is yet another reason to revoke probation."

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About Kirk

Since becoming a lawyer in 1983, Kirk’s over 30 years of practice have focused on advising a wide range of corporations, associations, and individuals (as both plaintiffs and defendants) on both tort and commercial law issues centered around “mass torts.”

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