Judge Carl Barbier recently presided over the November status conference in the MDL involving the Gulf oil spill litigation. In re: Oil Spill by the Oil Rig “Deepwater Horizon” in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, 2010, MDL No. 2179 (E.D. La.).
Liaison counsel reported on the number of cases, now up to roughly 300, and on the status of the related 17 or so cases in state courts.
A major topic was the entry of an order regarding preservation of evidence recovered from the seabed or otherwise. The order also noted the equipment related to the Deepwater Horizon explosion that must be turned over to the government’s Joint Investigation Team as it is recovered. The government reported that forensic testing had begun on the Blow Out Preventer, with a report estimated to be available in March, 2011. Counsel for the Justice Department also reported to the Court that a sample of cement from the site had been turned over to the Marine Board and was being held in a climate-controlled area while the parties discuss protocols for physical testing of the cement. (The Marine Board is the joint investigation by the U.S. Coast Guard and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, & Enforcement.)
Defense counsel reported that the Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF) has paid out nearly $1.9 billion in claims so far, to 395,000 claimants, with about 150,000 other claims awaiting additional documentation.
The deadline for submission of Plaintiff Profile Forms is this month, and it is expected that the Forms will be used to help identify appropriate test cases. The first trial slot is for February, 2012.
The parties reported that written discovery and depositions will begin in January, 2011.
The next status conference was set for December 17th.