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Hillsborough commissioners to consider BP lawsuit



Hillsborough County commissioners will consider Wednesday whether to file a lawsuit against oil-giant BP over lost tax revenues the county claims it suffered due to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The county claims it suffered nearly $43 million in losses -- from hotel, gas, sales and other tax and fee receipts -- as a result of the spill.

Commissioners previously have voted to pursue a claim against the company for the losses. It has entered the claims process, but the vote didn't explicitly authorize a lawsuit. So today's vote is not expected to be controversial.

Thus far, governments outside the Panhandle generally have not proved successful in seeking compensation for the spill. A vote today would authorize attorneys hired by the county to file a lawsuit to seek compensation. The statute of limitations for filing a claim through the court system expires April 22.

"Because of the time constraints and statute of limitations, it’s best to go ahead and file the suit," said Paul Johnston, a senior assistant county attorney. "We can continue with mediation or negotiations in the meantime."

The county has hired the Fowler White Boggs firm to pursue its claim. The law firm is working under a contract that would pay it 20 percent of what it recovers, plus legal expenses, if it secures any money for the county. The firm will not be paid otherwise.

"I still believe we have incurred damages from bed taxes and other revenues," said commissioner Kevin Beckner, who first recommended the county pursue damages from BP. "So I think it’s imperative that we make any attempt to recover any of those losses that were due to the county."

Other local governments have also filed claims against BP, with the city of Tampa seeking $50 million in alleged losses.

[Last modified: Tuesday, April 16, 2013 7:28pm]


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