The Donovan Law Group

Has the MDL 2179 Court Overreached Its Authority?

Has the MDL 2179 Court Overreached Its Authority?

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Supreme Court Decision Poses an Interesting Dilemma for the BP Oil Spill Trial Court

Tampa, FL (April 11, 2012) – The Supreme Court has held that a district court conducting pretrial proceedings pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1407(a) has no authority to invoke 28 U.S.C. §1404(a) to assign a transferred case to itself for trial. Lexecon Inc. v. Milberg Weiss Bershad Hynes & Lerach, 523 U.S. 26 (1998).

On April 8, 2012, Selmer M. Salvesen, a clam farmer in Florida, filed a Motion to Vacate Order and Reasons [As to Motions to Dismiss the B1 Master Complaint] (Rec. Doc. 3830 dated August 26, 2011) with the MDL 2179 court. Mr. Salvesen’s Motion to Vacate poses an interesting dilemma for the BP Oil Spill trial court: (a) Does the court grant the motion to vacate the B1 order thereby derailing the MDL 2179 runaway train? or (b) Does the court ignore the Supreme Court decision in Lexecon in the name of judicial discretion, judicial efficiency, judicial economy and political expediency?

The Lexecon Rule

Justice Souter, in delivering the opinion of the Court in Lexecon, explained 28 U. S. C. §1407(a) authorizes the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (the “Panel”) to transfer civil actions with common issues of fact “to any district for coordinated or consolidated pretrial proceedings,” but imposes a duty on the Panel to remand any such action to the original district “at or before the conclusion of such pretrial proceedings.” “Each action so transferred shall be remanded by the panel at or before the conclusion of such pretrial proceedings to the district from which it was transferred unless it shall have been previously terminated.” 28 U.S.C. §1407(a).

Justice Souter pointed out that the Panel’s instruction comes in terms of the mandatory “shall,” which normally creates an obligation impervious to judicial discretion. Anderson v. Yungkau, 329 U. S. 482, 485 (1947).

Moreover, the Supreme Court found that neither the statute’s language nor legislative history can unsettle §1407’s straightforward language imposing the Panel’s responsibility to remand, which bars recognizing any self-assignment power in a transferee court and consequently entails the invalidity of the Panel’s Rule 14(b).

The legislative history tends to confirm that self-assignment is beyond the scope of the transferee court’s authority. Justice Souter noted that the same House Report that spoke of the continued vitality of §1404 in §1407 cases also said this:

The proposed statute affects only the pretrial stages in multidistrict litigation. It would not affect the place of trial in any case or exclude the possibility of transfer under other Federal statutes…..The subsection requires that transferred cases be remanded to the originating district at the close of coordinated pretrial proceedings. The bill does not, therefore, include the trial of cases in the consolidated proceedings.” H. R. Rep. No.1130, 90th Cong., 2d Sess., p. 4 (1968) (Emphasis added)

The comments of the bill’s sponsors further suggest that application of 28 U.S.C. §1407 would not affect the place of trial. See, e.g., Multidistrict Litigation: Hearings on S. 3815 and S. 159 before the Subcommittee on Improvements in Judicial Machinery of the Senate Comm. On the Judiciary, 90th Cong., 1st Sess. Pt. 2, p. 110 (1967) (Sen. Tydings) (“[W]hen the deposition and discovery is completed, then the original litigation is remanded to the transferor district for trial”). Both the House and the Senate Reports stated that Congress would have to amend the statute if it determined that multidistrict litigation cases should be consolidated for trial. S. Rep. No. 454, 90th Cong., 1st Sess., p. 5 (1967). (Emphasis added)

MDL 2179

In order to efficiently manage MDL 2179, the court consolidated and organized the various types of claims into several “pleading bundles.” The “B1” pleading bundle includes all claims for private or “non-governmental” economic loss and property damages.  There are between 100,000 – 130,000 individual claims encompassed within the “B1” pleading bundle.

Rather than allege claims under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (“OPA”) (which governs the MDL 2179 cases alleging economic loss due to the BP oil spill) and the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (“OCSLA”) (which governs the MDL 2179 personal injury and wrongful death actions and borrows the law of the adjacent state as surrogate federal law), the PSC made the unfathomable decision to allege claims under a hodgepodge of statutes.

In the B1 First Amended Master Complaint, the PSC states, “The claims presented herein are admiralty or maritime claims within the meaning of Rule 9(h) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Plaintiffs hereby designate this case as an admiralty or maritime case, and request a non-jury trial, pursuant to Rule 9(h).”

