The innocent victims of an Oct. 2021 oil spill will be compensated an additional $45 million for the trouble of having 25,000 gallons of oil leaked onto the Huntington Beach Ocean and shoreline.
“Homeowners up and down the coast lost the enjoyment of their homes so it’s the loss of quality and use of their property,” said Wylie Aitken of Aitken Aitken Cohn, who is co-lead counsel for the plaintiffs.
The M/V Beijing ship, known as Capetanissa, and the MSC Danit ship, known as Doredellas, and multiple shipping companies agreed to the settlement after just 16 months of litigation.
“We would’ve been happy to resolve this within 24 hours of filing but nonetheless, we obviously had to go through a great deal of work to protect the consumers and the citizens here in Orange County and the coastal community so we’re happy to get it resolved,” Aitken said in an interview. “It’s somewhat of a positive out of an unfortunately preventable natural disaster.”
Amplify Energy owned the oil rig from which the spill occurred however it is alleged that the actions of two ships, Capetanissa and Doredellas, resulted in a cut in the 17.7-mile pipeline.
“It’s a good precedent,” Aitken told OrangeCountyLawyers.com. “The original focus was on Amplify, but we also found out there were other actors involved.”
The payout releases the ships and the shipping companies from a class action lawsuit filed by Aitken and other plaintiff attorneys for the innocent victims in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
“There is still litigation that will go on between Amplify and the ships as to just who was accountable, and what percentage and responsibility,” he said. Currently, there are 10,000 class members but more are expected to file claims.
“We are advertising and giving notice of this settlement in every way we can so that people who have suffered a loss can come forward and file the claim against these funds that we’ve accumulated,” Aitken said.
Amplify Energy previously settled with the innocent victim class members in October 2022 for $50 million but the arrangement has yet to be approved by U.S. District Judge David O. Carter.
Innocent victims who can expect a check include beachfront property homeowners, Orange County coastal fisherman in and around Dana Point and the Newport Beach Harbor as well as the tourism industry.
“The fishing industry took a significant loss,” Aitken said. “That includes the boats themselves, the people on the boats who make their livelihood fishing. It means the people who process fish who would then sell it to the consumers.”
It was widely reported that the cut in the pipeline was allegedly created due to an anchor hitting the pipeline and an oil spigot improperly shutting off.
“They would argue that since Amplify got warning of it and ignored the warnings, that they could have prevented the whole thing from happening if they had just done what they could or should have done,” Aitken said. “That’s each of their respective contentions.”
Before settling, the shipping companies further argued that the leak wasn’t their responsibility because they hit the pipeline on Jan. 25, 2021, but it didn’t fail until Oct. 1, 2021.
“One the ships hit the pipeline somewhat close to where it broke then the other ship moved the pipeline a hundred feet on the ocean floor, changing its configuration so the argument was that both of those things would’ve contributed to the ultimate failure even though it happened nine months later,” Aitken added.
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.