BP Oil Spill: U.S. District Court Bars Oyster Claims Against Non-BP Defendants Where Claimants Did Not Opt Out of Class Settlement in Master BP Case

Following the BP oil spill, the State of Louisiana constructed a massive sand barrier off its Gulf coast to protect its fragile wetlands.  The berm was constructed in the immediate vicinity of certain oyster leases held by the oyster claimants who alleged the construction destroyed their oyster beds.  The claimants sued the State of Louisiana and the various contractors and subcontractors involved in the construction.  The suit was filed in Louisiana state court.  Two of the involved dredging companies filed limitation of liability suits in USDC and impleaded the State and other involved contractors.  (The State was dismissed based on sovereign immunity.)

The limitation complainants also filed a third party action impleading BP in the limitation suit.  BP responded with a motion for summary judgment based on one of the several class action settlements reached in the “master” BP multi district litigation (“MDL”).  Most of the other contractor defendants joined in BP’s motion.  BP argued that the oyster claims fell within the scope of the “Economic and Property Damages Settlement Agreement” which was finalized with court approval in December 2012.  (The economic damages settlement provided generous terms to the Gulf Coast seafood industry, most notably the oyster industry.)  U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier agreed with BP’s argument that the oyster claimants released not only BP for their oyster losses but also all released of the State’s contractors and subcontractors whom the court determined fell within the term “Other Released Parties” within the class action settlement agreement.