Miss. becomes 3rd state to sue BP for oil spill

AP News
Posted: Apr 19, 2013 4:39 PM

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi has become the third state to sue BP PLC over the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Attorney General Jim Hood announced Friday that the state had filed lawsuits in federal and state court. The move comes one day before the three-year statute of limitations expires for claims related to the April 20, 2010, explosion of the Deepwater Horizon that killed 11 and the oil spill that followed.

Hood said he wanted to settle, but said BP refused to negotiate.

"BP would not even agree to waive the statute of limitations while we negotiated, which could have prevented the state from having to file suit and saved both them and the taxpayers a lot of money paying lawyers and fighting in the courts," Hood said in a statement.

BP spokesman Scott Dean declined to comment.

Hood's office could not provide copies of the complaints Friday and the federal suit was not yet available electronically. Hood said the state suit was filed under the Coastal Wetlands Protection Act and seeks state fines. He said the federal lawsuit seeks damages under federal law.

"The damages to our economy and our natural resources are staggering and we intend to fully recover for the taxpayers of the state," he said.

Mississippi also wants punitive damages, attorneys' fees, and court costs, as well as court orders against BP.

Mick Bullock, a spokesman for Gov. Phil Bryant, said Bryant supports the suit.

"The Deepwater Horizon disaster has had profound impacts on Mississippi, and Gov. Bryant certainly believes that responsible parties should be held accountable," Bullock wrote in an email.

Louisiana and Alabama sued BP earlier and are participating in a federal trial in New Orleans to determine the liability of BP and its contractors. Mississippi hadn't been participating because it hadn't sued. It's unclear if Friday's lawsuit will change that.

Hood, though, actually wants to keep as much of the action in state court as he can. The attorney general has on several occasions tried to litigate claims against large businesses in state court, where rules can be more favorable.

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"While claims filed by other states have languished in federal court, I do not want to see that happen to us," Hood said. "States are separate sovereigns entitled to litigate their state law claims in state courts. We feel strongly that our case is a Mississippi case and it should be heard in a Mississippi court with a Mississippi jury."

Mississippi is part of a last minute rush to the courthouse by people suing BP. Hundreds of new cases have been filed in Louisiana in recent days, and dozens in Mississippi. Among the new plaintiffs in Mississippi are the cities of Gulfport, Pascagoula, Ocean Springs, Moss Point and Gautier, as well as Jackson County and the East Central Harrison Public Utility District.


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