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May 3, 2010 11:51 AM

V&E Gets BP's First Call on Gulf Oil Spill

Posted by Zach Lowe

Like most of New York, we spent the weekend transfixed by the Times Square bomb scare, but we also took note of the increasing seriousness of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. As this AP story nicely summarizes, the spill has now forced the closure of 6,800 acres of prime fishing waters, threatened shipping lanes to the Mississippi River, and spurred fears that the oil could impact Florida's southern and eastern shorelines if the oil gets into the Gulf Stream. The BP spill could surpass the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster in terms of the number of gallons spilled, the AP says.

BP has moved quickly to take responsibility for the spill, the AP says. And it appears Vinson & Elkins has the inside track to guide BP through a legal crisis that could last several years or even multiple decades, according to our colleagues at The Am Law Litigation Daily. Plaintiffs lawyers have already filed suit on behalf of various businessmen, including shrimpers and fishermen, who claim the spill has cost them, the Lit Daily says. (Daniel Becnel, Jr., one of the plaintiffs lawyers behind the initial dozen or so complaints against BP, is also vying for the job of lead counsel in the Toyota case, the Lit Daily says.)

V&E's Carol Dinkins got BP's first call, the Lit Daily says. Dinkins is a former deputy attorney general in the Reagan administration and the first female partner in V&E's history. It's unclear if the firm will serve as BP's lead litigation counsel on any Exxon Valdez-style mass tort, but they're the top legal dog for now, the Lit Daily says. 

For some perspective on the inevitable mass tort, the Lit Daily caught up with Faegre & Benson partner Brian O'Neill, one of the plaintiffs attorneys in the Exxon Valdez case. O'Neill's advice to potential BP plaintiffs: "Don't settle too soon."

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