NEWS ALERT: Misinformation Surrounds Oil Spill MDL Class-Action Lawsuit


Some “free legal advice” could end up costing Gulf residents more than they suspect – automatically signing them up for the BP spill’s class-action lawsuit when all they wanted to do is protect their rights.

The problem is that the multi-district lawsuit, or MDL, has an April 20 deadline for anyone wanting to participate in what’s referred to as a “limitation of liability” proceeding. That deadline is apparently convincing some folks, including some state employees acting way out of their depth, to consider filing the MDL “short form” as a precautionary measure.

If you are going to try to resolve your claim with the Gulf Coast Claims Facility, the form is NOT necessary at this time.

The short form should not be used as a precautionary measure. Instead, filing the MDL form means you join the class-action lawsuit. That means if you settle with the Gulf Coast Claims Facility separately, as many will do, the MDL lawyers may still gets a percentage of your settlement.

I’ve advised my clients against filing with the MDL at this time.

An example of how this is getting out of hand can be found in Terrebonne Parish, where Daphnie V. Domino, identified as a “disaster claims outreach coordinator” for the parish’s Economic Development Authority is citing an unnamed “pro-bono attorney” as she advises people in blast emails to file the MDL short form.

She states in a distributed email: “…everyone who is filing a claim fill out one of these short forms to send off prior to April 20th. This in no way implies that you are seeking legal action or that you have hired an attorney. This simply opens the doors for you in case you need to file suit if your claim is shorted/denied.”

Again, this is NOT correct. Filing the short form is actually filing a “legal action,” and could put people into a different situation. In any case, a state employee should not be making this kind of recommendation. There’s a lot of misinformation out there lately, and hopefully it all just amounts to well-meaning mistakes and not an organized effort to confuse spill victims.

But, clearly, anyone seeking legal advice should seek it from professionals, not unnamed mystery lawyers being parroted by state officials (who shouldn’t be giving legal advice in the first place).

You should consult with an attorney before signing any legally binding forms either with the GCCF or the MDL.

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