Louisiana residents have settled a lawsuit they brought against a group of law firms, lawyers and insurance companies over missed relief money following the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, a Louisiana federal judge said in an order Friday dismissing the case.
U.S. District Judge Wendy B. Vitter entered a conditional order of dismissal, effectively ending a suit brought in the summer of 2020 by Louisiana fishing professionals who alleged that the missteps of attorneys caused them to miss out on relief money that was handed out following the oil spill.
Judge Vitter said the sides told a federal magistrate judge in a settlement conference on Wednesday that they'd agreed to settle all claims in the matter. The case is now conditionally dismissed without prejudice as the sides work to enforce the settlement agreement.
"The court is aware of the great time and effort put forth by the parties, and the magistrate judge, over the holidays to achieve this amicable resolution, and thanks them for their diligence," Friday's order read.
In a suit that was originally filed in Louisiana state court in July 2020 and removed to federal court in November of that year, plaintiffs led by Brandon Henry alleged that several law firms rushed through settlement requests before a June 2015 filing deadline to obtain oil spill relief. They also alleged that the relief claims were falsely inflated to increase attorney fees. The plaintiffs, Louisiana residents who worked in fishing-based occupations, said those exaggerated figures led to them being denied compensation.
The residents sued the firms and attorneys for fraud and malpractice. The firms and lawyers named in the suit are the Howard L. Nations Law Firm, Howard Nations, Cindy Nations, Rueb Law Firm APLC, Rueb & Motta APLC, Gregory Rueb, Nicks Law Firm LLC and Shantrell Nicks.
In March, Judge Vitter tossed the fraud claims, but allowed the residents to continue with their claims for malpractice.
Regarding the fraud accusations, the district court judge found that the residents didn't put forward specific enough evidence to show that the firms and attorneys intended to mislead their clients.
In allowing the malpractice accusations to move forward, Judge Vitter rejected the attorneys' argument that the residents' claims should be barred by a statute of limitations. The judge affirmed that decision in April, and earlier this month rejected new arguments the attorneys put forth again seeking an order that the malpractice claims should be time-barred.
Henry and the other plaintiffs also sued their former lawyers' professional liability insurers: Landmark American Insurance Co., Capitol Specialty Insurance Corp., Maxum Indemnity Co., QBE Insurance Corp. and Allied World Surplus Lines Insurance Co. The plaintiffs argued that the insurers are on the hook for the misconduct alleged against the firms and sought recovery under the policies.
In November, Judge Vitter granted motions for summary judgment filed by Capitol Specialty and Landmark, dismissing those insurers from the case. Maxum and QBE lost their bids to exit the litigation. The residents voluntarily dismissed Allied World from the case in December 2020.
Representatives of the parties didn't immediately respond to requests for comment Friday.
The plaintiffs are represented by Jerald P. Block, Sarah M. Lambert and Matthew P. Hymel of Block Law Firm APLC.
Howard L. Nations APC, Howard Nations, Cindy Nations, the Rueb Law Firm APLC, Rueb & Motta APLC and Gregory Rueb are represented by Judy Lynn Burnthorn, Joanne P. Rinardo and Gregory J. Sauzer of Deutsch Kerrigan LLP.
Howard L. Nations APC, Howard Nations and Cindy Nations are also represented by Alexandre E. Bonin of Bonin Law.
Joseph Motta and his law firm are represented by Brian J. Capitelli and Tyffani A. Lauve of Capitelli & Wicker.
Shantrell Nicks and her law firm are represented by Tamekia R. Goliday of Goliday Law Firm.
QBE is represented by Robert I. Siegel and Alistair M. Ward of Gieger Laborde & Laperouse LLC.
Maxum is represented by Seth A. Schmeeckle, Heather N. Sharp and Jay P. Farmer of Lugenbuhl Wheaton Peck Rankin & Hubbard.
The case is Henry et al. v. Maxum Indemnity Co. et al., case number 2:20-cv-02995, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.