Phillip Thomas, the blogging attorney of the Mississippi Litigation Review (MLR) has two excellent posts up on the BP oil spill litigation. MLR is linked to SLABBED under Law Blogs in the right sidebar; and, if you visit there you will find Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee for BP Oil Spill MDL Dominated by Lawyers from Large Firms and BP Oil Spill Update: It’s a Gusher for Feinberg Rozen as Plaintiff Lawyers Head for the Exits
Thomas’ post on the Steering Committee links Judge Barbier’s Order that names the members of the Steering Committee: Brian H. Barr, Jeffrey A. Breit, Elizabeth J. Cabraser,Philip F. Cossich, Jr., Robert T. Cunningham, Alphonso Michael Espy, Calvin C. Fayard, Jr., Robin L. Greenwald, Ervin A. Gonzalez, Rhon E. Jones, Matthew E. Lundy, Michael C. Palmintier, Paul M. Sterbcow, Scott Summy, and Mikal C. Watts:
Want to be on an exclusive MDL plaintiffs’ steering committee? Then you need to be an attorney in a large plaintiffs firm—the type that generally does not exist in Mississippi. That’s my take away from reviewing the list of attorneys on the Plaintiffs’ steering committee in the BP Oil Spill MDL.
Here is Judge Barbier’s Order rendered Friday with the names of the fifteen lawyers on the plaintiffs’ steering committee. Most of the lawyers appointed to the committee practice with large plaintiff firms. The even more exclusive executive committee is composed of four lawyers: James Roy, Russ Herman, Brian Barr and Scott Summy.
My interpretation of the Order is that the steering committee will run the entire litigation. Lawyers who represent victims—but who are not on the steering committee—appear to be getting squeezed out of the litigation.
The only Mississippi lawyer on the steering committee is former congressman and Secretary of Agriculture Mike Espy, who practices with national plaintiffs firm Morgan & Morgan. Here is Espy’s application for the committee, which emphasizes his political background and firm size, as opposed to achievements as a trial attorney…
Numerous other Mississippi lawyers applied for a slot on the committee and were not appointed. I can’t help but wonder if the small size of plaintiff firms in Mississippi was a hindrance in lawyers making the committee…Most of the MDL steering committee lawyers are in big plaintiff firms such as Baron and Budd and Beasley Allen.
In the late 1990’s regional defense firms formed and moved into Mississippi. But plaintiff firms remained small and localized. Perhaps more large plaintiff firms would have established a presence in Mississippi in the 2000’s if not for tort reform and the era of the ultra-conservative Mississippi Supreme Court.
Thomas followed with a post on the “big winners” – “Ken Feinberg’s law firm Feinberg Rozen and defense lawyers”:
I still think that there will be wars in court between resort properties and other businesses and their insurance companies and/or BP over lost revenue this past Summer. People didn’t go to the beach due to the threat of oil. There was a definite loss of revenue even in places miles from the beach and where the oil never reached. Those victims are likely to sue.
The plaintiff lawyers who may be out of luck are the ones who went out and signed up fisherman, crabbers, shrimpers, etc. BP hired those guys to look for oil, birds with oil on them etc. Many made good money.
Meanwhile, Bloomberg reports that Ken Feinberg’s firm has been paid $2.5 million so far and is getting paid $850,000 per month…
By my calculation that means Feinberg Rozen lawyers are averaging about $900.00 per hour for their work. I can’t criticize Feinberg Rozen’s pay for two reasons. First, I’ve heard that there are already lawyers in top law firms in New York, Washington and other East Coast cities who charge over $900 per hour. I suspect that BP has lawyers on its payroll who charge over $900 per hour.
Second, Feinberg Rozen has a specialty niche as resolution counsel that has no major competitor in the nation that I’m aware of…I had never heard of them until Rozen showed up in a case that I worked on. I asked around and learned that many Mississippi lawyers have dealt with Rozen.
Mississippi Litigation Review is one of my daily reads. I hope you’ll make it one of yours.