With billions of dollars at stake in the litigation over the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, the case marks one of the largest private civil actions in the country’s history. Baron & Budd played a leadership role in the high-profile litigation, serving on both the plaintiffs’ steering and executive committees.
The Dallas-based firm, with 50 lawyers who handle cases ranging from water contamination and whistleblower actions to occupational injuries, helped shape the multidistrict litigation in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. The team reached a $7.8 billion settlement with BP PLC in March resolving claims for economic loss, property damage and injuries.
Baron & Budd shareholder Scott Summy, who served on the steering committee that actually litigated the case with more than a dozen attorneys, helped lead the team of lawyers looking at the science of the spill. “At the beginning, when you started hearing about the spill, you never dreamed it would be as big as it was,” Summy recalled. The executive committee, which coordinated the steering team, also included James Parkerson Roy of Lafayette, La.’s Domengeaux, Wright, Roy & Edwards; Stephen Herman of Herman, Herman & Katz in New Orleans; and Brian Barr of Levin Papantonio Thomas Mitchell Rafferty & Proctor in Pensacola, Fla.
The steering committee, Summy said, was “extremely focused” on the task at hand: to prove liability. “The full tentacle of how many people were impacted is mind-blowing,” he said. A lead attorney for BP, J. Andrew Langan, a Kirkland & Ellis partner in Chicago, declined to comment. The U.S. Department of Justice hasn’t settled with BP.
The limelight for Baron & Budd stretched across industries during the past year — including a deepening of the firm’s role in financial-sector class actions. The firm snagged a spot on the plaintiffs’ executive committee in the JPMorgan Chase & Co. overdraft litigation in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.
A judge in May preliminarily approved a $110 million nationwide settlement of allegations the bank — among others — manipulated debit card transactions to boost overdraft fees. Bank of America Corp. last year settled for $410 million. Name partner Russell Budd, a negotiator in the settlements, called the litigation “a huge case in terms of the benefit for consumers.”