Commercial fishermen along the Gulf Coast obviously were hit hard in the wallet by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. But what about seafood distributors? Seaside hotels? Restaurants and gas stations that line the main travel corridors leading to the Gulf’s popular resort towns? Which businesses should be eligible for compensation from BP PLC and other actors in the disaster, and how should their damages be set?
Rhon Jones, a partner at Montgomery, Ala.’s Beasley, Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis & Miles, spent the better part of the past year focused squarely on those questions as one of a small group of plaintiffs attorneys responsible for negotiating a compensation formula for business claimants. “Our positions were quite different at the beginning,” Jones said of BP’s lawyers and the plaintiffs team. “One of the challenges was to try to craft something that would be reasonable for all businesses.”
Jones said the negotiators took a common-sense approach, presuming losses for businesses within different geographic areas and industries. The closer to the coast, the easier it is for a business to secure compensation, he said. Of course, the actual negotiations proved far more grueling, but the effort paid off in March, when the parties announced an estimated $7.8 billion settlement that allows claimants to start filing and receiving compensation right away.
“I think it was a good result,” said Jones, who was involved in the BP litigation right from the start, first in helping the state of Alabama calculate its economic damages and later as one of 15 members of the plaintiffs steering committee. Well more than half of the firm’s 70 lawyers worked on the BP litigation in some capacity, Jones said, but they kept busy with other matters as well, winning verdicts totaling $111 million during the past year.
Many of the firm’s recent wins have come in the pharmaceutical arena. Beasley Allen has represented or is representing seven states in Medicaid fraud litigation that accuses pharmaceutical companies of inflating the prices of their drugs. It has secured more than $600 million in settlements thus far, and in September 2011 won a $39.2 million jury verdict against Sandoz Inc. on behalf of the state of Mississippi.
In December, a Philadelphia jury awarded $72.6 million to three plaintiffs who had sued Wyeth LLC claiming that the company’s hormone replacement therapy drugs Premarin, Provera and Prempro caused their breast cancer.