Oil Spill Litigation Proceeds With Consolidated Class Action

Oil spill in ocean

U.S. District Judge David O. Carter ruled that the oil spill class action in which Larson serves as interim co-lead counsel for the plaintiffs will proceed despite third parties’ efforts to delay the litigation, Daily Journal reported on May 27.

Defendant Amplify Energy Corp. (“Amplify”) asserts that container ships are to blame for the massive oil spill detected off of the Orange County coast in October 2021 and the company filed a third-party complaint in February 2022. During a hearing on May 23, counsel for one of the shipowners asked Judge Carter to “pause the oil spill litigation to allow its Limitation of Liability Act proceeding to move forward,” as the company wishes to “exonerate themselves or limit their liability,” Law360 reported in an article that day.

Larson’s co-lead counsel Lexi J. Hazam of Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein LLP “disagreed that a stay on the case is mandatory and urged the court to allow the plaintiffs’ class action liability claims to proceed to a jury trial,” Law360 summarized.

On May 26, Judge Carter ordered that the consolidated class action against Amplify will proceed toward trial along with the company’s claims against the shipowners. Daily Journal explained that he “rejected the shipowners’ argument that the Limitation of Liability Act blocks Amplify from suing under the Oil Pollution Act . . . [but the] order stayed all other claims against the shipping interests by the individual and class plaintiffs and Amplify.”

Judge Carter “also consolidated the actions involving the shipping interests and said three special masters will issue a discovery coordination order ‘upon their appointment,'” Daily Journal noted.

Wylie A. Aitken of Aitken Aitken Cohn, Larson’s other co-lead counsel, stated, “The most important thing is that discovery, consolidating, and coordination of the actions is going to be able to go ahead on track.”

“They can file whatever they think they need to to invite them to the party,” Mr. Aitken added regarding Amplify’s action against the shipowners. “They’re still No. 1 in line . . . We want to see the citizens of Orange County compensated . . . Obviously we’re going to go full speed ahead with our actions.”

The Larson team serving as co-lead counsel for the plaintiffs along with Mr. Aitken and Ms. Hazam includes partners Stephen G. Larson, Steven E. Bledsoe, Rick Richmond, and Paul A. Rigali, and associate Andrew J. Bedigian.

Read the full article by Gina Kim of Law360 covering the hearing on May 23 here and the full article by Ricardo Pineda of Daily Journal covering Judge Carter’s order on May 26 here (subscriptions required).


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