$87 million each for lead firms in 2010 oil spill litigation

NEW ORLEANS — A committee of attorneys involved in litigation arising from the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill has made its recommendation for dividing some $700 million in fees among 122 law firms involved in years of complex legal work.

Two Louisiana law firms involved in the litigation from its early days each will get roughly $87.8 million if a federal judge approves the recommendation filed this week in U.S. District Court in New Orleans.

Those firms are Domengeaux Wright Roy & Edwards of Lafayette and Herman, Herman & Katz in New Orleans. The two firms “oversaw and steered the entire litigation effort,” the panel’s report said.

At least two firms are in line for more than $40 million: Cunningham Bounds LLC in Mobile, Alabama, and Weitz & Luxenberg in New York.

Millions of barrels of oil spewed into the Gulf of Mexico for 87 days after an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon offshore rig at BP’s Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico. Eleven workers were killed and the pollution affected Gulf fisheries, delicate wetlands and recreational beaches.

BP has estimated its costs related to the spill, including cleanup, restoration and legal settlements, total more than $61 billion.

Those costs include a $20 billion settlement covering federal Clean Water Act penalties and environmental damage claims with Gulf states and various local governments, and billions more being paid out under a 2012 settlement with private attorneys for businesses and residents who claim the spill cost them money.

Courts have assigned most of the responsibility for the disaster to BP, while Transocean, which leased the rig to BP, and Halliburton, a contractor, have also reached various settlements in the cases

Lawsuits arising from the spill were consolidated in the New Orleans federal court under U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier. The recommendation filed this week is for allocation of fees based on tens of thousands of hours of work by firms involved with a “steering committee” of plaintiffs’ attorneys working on common issues arising from the spill.

When Barbier will decide on the fee allocation is unclear. And some of the recommended allocations may be challenged: The 50-page report filed Tuesday acknowledges some firms dispute their allocations. And it notes at least two cases in which firms in line for fees have been under scrutiny for alleged improper actions related to the litigation, which might affect the judge’s final decision.

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