A federal judge on Monday appointed three attorneys to lead a joint class-action trial over an October pipeline breach in ocean waters off Orange County, indicating that recent criminal charges by federal prosecutors A high-stakes civil battle will proceed even after the announcement of the to oil spill.
Facing 14 similar civil lawsuits involving at least 22 law firms, US District Judge David O’Carter last week ordered lawyers from a variety of well-connected local and high-powered national firms to appear in his Santa Ana courtroom. Invited to make your case. Why should they take the reins of a joint civil case on behalf of businesses and residents affected by the oil spill.
On Monday, Carter announced that it had selected Wylie Aitken, one of Orange County’s foremost trial lawyers, arts conservators and political activists; Lexi Hazam of Leif Cabresar Heyman & Bernstein, one of the firms of the country’s highest-profile litigants; and Stephen Larson, a former federal prosecutor and federal judge, became the civil litigator as lead counsel for the United Oil Spills Civil Case.
Speaking during last week’s hearing, Carter clarified that he was looking for a mix of lawyers with deep local ties and “true devotion” for Orange and Los Angeles counties, belonging to a firm with legal resources. “800 Pound Gorilla”. Handle what is expected to be a particularly complicated civil matter.
Carter’s written order declaring lead attorneys did not reference a criminal indictment delivered last week alleging illegal discharges of oil during a recent pipeline break. But a timeline included in the order — which calls for a consolidated class action complaint by January 28, a response by defendant’s lawyers by February 28 and a trial date in September 2023 — makes it clear that the judge is not expected to slow down. . Civil case in light of criminal prosecution.
A pipeline rupture in early October resulted in a spill of 25,000 gallons of oil into the waters of Huntington Beach, and closed beaches and ports for nine days along a string of Orange County coastal communities.
Both the civil case and criminal indictment target Amplify Energy and two if its subsidiaries — the San Pedro Bay Pipeline Company, which operates the pipeline that moves oil farm offshore facilities to a processing plant in Long Beach, and Beta Offshore, which operates the oil rigs.
The exact cause of the pipeline rupture is not yet known. Investigators are reportedly looking into the possibility that anchors or anchors of one or more commercial vessels could collide with the pipeline.
Federal prosecutors allege that, following the breach, activists failed to properly respond to multiple alarms and restart a pipeline that had shut down, pouring more oil into sea waters. Amplify Energy officials have denied the allegations, arguing that they responded quickly to the leak.
The indictment – which carries the potential for millions in fines and probation for Amplify Energy – made headlines last week. But the civil battle could ultimately have as much, if not more, impact at the local level, as plaintiff attorneys are likely to seek both large monetary damages and injunctive relief that could lead to changes in the operation of oil pipelines or rigs.