Louisiana must quickly turn over documents requested by oil giant BP, or else face dismissal of its lawsuit against the company for losses caused by the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, a judge ruled Thursday.
Louisiana faces fines of up to $10,000 per day if it does not comply, U.S. Magistrate Judge Sally Shushan said in an order today in federal court in New Orleans. The court is overseeing hundreds of lawsuits related to the 2010 disaster.
After twenty-one days of non-compliance, “the Court will consider … whether the claims of Louisiana in this [litigation) shall be dismissed in whole or in part for failure to prosecute,” according to a court document.
Louisiana Attorney General James “Buddy” Caldwell sued BP in March for economic and environmental damages related to the tragedy, which killed 11 workers and spilled up to 5 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. The lawsuit also names Transocean , which owned and operated the Deepwater Horizon rig that ultimately sunk.
Louisiana seeks at least $1 million per day for the 87 days the oil leaked off the Louisiana coast in 2010, plus cleanup costs, according to the lawsuit.
A spokesman for Caldwell’s office could not immediately be reached for comment.
Shushan, who is assisting U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier with the consolidated lawsuits, said Louisiana must give BP documents related to the phase one of the trial by November 3. This first proceeding will apportion blame among BP and other defendants for the disaster, is scheduled to begin in February 2012.
The state must produce documents related to the second phase of the trial by November 21, the document said. The second phase focuses on claims related to stopping the flow of oil and cleaning up after the disaster.
The court will fine Louisiana $2,500 per day for each day of non-compliance with the order, the judge ruled. After seven days, the fine rises to $5,000 per day; after 14 days it rises to $10,000 per day. The case is In Re: Oil Spill by the Oil Rig Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, 2010, MDL-2179, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana (New Orleans). (Reporting by Moira Herbst; editing by Carol Bishopric)
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