Taking a Run at Halliburton


One of the biggest players in the Gulf real estate arena has taken a position, via a lawsuit, on where the post-oil spill legal strategies are headed.

And, in what amounts to a message of sorts, they’ve chosen Halliburton. I’m sure Transocean will be next.

Hundreds of legal actions have, of course, already been filed. But the suit filed this week by the St. Joe Company reflects a unique development position. St. Joe has, in effect, helped create a regional airport by guaranteeing airline fuel bills, even if they don’t book enough passengers. The company even moved its headquarters, after 75 years in Jacksonville, to the new airport. That’s yet another way a company like St. Joe can document losses – along with stocks that have given up about a quarter of their value.

The St. Joe-guaranteed regional airport opened about four weeks after the BP spill hit.

Samantha Bomkamp, writing for the Associated Press, reports that … “St. Joe Co. went after Halliburton first because it was thought to be the quickest way to collect damages and repay shareholders, said William Brewer, a partner at Bickel & Brewer and lead counsel for the developer.” And that St. Joe intends to sue other companies involved. We, however, are not sure about the strategy of suing in Delaware, which is usually sympathetic to big corporations. We are also unfamiliar with the law firms that filed the suit. Good luck to them. St. Joe certainly deserves all it can get.

That is, of course, true and somewhat obvious. But in the legal community, it will be noted that Halliburton was first. And another note: St. Joe is not really just another real estate company, holding a cultural reputation beyond the business. It has created innovative communities like WaterColor and is nationally recognized as a “placemaker” developer. Its message will be heard well beyond the legal community.

British Petroleum has been dissuading people from hiring lawyers, but without them how are victims going to collect against Transocean, Halliburton, Cooper Cameron and the others? If they don’t act soon, billions of dollars due victims from these companies will be left on the table.

© Smith Stag, LLC 2010 – All Rights Reserved

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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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