Condo owner sues over oil spill


PANAMA CITY BEACH — A local beach family are the first in Bay County to sue the corporations behind the Deepwater Horizon oil spill for current and future damages caused by the leak.

The Griffitts family, the owner of Sugar Sands Inn and Suites, and their company, Griffitts Investments Limited Partnership, are suing BP, Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, Cameron International Corporation and Halliburton Energy Services Inc. in federal court in New Orleans for compensatory, incidental, consequential, statutory and punitive damages caused to his business by the explosion and resulting spill.

“The well continues to release, leak and/or discharge at least 210,000 gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico on a daily basis,” the complaint states. “The plume has expanded to thousands of square miles and threatens to contaminate the waters and beaches of Bay County.”

BP officials declined to comment Wednesday.

Griffitts’ attorneys, the Gulf Oil Disaster Recovery Group — which includes Smith and Stag of New Orleans and the Panama City firm of Appleman, Shepard and Trucks — allege in the complaint that the threat of the large oil plume created by the explosion and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon has “caused guests to cancel present reservations, has reduced the rate of future reservations and will continue to reduce the number of guests patronizing Sugar Sands Inn and Suites for a prolonged and undeterminable length of time.”

The complaint also alleges the companies involved were negligent and failed to design, build and operate the Deepwater Horizon in a safe manner; failed to take appropriate action to avoid or mitigate the accident; and failed to employ alternative cementing operations despite known problems with the actual cementing operation.

That negligence created a public nuisance that threatens to spread to Bay County, the complaint states.

Proving negligence in these cases will be important, Appleman said, because the oil companies are protected under federal law by a $75 million damages cap. However, that cap can be lifted under certain circumstances, including gross negligence by the defendants.

Local hotel and condo owners are losing business through cancellations, Appleman said, but they also are concerned “about the people who are not calling to make reservations at all because of the potential effects of the oil spill.”

He also stressed that business owners and other locals who believe they have been affected by the oil spill must document their losses.

“Document what is happening at this time and compare it to your previous business years,” Appleman said.

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
Cooper Law Firm

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