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New Orleans Tapped for BP Oil Spill Litigation

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Hundreds of lawsuits over the BP oil spill will be heard in a New Orleans federal court. The decision to consolidate the lawsuits was announced yesterday by the he Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation. New Orleans is the largest city near the BP oil spill, and Louisiana was hardest hit by the disaster. “Without discounting the spill’s effects on other states, if there is a geographic and psychological ‘center of gravity’ in this docket, then the Eastern District of Louisiana is closest to it,” the panel said in its decision. Judge Carl J. Barbier of the Eastern District of Louisiana was chosen to preside over the multidistrict litigation, which will include more than 300 personal injury, wrongful death, economic loss

and environmental damage lawsuits. A multidistrict litigation allows all cases to be coordinated under one judge for pretrial litigation to avoid duplicative discovery, inconsistent rulings and to conserve the resources of the parties, witnesses and the court. When lawsuits are consolidated as a multidistrict litigation, each retains its own identity. If the multidistrict litigation process does not resolve the cases, they are transferred back to the court where they originated for trial. BP had pushed to have the cases consolidated in federal court in Houston, where its US headquarters is located. But the decision was a victory for plaintiff’s attorneys, who had wanted New Orleans.

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