Recently, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the lawsuits alleging large oil companies are responsible for coastal wetlands losses in Louisiana will be tried in federal courts. Samik Mukherjee believes that the decision has many different implications for the potential outcomes for these highly publicized oil and gas lawsuits and, here, he provides a bit of detail on surrounding information and how the decision may impact the proceedings.
Details on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ Decision
Last year, a three-judge panel on the 5th Circuit upheld the rulings of federal district judges to keep the lawsuits in Louisiana state court. After being pressed for reconsideration by the companies in question- and after hearing arguments from leaders within the industry- district courts made the decision to look to see if any federal issues were involved with the case.
There are over 40 lawsuits that have been presented by six parishes and New Orleans, with the lingering question held by courts being whether the defendants can be held responsible for decades worth of coastal erosion and wetlands loss. Some of the lawsuits against the 200 fossil fuel companies contain allegations that date back to as far as World War II, emphasizing the massive scope of these legal proceedings. In a recent decision, the court decided that cases should be examined in federal district court, as it is believed that they involve federally overseen operations.
Impact of the Decision
Samik Mukherjee notes that the oil and gas industry leaders involved in the lawsuits largely agree with the decision to bring the cases to federal court. Louisiana Oil & Gas Association President Mike Moncla, for example, cited that the oil and gas industry in Louisiana has experienced a decline since the beginning of the litigation process back in 2013. It is his belief that the lawsuits are frivolous and have cost employees jobs, bankrupted marine service companies, and have had a profoundly negative impact on the state’s tax revenue.
It is difficult to argue against the idea that the lawsuits have cost the state money, as a recent study found that they have potentially cost the state between $44 million to $113 million each year since their filing, impacting as many as 2,000 jobs. The plaintiffs see these lawsuits as necessary still, as it is not yet known the scope of the impact that certain negative practices held by companies have had – and some consider that they may value even more than the lawsuits.
Since news of the decision, the Samik Mukherjee lawsuit review has found that quite a few of the plaintiffs for the Louisiana case are not pleased with recent developments. One major reason for this sentiment is because of the dynamic change that bringing these courses to federal court may cause. Trial lawyers typically prefer state courts because their judges are elected, whereas federal judges are appointed. Attorneys fear that federally appointed judges may have ties that will prevent impartial rulings that could turn the tide in the favor of the plaintiffs rather than companies such as BP America Production Company, Exxon Mobil Corporation, Shell, Chevron, and ConocoPhillips.
The Future of Louisiana’s Oil and Gas Lawsuits
While it is too soon to tell what the future will hold for the cases in question, experts such as Samik Mukherjee are paying very close attention to recent developments. It is the hope of many experts that the decision to change courts will not impact the way that relevant details are handled or deemphasize the importance of transparency and efficient solutions regarding oil and gas industry processes.