Under general maritime law, the PSC alleges claims for negligence, gross negligence and willful misconduct, and strict liability for manufacturing and/or design defect. Under various state laws, the PSC alleges claims for nuisance, trespass, and fraudulent concealment. Under the Florida Pollutant Discharge Prevention and Control Act, Fla. Stat. § 376.011, et seq., PSC alleges a claim for strict liability. The PSC also seeks: (a) punitive damages under all claims; and (b) a declaration by the Court that the conduct of BP and its agents and representatives, including the Gulf Coast Claims Facility (“GCCF”), in obtaining releases and/or assignments of claims against other parties, persons, or entities is not an obligation of BP under OPA.

The PSC appears to be more interested in ensuring significant economy and efficiency in the judicial administration of the MDL 2179 court rather than in obtaining justice for the MDL 2179 plaintiffs. As noted above, in its B1 First Amended Master Complaint, the PSC alleges claims under general maritime law, not under OPA and OCSLA, thereby assisting the court in expeditiously being able to:

(a) Find, “The Deepwater Horizon was at all material times a vessel in navigation.”

(b) Find, “Admiralty jurisdiction is present because the alleged tort occurred upon navigable waters of the Gulf of Mexico, disrupted maritime commerce, and the operations of the vessel bore a substantial relationship to traditional maritime activity. With admiralty jurisdiction comes the application of substantive maritime law.”

(c) Find, “State law, both statutory and common, is preempted by maritime law, notwithstanding OPA’s savings provisions. All claims brought under state law are dismissed.”

(d) Find, “General maritime law claims that do not allege physical damage to a proprietary interest are dismissed under the Robins Dry Dock rule, unless the claim falls into the commercial fishermen exception.”

(e) Find, “…. That nothing prohibits Defendants from settling claims for economic loss. While OPA does not specifically address the use of waivers and releases by Responsible Parties, the statute also does not clearly prohibit it. In fact, as the Court has recognized in this Order, one of the goals of OPA was to allow for speedy and efficient recovery by victims of an oil spill.”

In re Oil Spill by the Rig Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico, on April 20, 2010, – F. Supp. 2d -, 2011 WL 3805746 (Aug. 26, 2011 E.D. La.).

Since the PSC requests a non-jury trial pursuant to Rule 9(h) and alleges claims under general maritime law, rather than OPA and OCSLA, the MDL 2179 court has formulated a trial plan that dispenses with trial by jury and instead conducts a bench trial applying general maritime law.

The Heyburn Rule

The Honorable John G. Heyburn II, Chair of the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation, addressed the Lexecon decision in his article, “A View From the Panel: Part of the Solution,” 82 Tulane L. Rev. 2225 (2008).  The following is an excerpt from Judge Heyburn’s article.

Judge Heyburn points out that five appropriate strategies are available by which the Lexecon conundrum may be avoided:

(a) Provided the plaintiff is amenable and venue lies in the transferee district, the action could be refiled there.

(b) The parties could also agree to waive objections to venue.

(c) Alternatively, the transferee court could try a “Bellwether” case that was originally filed in the transferee district, the result of which may promote settlement of the transferred actions in the MDL.

(d) Another option, suggested in the Lexecon opinion itself, is for the transferor court to transfer the action back to the transferee court under § 1404(a).

(e) Still another option would be for the transferee judge to follow the action to the transferor court after obtaining an intracircuit or intercircuit assignment.

The MDL 2179 court has failed to avail itself of any of these “appropriate” strategies.

A “Bellwether” trial is sui generis; a “walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, it must be a duck” analysis cannot be used. Judge Barbier cannot try the cases transferred for “pretrial proceedings.” Judge Barbier certainly cannot try all of the plaintiffs’ claims in the aggregate in this proceeding. Nor can the Lexecon decision be circumvented by the device of permitting claimants to file “short-form joinders” injecting themselves into the limitation action. Accordingly, Judge Barbier, at the request of the PSC, formulated a non-jury trial plan which does not seek to adjudicate all the plaintiffs’ claims in the aggregate. Instead, it plans a non-jury trial of “issues” related to “allocation of fault” in the abstract. This novel proposal is still defective, as a trial of “issues” would try parts of actions that under Lexecon the MDL judge must not try and would amount to a class action in a limitations proceeding contrary to Rule 23. Moreover, the Fifth Circuit has held that class actions are not permitted in limitation proceedings. Lloyds Leasing Ltd. v. Bates, 902 F.2d 368 (5th Cir. 1990). Indeed, such a trial resembles an unsanctioned class action in almost everything but name. It does not remotely resemble a “Bellwether” trial.

