Justia Class Action Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Environmental Law
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This case arose when an ocean-going tanker collided with a barge that was being towed on the Mississippi River, which resulted in the barge splitting in half and spilling its cargo of oil into the river. Following the filing of numerous lawsuits, including personal injury claims by the crew members and class actions by fishermen, the primary insurer filed an interpleader action, depositing its policy limits with the court. At issue was the allocations of the interpleader funds as well as the district court's finding that the maritime insurance policy's liability limit included defense costs. The court affirmed the district court's decision that defense costs eroded policy limits but was persuaded that its orders allocating court-held funds among claimants were tentative and produced no appealable order.

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This suit followed BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc.'s (BPXA) temporary shut-down of its pipelines and oil production in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, upon its discovery of a leak in a pipeline located in its Prudhoe Bay Eastern Operating Area. Plaintiff, on behalf of a class of purchasers of BP p.l.c. shares, subsequently brought a class action suit against BPXA alleging claims arising under Sections 10(b), 18, and 20(a) of the Securities and Exchange Act (SEC), 15 U.S.C. 78b(b), 78r, and 78t(a), and Rule 10b-5. Both parties appealled in part from the judgment of the district court. The court held that BPXA's breach of a contractual promise of specific future conduct, even though the contract was filed in conjunction with SEC reporting requirements, was not a sufficient foundation for a securities fraud action. The court declined plaintiff's invitation to review other issues that were not certified for interlocutory appeal. In light of the court's conclusion that breached contractual obligations did not constitute misrepresentations by BPXA that were actionable under the securities laws, the court did not reach the issue of scienter. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded.