The Wall Street Journal published a sharply worded editorial Friday describing Louisiana as a “lawsuit cesspool” and calling out trial lawyers across the country for abusive practices deployed in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon tragedy.
“The 2010 Gulf Coast oil spill was a disaster for local businesses and the environment,” begins the enlightening and perhaps game-changing editorial. “But [it was] also the best thing ever to happen to the trial lawyers who continue to exploit the accident for fun and profit. Now the Supreme Court has an opening to impose discipline on the class-action lawsuit industry by forcing the tort bar to prove its claims.”
So you may be left wondering, “Why does the Supreme Court need to inject clarity over such an obvious issue? Of course plaintiffs and their lawyers should have to prove their damages were caused as a result of the accident in order to recover from the settlement.” Well, actually they do not, which is why the Journal goes on to describe the Court Supervised Settlement Program as “an all-you-can-eat buffet” where “everybody is invited, regardless of the cause of the damages they may or may not have suffered.”
Such harsh words can be hard to hear (or read), but it is obvious to most observers outside the state, that unless the Supreme Court acts to address the fundamental issue of causation, the BP settlement will ultimately be defined as one of the worst shakedowns in the history of the American legal system.
If that happens, it will only further exacerbate the notion that legal corruption “prevails in Louisiana,” giving more businesses pause before moving or expanding their operations here. However, the implications of this case extend far beyond BP and the Bayou State.
The settlement fund, under the direction of U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier and his court-appointed claims administrator Patrick Juneau, has allowed far too many class members who were not directly impacted by the spill to profit from it.
If this system is allowed to continue, Louisiana-style jackpot justice could be exported to the rest of the country and there will be no end to the lawyers lining up for “free money,” should there be another big event like this in the future.
It is also just as likely that some deserving victims will not get fair and equal treatment as a result of the next feeding frenzy. Perhaps the most troubling aspect of what has happened in the aftermath of the Deepwater disaster is that so much fraud and abuse has corrupted and clogged up the system that many legitimate victims have been left waiting.
Let’s hope the U.S. Supreme Court steps in to hold the trial bar accountable to their claims and works to correct this miscarriage of justice.