No Sweet Home Alabama for BP


Alabama has become the first state we know of to sue British Petroleum over the spill, and the action by Attorney General Troy King drew ire from both his own governor and some officials in local communities hard-hit by response costs, but I think it’s a good tactic.

Ultimately, it’s going to be a good lawsuit, if only because of its many merits. The Alabama governor makes a point that British Petroleum surely agrees with: Wait until the claims process is complete, then if you’re still unhappy, sue. But here’s the thing: Mr. King has seen a draft of the proposed claims document, which has been kept secret. So he knows better.

The AG also likely recalls those threats early in the spill that British Pretroleum might simply bankrupt its North American operation. When somebody owes you a lot of money, you grow concerned if they start selling assets you might have used to collect – like when BP sells Apache Corp. for $7 billion, putting the money into the bank and moving the asset beyond reach. Mr. King also said that British Petroleum is “secretly working to gain a legal advantage” by preparing a report to argue that it was not grossly negligent in the spill.

You have to see this as not just a solid lawsuit, but as a tactic. Having an active court case gives Alabama a certain standing – and an option to take any questions to a judge. That’s vital, because time is always on the side of Big Oil, giving them time to cover their tracks, create “studies” to their benefit, and of course some claims fall away from frustration or personal crises. Lose your home and move in with cousins in Houston, and it’s difficult to make that claims meeting back home.

Here’s a good Alabama-based story on Mr. King’s action:

© Smith Stag, LLC 2010 – All Rights Reserved

Add comment

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

Follow Us

© Stuart H Smith, LLC
Share This