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Plaintiffs' Lawyers Seek Reserve Fund in BP Oil Spill Case

December 6, 2011 | Posted in : Litigation Management

A recent New York Times story, “Plaintiffs’ Lawyers in a Bitter Dispute Over Fees in Gulf Oil Spill Cases” reports that plaintiffs' lawyers are seeking a reserve fund to help cover litigation costs in the BP multidistrict litigation.  In early November, the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee (PSC) filed a motion in court asking U.S. District Court Judge Carl Barbier to require defendants to set aside 6 percent of any settlements, judgments or “other payments” – meaning Kenneth Feinberg’s Gulf Coast Claims Facility – to create a reserve fund to reimburse the committee of plaintiff attorneys for their expenses in waging the case. 

The PSC notes that since the case began, over 300 attorneys from 90 law firms have invested over 230,000 hours of time and spent $11.54 million of their own money on the case.  The PSC left it to Judge Barbier to say how the money would be extracted, whether by requiring BP to pay an additional amount equivalent to 6 percent of settlements to the fund, which would give plaintiffs their full recovery, or have it come out of the settlement.

Ed Sherman, a Tulane law professor who studies multidistrict litigation said that it’s not unusual for plaintiff committees to begin talking with the court about how to get costs covered before the case is wrapped up, because waging massive liability cases are expensive, time-intensive propositions.  “In order to keep putting that time in, they need the confidence that a fund will be there,” Sherman said.  The difference here, Sherman said, is that there is another avenue for people to have claims addressed, and the people in the claims process and outside lawyers not on the steering committee are opposed to the reserve fund.

For more information on the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee in the BP MDL, visit http://www.bpmdl2179.com/