A Federal Judge approved a $50 million class action settlement this week that will compensate homeowners and others impacted by the October 2, 2021, oil spill off Orange County near the Huntington Beach coast.
Central District of California Judge David O. Carter issued the final approval in Gutierrez et al. v. Amplify Energy Corp. after eight months’ notice in which not a single claimant objected.
“That’s very rare that not a single person ever objected to the settlement or the amount or how much they were going to receive or any other right that they had to assert,” said Wylie Aitken of Aitken Aitken Cohn, who is co-lead counsel for the plaintiffs. “They obviously were pleased with the result.”
Of the $50 million settlement, fisheries will receive $34 million while $9 million is earmarked for homeowners who own property along the coastline and $7 million will compensate the tourism industry, such as hotels, boating, whale watching, and bait and tackle businesses.
“Up and down the coast, it is the fisheries who were the main people who lost the base amount of money, and everyone connected with the fishing industry, which has had long term negative effects,” Aitken told OrangeCountyLawyers.com.
While the 10,000 class members alleged that Amplify Energy Corp., Beta Operating Company, LLC, and San Pedro Bay Pipeline Company are responsible for the 25,000-gallon oil spill, the pipeline defendants argued the incident was the fault of multiple shipping companies and that there was no way to determine the damages because of the complexity of the case.
The plaintiffs used underwater divers and other experts to prove the Amplify Defendants’ alleged role in the spill.
“When they were repairing the pipe, they also had to cut out the damaged portion and we were given access to that portion,” Aitken said in an interview. “Before it was taken to the National Transportation Safety Board in Washington, our experts had an opportunity to look at the pipe and examine it. We also hired experts who could determine what effect this had on fisheries, tourism, and properties and how to compute their damages.”
As previously reported on OrangeCountyLawyers.com, the oil rig from which the spill derived was owned by Amplify Energy and the cut in the 17.7-mile pipeline was allegedly created due to an anchor hitting the pipeline and an oil spigot improperly shutting off.
OrangeCountyLawyers.com also reported that on Feb. 9 the plaintiffs entered a separate $45 million settlement with the ships, the Capetanissa and the Doredellas, that reportedly struck the pipeline. The secondary settlement is currently undergoing the notice process.
“Initially, we filed the class action lawsuit because we knew all the information surrounding what happened with Amplify and then not too much later we discovered there was this issue of the ships striking the pipeline some nine months before that we believe caused damage to the pipeline,” Aitken said.
Judge Carter approved 25% for the plaintiffs’ attorneys who worked on contingency.
“That’s what they call additional money paid because we advanced all the costs, we took all the risks, and the actual hours spent on the case equaled a substantial amount of that,” Aitken added. “Twenty-five percent has been the minimum the courts have approved, and we asked for the minimum.”
Juliette Fairley covers legal topics for various publications including the Southern California Record, the Epoch Times and Pacer Monitor-News. Prior to discovering she had an ease and facility for law, Juliette lived in Orange County and Los Angeles where she pursued acting in television and film.