As attorneys team up around the Gulf of Mexico to sign plaintiffs for BP oil spill litigation, key defendants have lined up three prominent Florida law firms to defend against spill cases in Florida.
Akerman Senterfitt, Florida's largest law firm, landed BP. It will handle all its Florida civil litigation. Cameron International, manufacturer of the failed blowout preventer, snapped up the second-largest firm, Greenberg Traurig. Halliburton Energy Services, which pumped cement at the well, hired Broad and Cassel.
The fourth primary defendant is Transocean Deepwater, owner of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, has retained Jaime Betbeze of Hand Arendall, a Mobile, Ala., attorney with a Florida Bar license.
With potentially billions in lost tourism and fishing industry dollars, and with its longer coastline, some believe Florida rather than Louisiana will be ground zero for oil spill litigation.
But all eyes are on a multidistrict litigation panel, which will hear arguments in July to decide where the federal lawsuits should be consolidated. Not surprisingly, the oil industry is fighting for Texas, while plaintiff firms are pushing for Louisiana or Florida.
“Florida will sustain the greatest amount of damages due to the tourist-related dollars up and down Florida,” said David Rash of Alters Boldt Brown Rash & Culmo of Miami, one of the plaintiff firms involved in spill litigation.