Although Judge Barbier and the PSC refer to the MDL 2179 court’s “broad discretionary authority,” a “special-procedure” should not be crafted where a mandatory procedure already exists. It is important to remember that the very MDL procedures Judge Barbier and the PSC wish to circumvent were specifically enacted to reduce costs and promote judicial economy. Allowing the MDL 2179 trial plan would be inconsistent with the clear statutory mandate of the multidistrict litigation enabling statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1407(a), and the Supreme Court’s holding in Lexecon. While the need to promote efficiency in litigation is real, it cannot be accomplished by overriding the applicable provisions set forth by Congress. In re: FEMA Trailer Formaldehyde Products Liability Litigation, 2009 WL 2390668 (United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana).

Judge Heyburn describes the Lexecon decision as a “conundrum” which may be avoided by “resourceful” transferee judges. Plaintiff Salvesen respectfully disagrees. The Lexecon decision is not a conundrum. It is not an obstacle which judicial discretion may circumvent in the name of judicial efficiency, judicial economy or political expediency. It is the law.

BP Oil Spill: Plaintiffs Oppose Class Action Lawsuits in MDL 2179

Posted in BP, class action, Feinberg, Feinberg Rozen, GCCF, Gulf Coast Claims Facility, Mass Tort by renergie on December 5, 2011

BP Oil Spill: Plaintiffs Oppose Class Action Lawsuits in MDL 2179

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Plaintiffs Are Entitled to Receive the True Value of Their Claims

Tampa, FL (December 5, 2011) – Plaintiffs in Pinellas Marine Salvage, Inc., et al. v. Kenneth R. Feinberg, et al. and Salvesen v. Kenneth R. Feinberg, et al. have each filed a motion in opposition to class certification of any action in MDL 2179. The motions were filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana for the following three reasons:

I. Defendants Feinberg, et al. Have No Incentive to Settle Claims  

Defendants Feinberg, et al. have established a claims process with the primary function of convincing claimants that the only compensation available is a minimal set amount that comes with a full release attached. The MDL 2179 Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee states, “The delay in responding to interim claims, the near-complete failure to pay interim claims, and the skewed final payment calculation delivers the message to over 112,000 putative class members: the only way to ever get any more compensation is to take the quick payment amount and sign a release.”

On August 26, 2011, in the Court’s Order and Reasons [As to Motions to Dismiss the B1 Master Complaint], Judge Barbier found,

“…. that nothing prohibits Defendants from settling claims for economic loss. While OPA does not specifically address the use of waivers and releases by Responsible Parties, the statute also does not clearly prohibit it. In fact, as the Court has recognized in this Order, one of the goals of OPA was to allow for speedy and efficient recovery by victims of an oil spill.”

In the same Order, the MDL 2179 Court also found,

“State law, both statutory and common, is preempted by maritime law, notwithstanding OPA’s savings provisions. All claims brought under state law are dismissed.”

II. Plaintiffs Are Entitled to Receive the True Value of Their Claims

The true value of a claim submitted to the Gulf Coast Claims Facility (“GCCF”) for lost earnings or profits is approximately the amount equal to the average monthly loss in earnings or profits for the period from May 1, 2010 through April 30, 2011 multiplied by fifty (50) months. In other words, if the average monthly loss in earnings or profits for the period from May 1, 2010 through April 30, 2011 is $5,000.00, the true value of the claim submitted to GCCF is calculated as follows:

True Value of Claim = ($5,000/month)(50 months) = $250,000.00

The Fifth Circuit has noted, “In addition to skewing trial outcomes, class certification creates insurmountable pressure on defendants to settle, whereas individual trials would not. The risk of facing an all-or-nothing verdict presents too high a risk, even when the probability of an adverse judgment is low. These settlements have been referred to as judicial blackmail.” Castano v. Am. Tobacco Co., 84 F.3d 734, 746 (5th Cir. 1996) (citations and footnote omitted). This generalization is not applicable to class certification in MDL 2179. Here, the class certification would be in a mass tort context within the context of a multidistrict litigation. Given that “all individual petitions or complaints that fall within Pleading Bundles B1, B3, D1, or D2, whether pre-existing or filed hereafter, are stayed until further order of the Court” (Pretrial Order No. 25, Para. 8), certification of pending class actions would most probably not be decided until the conclusion of the limitation and liability trial which does not commence until February, 2012. “It was reported that one attorney has approximately 23,000 claimants and inquiry was made as to whether the attorney may produce the information in the form in which it is maintained rather than complete individual PPFs.” (Rec. Doc. 642 at Page 2). As of November 16, 2011, there are 523 actions, which encompass approximately 130,000 total individual claims, pending in MDL 2179. In other words, tens of thousands of potential class members are in legal limbo. This hardly “creates insurmountable pressure on defendants to settle.”

