Plaintiffs lawyers who obtained two settlements with BP PLC over the Deepwater Horizon oil spill have accused prominent attorneys Ted Frank and Darrell Palmer of filing appeals on behalf of objectors who aren’t legitimate class members.
In a $9.6 billion settlement that resolves economic damages caused by the 2010 spill, class counsel have moved to dismiss the appeal before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, filed by Frank and Palmer on behalf of four objectors. Frank and Palmer have fired back, asserting that class counsel deserve to be sanctioned for improperly raising the class membership issue just days before a Nov. 4 oral argument.
Meanwhile, in a smaller settlement resolving medical claims associated with the spill’s cleanup, class counsel moved on Tuesday in district court for sanctions against Palmer, whose appeal on behalf of some of the same objectors the Fifth Circuit remanded to determine whether they were class members. The objectors are expected to file a response by Dec. 3.
Palmer, a solo practitioner in Solana Beach, Calif., declined to comment, referring questions to Frank. Frank, a Washington attorney and vocal critic of class settlements, said the class counsels’ motion to dismiss their Fifth Circuit appeal was intended “to delay and disrupt the oral argument.” In the medical claims dispute, Frank called Tuesday’s motion “completely out of the scope of the remand order.”
“It’s pure smoke and mirrors,” he said.
A spokesman for class counsel attorneys Stephen Herman of Herman, Herman & Katz in New Orleans and James Parkerson Roy, of Domengeaux, Wright, Roy & Edwards in Lafayette, La., declined to comment.
The Fifth Circuit is weighing whether to uphold the $9.6 billion settlement for economic damages, which four groups of objectors and BP have challenged.
The Fifth Circuit remanded the appeal of the medical claims settlement on Sept. 30. Following remand, class counsel moved for sanctions against Palmer and his clients for acting in “bad faith” in filing their appeal. Their continued failure to establish class membership, they wrote, has been “dilatory and vexatious.”
In Tuesday’s brief, class counsel continued to press for dismissal and sanctions, alleging that Palmer had coached his clients during discovery.
That discovery revealed that the objectors weren’t class members of the $9.6 billion settlement either because their properties fell outside the geographic scope of the deal, class counsel wrote in their Oct. 31 motion with the Fifth Circuit.
On Nov. 12, Frank and Palmer called class counsel’s move “sandbagging,” since they’d had more than a year to raise the issue. They agreed to drop the appeals of two of their clients but moved for sanctions against class counsel for filing a “speculative half-investigated motion.”
Such a response, class counsel wrote in a Tuesday reply, is “indicative of a lawyer-driven professional objector whose interests run neither to the class nor even to his own clients.”
Contact Amanda Bronstad at email@example.com.