The Wall Street Journal, Forbes.com and several legal publications featured the recent victory for William Brewer III '77, whose client, Florida property developer The St. Joe Company, won a ruling that will keep it from multidistrict litigation in its suit over the Gulf oil spill. Brewer is an Albany Law School Board of Trustee member.
According to the reports, last fall St. Joe sued Transocean, Halliburton, and SWACO in Delaware state court, hoping to force early settlements or trials, and out of multidistrict litigation. But all three defendants successfully removed their cases to federal court.
"But on Tuesday," one article said, "Wilmington federal district court judge Leonard Stark remanded St. Joe's suit against Transocean back to Delaware state superior court, rejecting Transocean's arguments that federal statutes governing oil pollution claims and the continental shelf preclude state law negligence claims stemming from the spill. And, as Judge Stark noted in his 30-page ruling, Transocean can now seek to bring Halliburton and SWACO—and perhaps others—back to state court in Delaware as third-party defendants."
Brewer, of Dallas, Texas-based Bickel and Brewer, was the lead lawyer on the case. The article claims that the case represents the first big setback for major defendants fighting to restrict their spill liability to cases in the MDL.
Brewer told a reporter that St. Joe's claims over the Deepwater Horizon disaster are estimated to be worth more than $500 million. "Being able to pursue our state law claims against Transocean in state court takes us out of the MDL, and it gives us a much shorter and more efficient track."