It has been nearly two months since the explosion and subsequent sinking of the Deepwater Horizon oilrig caused massive amounts of crude oil to begin leaking into the Gulf of Mexico, and in that time, industry across the Gulf Coast has been affected, from the commercial fishing industry to tourism to food distribution. As a region known for its cuisine, the Gulf Coast restaurant industry – particularly the seafood industry – has been the focus of international attention, and in May, several restaurants from Louisiana and Florida filed a class action suit against BP, plc, BP Products North America, Inc., and BP America, Inc., whom the U.S. Coast Guard identified as the “responsible party,” according to the Oil Pollution Act.
The class action was filed on May 18 on behalf of several plaintiffs who are restaurant owners and others in the seafood service industry in Louisiana and Florida who have or will suffer lost profits as a result of the subsequent oil spill following the sinking of the Deepwater Horizon oilrig. Over the course of the past month, several more restaurants in Texas and Arkansas have joined the action, proving just how vast this spill has become. The named plaintiffs include restaurants and seafood wholesalers in Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas and Florida. Louisiana plaintiffs include Franky and Johnny’s; Tello’s Bistro; Zeke’s Restaurant; Café Maspero; Pete’s Restaurant; Red River Grill; Crazy Lobster restaurant; Poppy’s Seafood Factory restaurant; Roy Marris Seafood; New Orleans Fish House, LLC; Eleven 79 Restaurant; and wholesale distributer P.A. Menard, Inc. In Florida, restaurants include Poppy’s Crazy Lobster of Destin, Poppy’s Time Out Sports Bar & Grill of Orlando and Poppy’s Dancin’ Iguana of Destin. New to the Class Action include several Kelley’s Country Cookin’ locations throughout Texas and Arkansas’ Big Bayou Market and Who Dat’s, Inc.
As a Class Action, the claim has been filed on behalf of the named plaintiffs as well as all individuals or businesses that own and/or operate restaurants and/or wholesale seafood distributors located in those states that touch and/or border on the Gulf of Mexico. The action states that, due to the dangerous environmental contamination as a result of the oil leak, “fishing, shrimping, oystering and other commercial activities have been suspended, and will likely continue to be legally and/or effectively reduced,” therefore causing a loss of revenue and earning capacity for these restaurants. Stephen Herman, partner at Herman, Herman & Katz, is the attorney for the Plaintiffs.
The firm’s position is that restaurants and others in the food service industry who suffer economic losses due to the oil spill are covered by the Oil Pollution Act, and therefore the firm is seeking a formal judgment from the Court to clear the way for appropriate claims. “As a result of the spill,” explains Herman, “my clients will have a difficult time obtaining fresh, local seafood. They’ll have to pay higher prices for the seafood and they run the risk of losing customers as a result of higher prices and limited availability. We hope that the Court will confirm that they are legally entitled under the OPA the submit a claim.” The class action suit alleges that BP “knew of the dangers associated with deep water drilling and failed to take appropriate measures to prevent damage to Plaintiffs, Louisiana’s and the Gulf of Mexico’s marine and coastal environments and estuarine areas, and the Coastal Zone.”