Friday, July 30, 2010

BP's (NYSE:BP) Next Battle: Legal Venue

Now that the crisis of oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico is winding down, the focus is now on the lawsuits BP (NYSE:BP) will face for years to come.

The two immediate issues in regard to that are whether or not to have the venue in Houston or New Orleans. Obviously BP wants the Houston location and plaintiffs the New Orleans venue.

Arguments have been heard by the federal judges, but it could take up to a month before a final decision is made.

One possible result could be that neither venue is the chosen venue, but they could be one among several. The huge number of cases could make it prohibitive to have them all tried in one district, which could lead to several venues in order to make things move faster.

Some of this will depend on the number of people or businesses who may decide to get some money more quickly through the escrow fund, rather then wait for an underterimined and unpredictable number of years.

Kenneth Feinberg, who is overseeing the escrow fund, had made it clear you either accept their decision or file a lawsuit. If claims are offered and accepted, there is no recourse to those making the decision to accept the claims.

But that could be much better in a lot of instances than going through years of litigation with no guarantee of getting anything. And if plaintiffs are older, they very easily could pass away over the duration of the case.

Lawyers of course will attempt to persuade people and businesses to sue in order to get their huge piece of the pie, but those using the escrow fund avenue wouldn't have to pay, as lawyers will be on site to help them for free.

It will be interesting to see if the judges would allow the venue to be in New Orleans, as the chances of a fair trial there in light of the enormous media attention and coverage is highly unlikely.

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