In the context of one of the largest mass tort cases in United States history, the damages suffered by the vast majority of individual potential plaintiffs as a result of the BP oil spill of April, 2010, and the subsequent “Delay, Deny, Defend” strategy of Feinberg, et al., are potentially so great that class treatment would not be necessary to permit effective litigation of the claims. Here, when the amount of damages suffered by the individual is so great, the filing of an individual lawsuit should be economically feasible and would be in the best interests of the plaintiffs.

The associated cost, consumption of time, and ongoing negative publicity of numerous trials, rather than a few class action lawsuits, are required in order exert the proper amount of pressure on Feinberg, et al. to negotiate a settlement which reflects the true value of the claim and not one which focuses on minimizing the liability of Feinberg Rozen, LLP, Feinberg/GCCF, and the responsible parties.

III. MDL 2179 Plaintiffs Are Not Able to Prove That Class Certification is Appropriate Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23

MDL 2179 Plaintiffs in proposed class actions are not able to meet their heavy burden of proving that class certification is appropriate under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23 for the reasons which are thoroughly discussed in the memorandum of law which is filed with the motion.

BACKGROUND

Pinellas Marine Salvage, Inc., et al. v. Kenneth R. Feinberg, et al. and Salvesen v. Feinberg, et al. are the only two cases of their kind filed in any court in the country. Each complaint alleges, in part, that Defendants Kenneth R. Feinberg, Feinberg Rozen, LLP, GCCF, and (in Salvesen) William G. Green, Jr. misled Plaintiffs by employing a “Delay, Deny, Defend” strategy against them. This strategy, commonly used by unscrupulous insurance companies, is as follows: “Delay payment, starve claimant, and then offer the economically and emotionally-stressed claimant a miniscule percent of all damages to which the claimant is entitled. If the financially ruined claimant rejects the settlement offer, he or she may sue.” Each action, originally filed in Florida state court, is brought by Plaintiff under the following seven causes of action: (a) Gross Negligence; (b) Negligence; (c) Negligence Per Se; (d) Fraud; (e) Fraudulent Inducement; (f) Promissory Estoppel; and (g) Unjust Enrichment.

The MDL Panel ordered each action transferred to MDL No. 2179 on the erroneous grounds that “[These] action[s], similar to other actions already in the MDL, arise from alleged injury to plaintiffs’ business resulting from the oil spill.”

The clarity of the analysis of the scope of OCSLA by Judge Carlton W. Reeves in State of Mississippi v. Gulf Coast Claims Facility, et al., C.A. No. 3:11-00509 (S.D. Miss. 2011) is both refreshing and instructive. On July 12, 2011, Attorney General Jim Hood (“Hood”) filed suit on behalf of the State of Mississippi against the GCCF and Kenneth Feinberg in Hinds County Chancery Court. On August 11, 2011, the GCCF removed the case to the United States District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi (“MSSD”) claiming that original jurisdiction lies with the MSSD by virtue of the OCSLA. Hood moved to remand the case to state court on September 12, 2011. On November 15, 2011, Judge Reeves granted Hood’s motion to remand.

Judge Reeves found, “GCCF’s argument that Hood has unwittingly stated a claim under OCSLA is likewise not compelling. According to OCSLA, federal courts enjoy subject-matter jurisdiction ‘of cases and controversies arising out of, or in connection with (A) any operation conducted on the outer Continental Shelf which involves exploration, development, or production of the minerals, of the subsoil and seabed of the outer Continental Shelf . . . .’ The Fifth Circuit has written that it “applies a broad ‘but-for’ test to determine whether a cause of action arises under OCSLA.” Hufnagel v. Omega Serv. Indust., Inc., 182 F.3d 340, 350 (5th Cir. 1999). “And in GCCF’s view, because it would not exist but for the Deepwater Horizon’s explosion, this case (and, presumably, any other case to which it could ever be a party) necessarily implicates OCSLA.” State of Mississippi v. Gulf Coast Claims Facility, et al., C.A. No. 3:11-00509 (S.D. Miss. 2011), Order of Remand at Page 10.

