Make us your home page

Tampa Bay firms get ready for big fight against Big Oil

The gulf oil spill will cost oil giant BP and maybe others like Deepwater Horizon rig owner Transocean and Halliburton a barrelful of bucks in cleanup expenses. But it may be the coming wave of lawsuits from businesses and individuals claiming they were harmed by the impact of the spill that really sticks it to these oil industry wallets.

Some Tampa Bay firms are gearing up for the Big Fight against Big Oil, which could spawn a legal bonanza for many years should the oil spill prove a long-term disaster.

Just ask Dewey Destin, a lifelong Florida Panhandle resident of Okaloosa County. He owns waterfront property on Joe's Bayou near Choctawhatchee Bay. He's a member of the pioneer family after whom the gulf-front city of Destin is named, and he serves on the Destin City Council.

He's also a plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit filed by Tampa's Merlin Law Group and other firms against BP, Transocean, Halliburton and other companies involved in the spill.

The lawsuit covers the waterfront by citing the oil spill's likely environmental damage, the hazard of exposure to humans and the significant losses sustained by business and property values from the spill's publicity.

The suit not only seeks damages but asks for up-front financial help to minimize any fouling of the area by the oil spill. The lawsuit states:

"The oil slick is an economic catastrophe for the gulf states. Businesses and individuals on the gulf coast … face the permanent loss of their livelihoods. Given the permanent damage that the oil slick is doing to the tourism industry, and the resulting stigma attached to the area, this loss will be difficult or impossible to recover."

Other Tampa Bay law firms are involved or exploring how to get a slice of a litigation pie.

Carlton Fields, one of Tampa Bay's larger law firms, is creating an oil spill team co-led by attorney Luis Prats.

Still other law firms are considering an old standby: suing BP on behalf of shareholders because the stock price fell after news of the spill.

In Clearwater, the Perenich law firm website talks about the health risks to people as the oil spill creeps closer to shore. "We understand the responsibility that is demanded of others to create a safe society for ourselves and our family, and can assist you in instances where a corporation puts you and your health at risk," the site states.

Terence Perenich, a Clearwater native, says his firm is monitoring the oil spill, mostly from a legal vantage point of safety regulations. Like the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska in 1989, a big question to answer is: How much negligence occurred in the gulf spill?

Punishing the oil industry isn't just about money. It's about sending a message that it must be more careful and take stronger precautions when pursuing such high-risk projects as deepwater drilling.

"I do not want to see any harm come to this state, or any state," Perenich says. "But at the same time, we need to do something about it."

No argument there. And, when the investigations are over, blame may also extend to lax federal supervision of drilling by the Minerals Management Service, part of the Department of the Interior.

Either way, hopefully we'll have reduced the odds of another disaster of such magnitude.

Robert Trigaux can be reached at

Tampa Bay firms get ready for big fight against Big Oil 05/24/10 [Last modified: Monday, May 24, 2010 8:24pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Legalized medical marijuana signed into law by Rick Scott

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott on Friday signed into law a broader medical marijuana system for the state, following through on a promise he made earlier this month.

    Gov. Rick Scott signed legislation on Friday that legalizes medical marijuana in Florida.
  2. Line of moms welcome Once Upon A Child to Carrollwood


    CARROLLWOOD — Strollers of all shapes and sizes are lined up in front of the store, and inside, there are racks of children's clothing in every color of the rainbow.

    At Once Upon A Child, you often as many baby strollers outside as you find baby furniture and accessories. It recently opened this location in Carrollwood. Photo by Danielle Hauser
  3. Pastries N Chaat brings North India cuisine to North Tampa


    TAMPA — Pastries N Chaat, a new restaurant offering Indian street food, opened this week near the University of South Florida.

    The menu at Pastries N Chaat includes a large variety of Biriyani, an entree owners say is beloved by millions. Photo courtesy of Pastries N Chaat.
  4. 'Garbage juice' seen as threat to drinking water in Florida Panhandle county


    To Waste Management, the nation's largest handler of garbage, the liquid that winds up at the bottom of a landfill is called "leachate," and it can safely be disposed of in a well that's 4,200 feet deep.

    Three samples that were displayed by Jackson County NAACP President Ronstance Pittman at a public meeting on Waste Management's deep well injection proposal. The sample on the left is full of leachate from the Jackson County landfill, the stuff that would be injected into the well. The sample on the right shows leachate after it's been treated at a wastewater treatment plant. The one in the middle is tap water.
  5. Honda denies covering up dangers of Takata air bags


    With just a third of the defective Takata air bag inflators replaced nationwide, the corporate blame game of who will take responsibility — and pay — for the issue has shifted into another gear.

    Honda is denying covering up dangers of Takata air bags. | [Scott McIntyre, New York Times]