Last month Bubba Gump Shrimp Company owners Forrest Gump and Lieutenant Dan realized they would not be able to deliver on their monthly promise of 10,000 pounds of shrimp to the Wok Ann Chu-gumm Seafood Restaurants. Because of this Bubba Gump Shrimp Company joined dozens of other commercial fishermen in a class action lawsuit alleging that a fire on Oyle E. Dryller’s rig caused millions of barrels of oil to be dumped into commercial fishing waters. When the government docked the commercial shrimp boats, Bubba Gump Shrimp Company saw its shrimping season and cash flow end. Do Bubba Gump Shrimp Company and its commercial shrimping buddies have a case, when “common sense says you shouldn’t get away with taking away someone’s livelihood and walk away without paying them anything for compensation?”
Like shooting fish in a barrel? Maybe. For Bubba Gump Shrimp and fellow commercial fishermen, there is a reasonable likelihood that they can prove Oyle E. Dryller took away their livelihood and they should be paid.
But what about Chef Red Fishy who sued complaining he can’t access his customary supplies of Gulf fresh seafood for his restaurant, or Bishop Carp who sued for “loss of enjoyment of the recreational saltwater fishing privileges bestowed on Louisiana residents” because he spends thousands of dollars every year to fish offshore so that his family has fish to eat throughout the year? Both of those scenarios are less likely to be successful in a lawsuit – Chef Red Fishy can still serve his customers fish caught outside the Gulf; Bishop Carp E. Diem’s vacation time does put fish on the table, but his vacation expenses may cost more than the fish he catches.
Then there is the even more damages speculative lawsuit filed by Flan Ounder and her partner Halli Bet who allege damages to their commercially zoned land in Florida because “falling real estate values are just one more consequence of this environmental disaster.” Even though it is not Gulf-front, surely it is “impacted by the perception that the entire Gulf Coast has been ruined.” Not being on the water raises questions about oil related damages, and the already significant impact of the recession on investment property makes a reduced property value argument even more speculative.
Tilting the Scales in Your Favor.
Sometimes there are other, and perhaps better, solutions to consider before first filing a lawsuit. While these scenarios present many opportunities to discuss facts, duties of negligent parties and damages to be argued, those with the best claims (like Bubba Gump Shrimp Company and the other trades who rely upon commercial fishing, like welderswho fix the shrimp boats) are likely to fare better by filing a claim first. As of last Friday, July 16th it is reported that 29,444 payments have been made by BP to Louisiana residents and businesses, including Louisiana fishermen (even with limited documentation), totaling more than $96 million.