State becomes third to sue BP over 2010 oil spill
Published: April 22,2013
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JACKSON — Mississippi has become the third state to sue BP PLC over the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
Attorney General Jim Hood announced the state had filed lawsuits in federal and state court. The move comes one day before the three-year statute of limitations expires for claims related to the April 20, 2010, explosion of the Deepwater Horizon that killed 11 and the oil spill that followed.
The suits also name rig owner Transocean Ltd., cement contractor Halliburton and lease minority owner Anadarko Petroleum Corp. as defendants.
Hood said he wanted to settle, but said BP refused to negotiate.
“BP would not even agree to waive the statute of limitations while we negotiated, which could have prevented the state from having to file suit and saved both them and the taxpayers a lot of money paying lawyers and fighting in the courts,” Hood said in a statement.
BP spokesman Scott Dean declined to comment.
In the state complaint, Mississippi invokes a series of state laws to say BP and the other defendants owe money to clean up and restore damaged areas. Under one state law, Mississippi alleges it can fine BP and the other defendants $25,000 a day, and says the clock is still running. That means fines already would total over $27 million.
“The oil spill has not only had a severe impact on environment, but is has substantially impacted the state’s tax collections and has caused or will cause expenditures by various state agencies…,” the suit says. It says the spill has damaged state property and hurt its values, and caused the state to spend money cleaning up and doing other things.
“The damages to our economy and our natural resources are staggering and we intend to fully recover for the taxpayers of the state,” Hood said.
Mississippi also wants punitive damages, attorneys’ fees, and court costs, as well as court orders barring future bad behavior by BP.
Mick Bullock, a spokesman for Gov. Phil Bryant, said Bryant supports the suit.
“The Deepwater Horizon disaster has had profound impacts on Mississippi, and Gov. Bryant certainly believes that responsible parties should be held accountable,” Bullock wrote in an email.
Hood hired former Attorney General Mike Moore, a fellow Democrat, to handle the lawsuit, angering some Republicans who want to limit Hood’s ability to contract with outside lawyers.
Louisiana and Alabama sued BP earlier and are participating in a federal trial that is ongoing in New Orleans to determine the liability of BP and its contractors. Mississippi hadn’t been participating because it hadn’t sued. It’s unclear if Friday’s lawsuit will change that.
Hood, though, actually wants to keep as much of the action in state court as he can. The attorney general has on several occasions tried to litigate claims against large businesses in state court, where rules can be more favorable.
“While claims filed by other states have languished in federal court, I do not want to see that happen to us,” Hood said. “States are separate sovereigns entitled to litigate their state law claims in state courts. We feel strongly that our case is a Mississippi case and it should be heard in a Mississippi court with a Mississippi jury.”
Mississippi is part of a last minute rush to the courthouse by people suing BP. Hundreds of new cases have been filed in Louisiana in recent days, and dozens in Mississippi. Among the new plaintiffs in Mississippi are the cities of Gulfport, Pascagoula, Ocean Springs, Moss Point and Gautier, as well as Jackson County and the East Central Harrison Public Utility District.
Also, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi says she will file a lawsuit Saturday against BP, on the third anniversary of the explosion.
She contends Florida is entitled to revenues it lost due to the spill, including sales taxes, cigarette surcharges, beer taxes, among other things. Florida is also seeking punitive damages under maritime and state common law.
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