Bloomberg News

Louisiana Must Give BP Data or Lose Spill Claims, Judge Says

October 27, 2011

(Updates with Louisiana comment in eighth paragraph.)

Oct. 27 (Bloomberg) -- Louisiana must quickly turn over all documents BP Plc has requested or face stiff fines and possible dismissal of the state’s claims for environmental and economic losses from the 2010 oil spill, a judge ruled.

If Louisiana fails to meet strict new deadlines, the earliest of which is Nov. 3, the state will be fined $2,500 a day, U.S. Magistrate Sally Shushan said in an order today in New Orleans federal court. That fine rises to $5,000 a day after seven days and to $10,000 a day after 14 days, if Louisiana continues to delay.

“At the end of 21 days of non-compliance, the court will consider, either on its own motion or the motion of any party, whether the claims of Louisiana in this MDL shall be dismissed in whole or in part for failure to prosecute,” Shushan said in a five-page order.

Shushan is assisting U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier of New Orleans, who presides over more than 350 spill-related lawsuits that have been consolidated into a multidistrict litigation proceeding for pretrial processing.

Louisiana must produce documents related to the first phase of the spill trial, to determine liability and which companies must pay for damages suffered by thousands of coastal businesses and property owners from the spill. On Oct. 12, after the judge had granted Louisiana one extension to the document production deadline, the state’s lawyers told Shushan they would need 14 to 16 more weeks to complete that task.

‘Public Funds’

“While the court appreciates that Louisiana is required to expend public funds to produce the documents, it is necessary that its document production be completed so that this MDL proceeding may progress as scheduled,” Shushan said. BP must be given the state’s documents with enough time to be “adequately prepared” for depositions scheduled to begin Nov. 14, she said.

Shushan also gave Louisiana a Nov. 21 deadline for producing all documents London-based BP requested related to the second phase of the spill trial, which will decide matters related to containing and cleaning up the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history.

Amanda Larkins, spokeswoman for Louisiana Attorney General James “Buddy” Caldwell, declined to immediately comment.

“Our attorneys are currently reviewing the court’s order, and we may have more to say at a later time,” she said in an e- mail.

The case is In Re: Oil Spill by the Oil Rig Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, 2010, MDL-2179, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana (New Orleans).

--With assistance from Allen Johnson Jr. in New Orleans. Editors: Mary Romano, Andrew Dunn

To contact the reporters on this story: Margaret Cronin Fisk in Southfield, Michigan, at mcfisk@bloomberg.net; Laurel Brubaker Calkins in Houston at laurel@calkins.us.com.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha in San Francisco at mhytha@bloomberg.net.


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