Significant Ruling on Civil Penalty Claims from Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill
March 13, 2014 Case Study
In re Deepwater Horizon
On February 24, 2014, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit issued its decision in a nationally significant dispute involving state-law civil penalty claims arising from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The Fifth Circuit ruled in favor of Beck Redden’s client and a number of aligned parties, upholding the removal of state oil spill lawsuits to federal court and affirming the dismissal of state-law civil penalty claims based on the spill.
In re Deepwater Horizon (No. 12-30012) arose from the high-profile multidistrict litigation involving the oil spill in and after April 2010 from the Deepwater Horizon deepwater drilling unit operating offshore Louisiana in the Gulf of Mexico. In hundreds of cases consolidated in the federal MDL proceeding, Beck Redden represented Cameron International Corporation, manufacturer of the blowout preventer. Beck Redden partners David J. Beck and David Jones led the Cameron defense team, and their colleague B.D. Daniel had primary responsibility for briefing legal motions.
Among the myriad claims asserted in that litigation, District Attorneys for several Louisiana parishes filed state court lawsuits in their local parish courts seeking to recover civil penalties pursuant to Louisiana law for harm to wildlife caused by the oil spill. Beck Redden removed the parish DA lawsuits against Cameron to federal court, where they were consolidated with the other cases in the MDL. The parish DAs filed motions in the MDL to remand their state lawsuits back to state court, while Beck Redden filed a motion to dismiss the parish DA claims on the basis of federal preemption. The MDL judge denied remand and granted Cameron’s motion, dismissing the state-law civil penalty claims as preempted by federal law.
Beck Redden briefed and argued the parish DAs’ appeal in the Fifth Circuit, coordinating with several other aligned defendants. In its decision on February 24, 2014, the Fifth Circuit agreed with Beck Redden’s arguments and affirmed both the removal and dismissal on the basis of federal preemption.
Beck Redden appellate partner Russell Post acted as lead appellate counsel and presented the oral argument. He collaborated with Mr. Daniel and appellate colleague Keith Jones in writing the appellate brief for Cameron.