“GCCF is correct that the Fifth Circuit views ‘the jurisdictional grant contained in U.S.C. § 1349(b)(1) as very broad.’ But to view OCSLA’s scope so far-reaching as does GCCF would render GCCF’s every potentially actionable decision a federal case, be it related to the claims process at hand or a GCCF employee’s car wreck en route to the office.” (Emphasis added)

Neither OCSLA’s plain language nor the Fifth Circuit’s decisions interpreting it contain any indication that matters so far removed as these – occurring not on the outer Continental Shelf but doing business in Dublin, Ohio, and aimed not at the “exploration, development, or product of . . . minerals” but rather at “developing and publishing standards for recoverable claims” related to the Deepwater Horizon spill – fall within the purview of Section 1349(b)(1), which addresses “any operation conducted on the outer Continental Shelf . . . .” Plainly, although GCCF’s activities amount [to] an operation, that operation is not conducted “on the outer Continental Shelf.” Therefore, OCSLA does not apply and is not a proper basis for federal jurisdiction. (Emphasis added)

CONCLUSION

Plaintiffs continue to suffer damages from three separate sources:

(a) once from the oil spill, the environmental and economic damages of which have devastated their way of life;

(b) again by being left in financial ruin as a direct result of Feinberg’s “Delay, Deny, Defend” strategy; and

(c) a third time for daring to demand justice, which will consume their time, energy and hopes for years to come if they are held hostage by protracted litigation.

If motions for class certification pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23 are granted in MDL 2179, Defendants Feinberg, et al. will continue to have no incentive to settle claims and Plaintiffs will never receive the true value of their claims.

State of Mississippi v. Gulf Coast Claims Facility and Kenneth Feinberg: Case Is Remanded to State Court

Posted in Delay Deny Defend, Feinberg, GCCF, Gulf Coast Claims Facility, Hood by renergie on November 16, 2011

State of Mississippi v. Gulf Coast Claims Facility and Kenneth Feinberg:
Case Is Remanded to State Court
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Hood’s Petition Did Not Initiate a Civil Action and GCCF’s Removal to Federal Court
Was Improper
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OCSLA Does Not Apply and Is Not a Proper Basis for Federal Jurisdiction

Tampa, FL (November 16, 2011) – On November 15, 2011, the United States District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi remanded the suit filed on July 12, 2011 by Attorney General Hood on behalf of the State of Mississippi against the Gulf Coast Claims Facility and Kenneth Feinberg (hereinafter collectively “GCCF”) in Hinds County Chancery Court. Hood had filed the suit in an effort to compel GCCF’s compliance with the subpoena duces tecum he had issued in February 2011 on the GCCF pursuant to the authority vested in him by the Mississippi Consumer Protection Act.

In his Motion to Remand, Hood argued that GCCF’s refusal to comply with his subpoena leaves him “unable to determine whether GCCF has been or is in violation of the Consumer Protection Act.” Hood also sought costs and attorneys’ fees associated with bringing the Petition.

Notably, in his Petition to the Hinds County Chancery Court, Hood claimed explicitly that he “brought this action solely under state law and not under federal law; and was not asserting therein any claims arising under federal law,” and he “specifically and expressly denied and disclaimed asserting any such federal claims in the Petition.”

On August 11, 2011, GCCF removed the case to federal court pursuant to Title 28, Sections 1441 and 1446 of the United States Code. Specifically, GCCF claimed that original jurisdiction lies with the federal court by virtue of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (“OCSLA”). Hood moved to remand the case to state court on September 12, 2011, but not before GCCF moved on August 30, 2011, for a stay pending a decision by the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation regarding whether to transfer this case.

Motion to Stay
As an initial matter, the Southern District of Mississippi Court declined to grant GCCF’s motion for a stay despite the fact that this case was the subject of a MDL conditional transfer order. Until a transfer to multidistrict litigation has become final, a district court’s jurisdiction over pretrial matters is in no way impeded. And when a litigant improperly removes a case, the limited jurisdiction of federal courts is impermissibly invoked, resulting in an undue delay of a state court’s rightful duty to address a case’s merits.

