Oil Spill Hearing Focuses on Sickness and Other Claims BP Wants to Dismiss

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Courthouse News Service

NEW ORLEANS – A Thursday hearing focused on motions to dismiss claims in the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, including claims from cleanup workers who say they are sick from exposure to toxic chemicals.

Thousands of plaintiffs have filed hundreds of claims for personal injuries, property damages and other causes stemming from the April 20, 2010 explosion of BP’s Deepwater Horizon drill rig that killed 11 people and dumped millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

Almost all of the claims have been consolidated in New Orleans Federal Court under U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier.

Because the issues vary widely, the lawsuits have been divided into pleading bundles. The Thursday hearing concerned bundles B1, B3 and D1.

BP, Transocean, Halliburton, Cameron International, Nalco – the manufacturer of the dispersant Corexit – and numerous other defendants filed motions over the past months challenging claims in the three pleading bundles.

Bundle B1 concerns economic damages, B3 health issues related to oil exposure and oil spill cleanup, and D1 is from plaintiffs challenging regulatory actions under the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act, the Comprehensive Environmental Restoration, Cleanup and Liability Act, and maritime and state laws.

A motion filed by the plaintiff steering committee states that B3 bundle plaintiffs “are individuals who worked in the Vessels of Opportunity (‘VoO’) program, other vessel captains and crew not involved in the VoO program who were nonetheless assisting in clean-up efforts and were exposed to the oil’s and/or chemical dispersants’ harmful effects, and beach clean-up workers and residents who live in close proximity to the shore. …

“The chemicals to which they were exposed – hydrocarbons from oil and in situ burning and chemical dispersant, including Corexit – can cause a wide array of health problems, such as respiratory ailments, disruption of the nervous system, impairment of liver and kidney function, and interference with the reproductive system.”

The steering committee says “the defendants had the means, ability and opportunity to protect people who participated in the clean-up effort, as well as shoreline residents, from toxic exposure. Consequently, the defendants could have prevented their illnesses and diseases. But, instead, the defendants cavalierly failed to take even the minimum of safety measures to ensure the health and welfare of workers and the community at risk of exposure to the chemicals. As a result, thousands of people are ill and/or have been exposed to chemicals in a manner that puts them at risk of becoming ill in the future.”

The plaintiffs want BP and the other oil spill defendants to pay for medical monitoring – the defendants say they don’t have to.

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