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Chicago Firm To Defend BP In Oil Lawsuits

By Marcus Gilmer in News on May 18, 2010 7:40PM

As the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico worsens each day - the latest discovery being the plumes of oil - BP is prepping itself for the inevitable crush of lawsuits. And to help with this impending legal action, the oil mega-company has enlisted longtime ally Kirkland & Ellis to represent it. Lawsuits over the 1989 Exxon-Valdez spill lasted two decades and some speculate the lawsuits surrounding this spill will dwarf that. Already the filings have begun. According to the Tribune:

At least 70 suits were filed in the two weeks following the April 20 explosion, including 59 that want to proceed as a class action, according to court documents. Plaintiffs assert similar claims: that negligence resulted in personal injuries, damage to their businesses or property damage. They seek compensation, including punitive damages.

The suits have been filed in federal and state courts in several states, including Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida. As is often the case in big, complex liability cases, the federal suits likely will be transferred to one court for pretrial evidence gathering and rulings. Centralization helps move cases along and avoids inconsistent rulings from different judges.

In the meantime, BP announced a tube is slowly siphoning off some of the oil flowing into waters via the breach but only around 20 percent is being collected. Tar balls were recovered near Key West, Florida and there are increasing fears that the oil will soon enter the Gulf's Loop current, a powerful current that flows around the southern tip of Florida and up the Atlantic coast. Officials also fear the development of a new "Dead Zone" in the Gulf. In a study by the U.S. Geological Survey from 2008, it was revealed that Illinois was one of the biggest culprits in terms of chemical runoff that contributed to the previously existing "Dead Zone" in the Gulf.