Motion to Remand
Hood offers several arguments in favor of a remand to state court, but the most compelling is his first: that the Petition filed by Hood in Hinds County Chancery Court does not amount to a “civil action,” as that term is used in the federal removal statute, and therefore that GCCF is not entitled to bring the case to federal court.

Generally speaking, when a plaintiff is permitted to bring his case in either state or federal court but chooses the former, the defendant may opt to have a federal court hear the case instead. This principle is contained in Title 28, Section 1441 of the United States Code, which provides that except as otherwise expressly provided by Act of Congress, any civil action brought in a State court of which the district courts of the United States have original jurisdiction, may be removed by the defendant or the defendants, to the district court of the United States for the district and division embracing the place where such action is pending.

Clearly, Section 1441 permits removal only of “any civil action,” and in Hood’s view, the matter at hand is not such a creature. Hood argued that the subpoena at the center of his Petition “is a pre-litigation investigative tool, and its enforcement in chancery court is not a ‘civil action’ ……”

In 1998, Chief Judge Butler of the Southern District of Alabama held that a petition filed pursuant to Rule 27 of the Alabama Rules of Civil Procedure, which “permits a party to . . . obtain discovery before an action is commenced,” was not itself a civil action. That Court observed that Alabama’s Rule 27 “provides a limited means by which potential plaintiffs (and their attorneys) . . . can examine evidence before actually deciding whether they have a reasonable basis for filing an action.” Such a petition, in that Court’s view, “is a request for discovery, nothing more.”

Hood’s Petition did not seek to prosecute a claim or other cause of action; it merely sought an order requiring production of evidence that may ultimately be used in the prosecution of a claim. As such, it does not amount to a civil action.

In 1994, the Fifth Circuit rejected a plaintiff’s argument that the 30-day removal period began running at the filing of a bill of discovery rather than at the filing of the complaint because the latter was “the first document stating a claim . . . .” The removal statute permits a defendant to invoke the federal courts’ jurisdiction only “after receipt by the defendant . . . of a copy of the initial pleading setting forth the claim for relief . . . .” Therefore, in the Fifth Circuit’s apparent view, removal cannot occur until a complaint has been filed.

According to Rule 3 of the Federal Rules, “[a] civil action is commenced by filing a complaint with the court.” Whatever can be said of the filing by which Hood instituted this matter, it cannot be properly characterized as a complaint; it raises no claim and seeks no damages.

The threshold question before the Southern District of Mississippi Court was whether the matter has yet developed into a full-fledged “civil action.” The Court held, “Precedent commands the conclusion that it has not.”

OCSLA
Judge Reeves also found GCCF’s argument that Hood has unwittingly stated a claim under OCSLA was likewise not compelling. According to OCSLA, federal courts enjoy subject-matter jurisdiction “of cases and controversies arising out of, or in connection with (A) any operation conducted on the outer Continental Shelf which involves exploration, development, or production of the minerals, of the subsoil and seabed of the outer Continental Shelf . . . .” The Fifth Circuit has written that it “applies a broad ‘but-for’ test to determine whether a cause of action arises under OCSLA.” And in GCCF’s view, because it would not exist but for the Deepwater Horizon’s explosion, this case (and, presumably, any other case to which it could ever be a party) necessarily implicates OCSLA.

The analysis of the scope of OCSLA by Judge Reeves is instructive. GCCF is correct that the Fifth Circuit views “the jurisdictional grant contained in U.S.C. § 1349(b)(1) as very broad.” But to view OCSLA’s scope so far-reaching as does GCCF would render GCCF’s every potentially actionable decision a federal case, be it related to the claims process at hand or a GCCF employee’s car wreck en route to the office.

Neither OCSLA’s plain language nor the Fifth Circuit’s decisions interpreting it contain any indication that matters so far removed as these – occurring not on the outer Continental Shelf but doing business in Dublin, Ohio, and aimed not at the “exploration, development, or product of . . . minerals” but rather at “developing and publishing standards for recoverable claims” related to the Deepwater Horizon spill – fall within the purview of Section 1349(b)(1), which addresses “any operation conducted on the outer Continental Shelf . . . .” Plainly, although GCCF’s activities amount [to] an operation, that operation is not conducted “on the outer Continental Shelf.” Therefore, OCSLA does not apply and is not a proper basis for federal jurisdiction.

