Saturday, June 5, 2010

Send in the Lawyers to the Gulf

Send in the Lawyers to the Gulf

Send in the lawyers.

Unleash them on BP.

Let justice be served.

A veritable tsunami of lawyers have descended upon the Gulf. Over 150 lawsuits have been filed to date. The gusher of paper will exceed the crude washing upon the shore.

Lawyers may not be able to plug the hole, but they can drain the coffers.

Lawyers cannot do cleanup, but they are guaranteed to be the only ones to clean up from this environmental disaster.

Lawyers are sometimes the first responders to a tragedy as time is often of the essence.

Lawyers cannot engineer, design, build, maintain, operate, repair, plug, or cement the hole in the ocean, but they will fill their pockets as they cast their eyes and salivate on the black gold gushing forth.

The lawyers will exult at every tiny tar bar that washes ashore. But they will not wait. Thus, they are signing up clients in communities that the oil may never reach.

The environmental losses will be enormous, but the legal claims infinite; wrongful death, loss of consortium, negligence, negligence per se, strict liability, violations of statutes, Migratory Bird Act, Endangered Species Act, water pollution, oil pollution, air pollution, Rivers and Harbors Act, securities fraud, citizen suits, consumer fraud, nuisance, absolute nuisance, negligent nuisance, aesthetic nuisance, animal rights, trespass, breach of contract, economic losses, emotional distress, intentional and negligent, business interruption, lost income, lost employment, lost opportunities, NEPA, OSHA, NFPA 1600, ISO 17799, PWA, PETA, ISO 27001, BS 25999, CERCLA, RCRA, RICO, TSCA. The lawyers will make law.

Lawyers can always plead anything.

BP may have had trouble with pipes, valves, levers, spigots, blowout preventers, containment domes, Top Kill, Junk Shot, Top Hat, riser insertion tube tool, lower marine riser package, diamond studded saws, oil dispersants, and caps, but not the lawyers.

Lawyers rely upon hindsight for their brilliant understandings of a tragedy.
Hindsight is a much better test than foresight in clarifying the obscure, obtuse, incomprehensible, and complicated.

Caps are a 4 letter word to trial lawyers; they often mean limitations on damages and attorney fees.

Congress may lift any legal caps flowing in the Gulf.

That the hole in the earth is a mile underwater, in freezing temperatures, and under great pressure is irrelevant to the attorneys on land in air conditioned offices, Mercedes and BMW’s. Math was removed from the LSAT decades ago.

Legal principles, not fundamental principles of engineering, control in the courtroom.

The calculus of damages, not the calculus of finite math, controls litigation.

A relief well should never be confused with real relief, that is, judicial relief.

Remember H Ross Perot and his “giant swooshing sound,” or was it “giant sucking sound?” That’s not the sound of crude swooshing out the breach, but of lawyers sucked into it. Send in the lawyers.

Lawyers have never seen a disaster or tragedy so great that they will not jump in, all in the name of justice.

Dickens had his Bleak House, and Exxon 20 years of litigation with the Exxon Valdez, but these lawyers are relentless in the pursuit of justice, and lucre.

Santa Barbara and Exxon Valdez were but legal warmups to the Gulf. Multiple defendants, BP, Transocean, Halliburton, Cameron, at least five states, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida, scores of counties and parishes, cities, towns, villages, hamlets, the federal government, perhaps Mexico and Puerto Rico, multitudes of private claimants, insurance companies, commercial fishermen, sports fishermen, charter boat operators, marina owners, beach front motels, hotels, restaurants, diners, fast food stands, gas stations, curio and sundry shops, tax revenues. All with a defendant with a historically lax safety record. This is the Big One – The Holy Grail of Mass Torts. Thank you BP!

All this fault and potential liability, and a host of deep pocket defendants, oh what a gift to the trial lawyers. They need the boost.

BP has supposedly spent over $1 billion in attempting to stop and contain the oil. $84 million has been given out for lost income. That’s not even a down payment; none of it has yet to go to the lawyers.

This is an administration of lawyers: The President and his wife, the Vice President, the Attorney General, of course, the Secretary of the Interior, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and the Secretary of State. They’ve dispatched the Justice Department’s criminal attorneys to the Gulf.

BP does not stand a chance when aggressive government prosecutors file a laundry list of charges, criminal and civil, against it. Guilty, guilty, guilty! BP has lost any presumption of innocence. Many environmental crimes are strict liability offenses. Innocence is irrelevant.

Tort law, Toxic Torts (toxic dispersants), Admiralty law, common law, civil law, Cajun law, doesn’t matter. The law doesn’t matter. It’s the jury, and in the hands of a skilled trial lawyer, the jury is but putty.

A great trial lawyer can turn a routine negligence case into recklessness, and voila, punitive damages.

Engineers may be bedeviled by the common pothole, but pothole lawyers view potholes as a bottomless money pit. Once upon a time, New York City was so frustrated paying out pothole claims that it passed an ordinance which provided that no liability could be imposed for a pothole injury until the city had been informed of the existence of the pothole.

The City thought it had tossed the lawyers into the abyss of the pothole.

Never underestimate the ingenuity of an attorney about to lose an annuity. The pothole bar hired students to survey every street in New York City. Shortly before the ordinance took effect, the lawyers delivered to the City a comprehensive street map of New City with all the existing potholes revealed.

The Gulf lawyers are thinking in broader terms than potholes.

Remember British Petroleum’s slick public relations campaign: “BP- Beyond Petroleum?” The company even adopted green as its color. Green is an open invitation to the trial lawyers. BP has proven it is but petroleum.

And when it’s all resolved, the most expensive lawyers by billing rates will step in – the bankruptcy lawyers. They collect their fees and costs first in bankruptcy. Lehman Brothers is already up to $1 billion. Nice legal work if you can get it.

The BP Gulf Oil Blowout will become the Gulf Lawyers Full Employment Opportunity and Annuity Gift. Thank you BP.

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