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Plaintiffs involved in the multidistrict litigation tied to last year’s Gulf of Mexico oil spill scored a key victory last Friday, when the judge presiding over the case denied BP’s request to dismiss a significant portion of the nearly 150,000 individual claims in the case. The judge also ruled that some plaintiffs have the right to seek punitive damages from BP and others accepting responsibility for the oil spill. Although the Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF) does not include punitive damages in its claims and payment process, U.S. District Court Judge Carl Barbier pointed out that plaintiffs may seek punitive damages when a defendant acts with intentional malice or gross negligence; in the oil spill litigation, this may apply to fisherman and others who suffered physical contamination of their property. Additionally, Judge Barbier ruled that plaintiffs seeking compensation under the Oil Pollution Act (OPA) do not have to meet the stricter “proximate cause” standards applied to other forms of lawsuits, as BP suggested. Under OPA guidelines, plaintiffs must demonstrate that their damages are “due to” or “resulted from” the oil spill. However, plaintiffs who are only filing claims under OPA may not also seek punitive damages. And while the GCCF has refused to review so-called “moratorium” claims—claims filed by people and companies who were impacted by the federal government’s decision to halt drilling in the Gulf of Mexico following the oil spill—Judge Barbier ruled that plaintiffs may pursue these claims via the multidistrict litigation, which is scheduled to begin early next year. Although the deadline to join the multidistrict lawsuit has expired, the Mobile, Alabama, attorneys at Long & Long are evaluating cases related to BP’s Vessels of Opportunity (VOO) program as well as those of individuals who suffered personal injury or economic loss due to the oil spill. If you suffered harm as a result of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill or you were not paid adequately for your participation in the VOO program, please contact the Mobile, Alabama, lawyers at Long & Long to schedule your free consultation.

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