The attorneys representing the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East in its lawsuit against 97 oil and gas companies may have just quashed the main line of criticism coming from Gov. Bobby Jindal and the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association.
|"The oil and gas industry has used the rhetoric of 'greedy trial lawyers' to distract from the true facts of this case," says the levee board's lead attorney Gladstone Jones.|
Since the lawsuit was filed last year, Jindal and LOGA President Don Briggs have cried foul, claiming the attempt was fueled by “greedy trial lawyers” who stand to make millions in attorneys’ fees by operating on a contingency-fee basis.
That claim, coupled with allegations that such lawsuits will only serve to drive the industry from the state, has served as the main ammunition going into this year’s legislative session, where a number of bills aim to not only kill the levee board’s suit, but also make it near impossible for any similar suits to be filed in the future.
Briggs et al appear headed for success in the oil-friendly Legislature.
But a press release issued Tuesday afternoon could derail their efforts, putting the kibosh on their primary arguments. The "greedy trial lawyers" representing the levee board say they’re willing to waive their fees under the existing contract if the companies included in the lawsuit agree to enter negotiations within a six-month time frame.
“SLFPA-E filed this lawsuit in order to protect the lives, property, and culture of coastal Louisiana,” says Gladstone Jones, lead attorney for the levee board, in a prepared statement. “The oil and gas industry has used the rhetoric of ‘greedy trial lawyers’ to distract from the true facts of this case that show these companies played a role in the coastal erosion of South Louisiana. This proposal puts an end to that distraction.”
Jones' proposal is twofold: The lawsuit’s defendants must first agree to enter negotiations within six months; and then the attorneys’ fees will be decided on by both parties. If an agreement on attorneys’ cannot be reached, the issue would then be brought before the courts.
"We are in this with the citizens and taxpayers of South Louisiana," adds Jones. "It's time for South Louisiana to see some leadership from the Legislature and the governor that demonstrates a commitment to protect the lives and property of the good people of South Louisiana. If these companies aren't forced to fix what they broke, then taxpayers will be on the hook for billions. The Legislature should leave the third branch of government to do its job because evidence, not influence, should decide this case."