Pinellas Marine Salvage, Inc., et al. v. Kenneth R. Feinberg, et al. and Selmer M. Salvesen v. Kenneth R. Feinberg, et al.
These are the only two cases of their kind filed in any court in the country. In each case, the complaint alleges, in part, that Defendants Kenneth R. Feinberg, Feinberg Rozen, LLP, and GCCF misled Plaintiffs by employing a “Delay, Deny, Defend” strategy against them. This strategy, commonly used by unscrupulous insurance companies, is as follows: “Delay payment, starve claimant, and then offer the economically and emotionally-stressed claimant a miniscule percent of all damages to which the claimant is entitled. If the financially ruined claimant rejects the settlement offer, he or she may sue.”

The Pinellas and Salvesen plaintiffs do not assert any claims under OCSLA or OPA and rely solely on state law. Plaintiffs’ allegation that Defendants are in violation of OPA is merely evidence of, at the very least, Defendants’ negligence.

Plaintiffs in Pinellas and Salvesen allege:
(a) BP is responsible for the oil spill incident; and
(b) Feinberg, et al. (independent contractors), via employment of their “Delay, Deny, Defend” strategy, are responsible for not compensating and thereby financially ruining the Pinellas and Salvesen plaintiffs and over 100,000 other victims.

Neither the Pinellas nor the Salvesen case has been dismissed by the MDL 2179 Court. Plaintiffs in both cases look forward to eventually having their cases remanded to Florida state court where they will also be able to hold Defendants accountable.

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BP Oil Spill Litigation Quote of the Year:

“GCCF is correct that the Fifth Circuit views ‘the jurisdictional grant contained in 43 U.S.C. § 1349(b)(1) as very broad.’  But to view the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act’s (“OCSLA’s”) scope so far-reaching as does GCCF would render GCCF’s every potentially actionable decision a federal case, be it related to the claims process at hand or a GCCF employee’s car wreck en route to the office.”

Hon. Carlton W. Reeves
United States District Court Judge
Southern District of Mississippi

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Florida Plaintiffs Vow to Hold Kenneth R. Feinberg, Feinberg Rozen, LLP, and GCCF Accountable for “Delay, Deny, Defend” Strategy

Posted in Delay Deny Defend, Feinberg, Feinberg Rozen, Fraud, GCCF, Gulf Coast Claims Facility by renergie on November 10, 2011

Florida Plaintiffs Vow to Hold Kenneth R. Feinberg, Feinberg Rozen, LLP,
and GCCF Accountable for “Delay, Deny, Defend” Strategy
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Plaintiffs Refile Motions to Remand With MDL 2179 Court

Tampa, FL (November 10, 2011) – Pinellas Marine Salvage, Inc., et al. v. Kenneth R. Feinberg, et al. and  Salvesen v. Kenneth R. Feinberg, et al. were originally filed in Florida state court. Since the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (“JPML”) has no power over cases pending in state courts, Defendants removed each case to federal court (“Middle District of Florida Court”). Defendants removed each case to federal court solely for the purpose of being able to subsequently file a “tag-along” notice with the JPML for the hopeful transfer of the cases to MDL 2179 in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. A Motion to Remand to State Court was filed by Plaintiffs in each case. Each case was transferred to MDL 2179 by the JPML before the Middle District of Florida Court determined the threshold jurisdictional issue: whether removal from state court was proper.

Earlier today, Plaintiffs’ counsel refiled the Pinellas and Salvesen motions to remand with the MDL 2179 Court.

Background
In order to efficiently manage MDL 2179, the Court consolidated and organized the various types of claims into several “pleading bundles.” The “B1” pleading bundle includes all claims for private or “non-governmental economic loss and property damages.” There are in excess of 100,000 individual claims encompassed within the “B1″ bundle.

On January 12, 2011, the MDL 2179 Court issued PTO No. 25, in order to clarify “the scope and effect” of the “B1″ bundle Master Complaint. The Court held that any individual plaintiff who is a named plaintiff in a case that falls within pleading bundle “B1″ “is deemed to be a plaintiff in the “B1″ Master Complaint.” Also, “the allegations, claims, theories of recovery and/or prayers for relief contained within the pre-existing petition or complaint are deemed to be amended, restated, and superseded by the allegations, claims, theories of recovery, and/or prayers for relief in the respective “B1″ Master Complaint(s) in which the Defendant is named.”

