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More Oil Spill Claims Dismissed

NEW ORLEANS (CN) - Some oil spill claims from Alabama, Louisiana and three Mexican states were dismissed Friday by the judge overseeing consolidated oil spill litigation from the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier dismissed claims filed by attorneys general from six Louisiana parishes because they sought damages only for "fish, wild birds, wild quadrupeds, and other wildlife and aquatic life."

Parishes are Louisiana's equivalent to counties.

The 12-page order states: "These member cases fail to state any claims upon which relief can be granted."

Barbier said the states may still sue for damages to wildlife under federal law through the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.

The Mexican States of Tamaulipas, Quintana Roo and Veracruz each sought damages from the BP defendants under the federal Oil Pollution Act (OPA).

"As to the Mexican States' OPA claims, foreign claimants may recover under OPA only in select situations," Barbier wrote.

The judge found that neither of the treaties the Mexican states relied upon - neither the Agreement of Cooperation Regarding Pollution of the Marine Environment by Discharges of Hydrocarbons and Other Hazardous Substances, which puts forward a joint contingency plan for oil spills called the MEXUS Plan, nor the Cartagena Convention - authorize recovery for oil-spill damages under OPA.

"Because the Mexican States have failed to demonstrate that 'recovery is authorized by a treaty or executive agreement between the United States and the claimant's country,' the Mexican States' claims under OPA are dismissed. The Court does not reach the Parties' arguments regarding presentment under OPA," the order states.

"The Mexican States' negligence and gross negligence claims asserted against defendants other than Anadarko are preserved, but only to the extent there has been a physical injury to a proprietary interest," Barbier ruled, granting in part and denying in part the Mexican states' cases and defendants' motions to dismiss.

Finally, a claim filed jointly by three cities and one town in Alabama - Greenville, Evergreen, Georgiana and McKenzie - seeks recovery under OPA.

First off, the judge's order states, the claim did not satisfy OPA's presentment requirement. Additionally, the cities allege economic, but not "proprietary" damages, and are not on the coast, but inland.

The Alabama claims are dismissed.

Barbier's order relates to all claims in Bundle C.

Because there are roughly 130,000 claimants and more than 500 claims filed in the MDL, the cases have been divided into pleading bundles according to type of damages sought. Bundle C includes public damage claims, including claims brought by public entities for loss of resources, loss of tax revenue, property damages, response to restoration costs, and civil penalties.

Barbier has raised similar concerns related to the types of damages sought in claims in other pleading bundles. In November he threw out state-law claims made by Louisiana and Alabama, saying federal law controls this litigation.

The first oil-spill trial will be a limitation trial, to determine the liability of the various defendants.

Named defendants in the Bundle C claims are BP, Halliburton, Cameron Corporation, M-I LLC, Weatherford U.S. LP, Anadarko, MOEX and Mitsui Oil Exploration.

The trial begins Feb. 27, 2012.

The April 20, 2010 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil platform killed 11 people and set off the worst oil spill in U.S. history.

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