Regions Bank says BP used its land without its permission


ORANGE BEACH, Ala. — Regions Bank and BP PLC are squaring off in court after the oil company allegedly staged an oil spill cleanup crew on a tract the bank owns on Perdido Pass.

In the suit filed earlier this month in Baldwin County Circuit Court, Alabama’s largest bank claims that BP cleanup workers set up shop on waterfront property less than a week after the Deepwater Horizon well exploded on April 20 and sent oil gushing into the Gulf.

The cleanup crews fenced off the property, which is owned by Regions, installed machinery and other equipment and remained there despite protests by the bank, the suit says.

When the workers finally moved off the property June 29, relocating to public land on the inlet’s east side, the bank alleges the workers left behind “hazardous waste and other environmental contamination.”

As a result, Regions seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages and has asked for a jury trial.

“We attempted on many occasions in the last few months to resolve the issues, short of litigation, however, BP’s lack of responsiveness and general disregard for our client’s property rights gave us no choice but to file the lawsuit,” said Judson Brandt, a Pensacola-based lawyer for the bank.

BP has yet to respond to the suit in court. Dawn Patience, a company spokeswoman, declined to comment on the matter.

The property, 3.28 acres with sweeping views of Perdido Pass, was until about six years ago home to the Outrigger Restaurant.

Hurricane Ivan damaged the restaurant beyond repair in September 2004, and the building was demolished. The property has been vacant since.

Developer South Pass Associates LLC bought the property, as well as several adjacent lots, a year before and planned to replace the restaurant with condominiums in 2005 or 2006.

Consisting of Orange Beach broker Rick Phillips, Mobile builder John Case Jr. and investor Bob Williams, that deal-making group encountered trouble in subsequent years when the real estate bubble burst, and buyers walked away in droves from contracts to buy condos in the trio’s Gulf Shores towers, San Carlos and The Lighthouse.

Amid the subsequent legal battles and bankruptcies, Regions reclaimed the Perdido Pass property in a March 2008 deal with developers, who owed the bank $16.5 million for the land, probate records show.

Regions now has the property, along with a sliver of land across Ala. 182 on Cotton Bayou, listed for $11.9 million.

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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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