“B1″ Master Complaint
In the “B1″ Master Complaint, the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee (“PSC”) alleged claims under general maritime law, the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (“OPA”), 33 U.S.C. § 2701, et seq., and various state laws. Under general maritime law, PSC alleged claims for negligence, gross negligence, and strict liability for manufacturing and/or design defect. Under various state laws, PSC alleged claims for nuisance, trespass, and fraudulent concealment, and also alleged a claim for strict liability under the Florida Pollutant Discharge Prevention and Control Act, Fla. Stat.
§ 376.011, et seq. Additionally, PSC sought punitive damages under all claims and requested declaratory relief regarding any settlement provisions that purport to affect the calculation of punitive damages.

On August 26, 2011, the MDL 2179 Court granted in part Defendants’ Motions to Dismiss the “B1″ Master Complaint. The Court ruled: (a) Admiralty jurisdiction is present because the alleged tort occurred upon navigable waters of the Gulf of Mexico, disrupted maritime commerce, and the operations of the vessel bore a substantial relationship to traditional maritime activity. With admiralty jurisdiction comes the application of substantive maritime law; (b) State law, both statutory and common, is preempted by maritime law, notwithstanding OPA’s savings provisions. All claims brought under state law are dismissed; and (c) General maritime law claims that do not allege physical damage to a proprietary interest are dismissed under the Robins Dry Dock rule, unless the claim falls into the commercial fishermen exception. In re Oil Spill by the Rig Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico, on April 20, 2010, – – F. Supp. 2d – -, 2011 WL 3805746 (Aug. 26, 2011 E.D. La.).

Pinellas, et al. v. Feinberg, et al. and Salvesen v. Feinberg, et al.
Pinellas Marine Salvage, Inc., et al. v. Kenneth R. Feinberg, et al. and Selmer M. Salvesen v. Kenneth R. Feinberg, et al. are the only two cases of their kind filed in any court in the country. In each case, the complaint alleges, in part, that Defendants Kenneth R. Feinberg, Feinberg Rozen, LLP, and Gulf Coast Claims Facility (“GCCF”) misled Plaintiffs by employing a “Delay, Deny, Defend” strategy against them. This strategy, commonly used by unscrupulous insurance companies, is as follows: “Delay payment, starve claimant, and then offer the economically and emotionally-stressed claimant a miniscule percent of all damages to which the claimant is entitled. If the financially ruined claimant rejects the settlement offer, he or she may sue.”

Both cases, originally filed in Florida state court, are brought by Plaintiffs under the following seven identical causes of action: (a) Gross Negligence; (b) Negligence; (c) Negligence Per Se; (d) Fraud; (e) Fraudulent Inducement; (f) Promissory Estoppel; and (g) Unjust Enrichment. Defendants in both cases are the same, with the exception that William G. Green, Jr. (“Overseer” of all seafood claims for Defendant GCCF in the State of Florida and “Liaison” to GCCF who is in charge of implementing Defendants’ “Delay, Deny, Defend” strategy) has also been named as a defendant in the Salvesen case.

Plaintiffs do not assert any claims under OPA and rely solely on state law. Plaintiffs’ allegation that Defendants are in violation of OPA is merely evidence of, at the very least, Defendants’ negligence.

BP is responsible for the oil spill incident. Feinberg, et al. (independent contractors), via employment of their “Delay, Deny, Defend” strategy, are responsible for not compensating and thereby financially ruining the Pinellas and Salvesen plaintiffs and over 100,000 other victims.

The Pinellas and Salvesen plaintiffs, and all victims of the BP oil spill, continue to suffer damages from three separate sources: (a) once from the oil spill, the environmental and economic damages of which have devastated their way of life; (b) again by being left in financial ruin as a direct result of Defendants’ tortious acts; and (c) a third time for daring to demand justice, which will consume their time, energy and hopes for years to come if they are held hostage by protracted litigation.

The passage of time is the defendant’s best friend. Memories fade, witnesses are more difficult to locate, and plaintiffs lose the desire to continue to fight and either “move on” or settle for less. By declining to permit formal discovery on Kenneth R. Feinberg and the GCCF, the MDL 2179 Court is ensuring that the defendants will not be held accountable and, more importantly, the claimants-turned-plaintiffs will not be fully compensated for damages.

Discovery on Feinberg/GCCF and the associated pressure of a trial are required in order exert pressure on the parties to negotiate a settlement which reflects the true value of the claims and not one which focuses on minimizing the liability of Feinberg Rozen, LLP, Feinberg/GCCF, and the responsible parties.

Neither the Pinellas nor the Salvesen case has been dismissed by the MDL 2179 Court. Plaintiffs in both cases look forward to eventually having their cases remanded to Florida state court where they will be able to hold Defendants accountable.

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