New Orleans, La. — A U.S. federal judge Tuesday tossed a lawsuit filed by Yucatán state in answer to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
The lawsuit, initiated in 2013, claimed BP, Transocean and Halliburton had harmed its natural resources through its negligence.
The oil spill, also remembered as the BP oil disaster, is considered the largest marine oil spill in history. An explosion on an oil rig off the Louisiana coast killed 11 platform workers and released an estimated 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf.
Extensive damage to marine and wildlife habitats and fishing and tourism industries followed.
U.S. District Judge Carl J. Barbier ruled that the state’s claims under Florida’s Oil Pollution Act of 1990 were preempted by federal law.
Yucatan did not meet either of the two requirements necessary for a foreign state to bring claims since the requested recovery was not authorized by any bi-national treaty and the U.S. secretary of state did not certify that Mexico provided a comparable remedy for U.S. claimants. Barbier rejected Yucatán’s argument that its suit was legitimized by a Mexican law that provided U.S. claimants recovery.
“If Congress intended courts, as opposed to the secretary of state, to determine whether or not a foreign law is comparable to OPA, it could have omitted the certification language and simply required that foreign law provide a comparable remedy,” Judge Barbier said in his order. “However, because OPA plainly requires certification (and Yucatán does not argue that this requirement is absurd, nor does it appear to be), the court is not free to ignore it.”
Judge Barbier also found that Yucatán did not have the proprietary interest in the property allegedly damaged by the oil spill needed for it to bring negligence claims under general maritime law. Judge Barbier dismissed claims in September 2013 from three other Mexican states — Quintana Roo, Tamaulipas and Veracruz — for the same reason.
Yucatán was represented by a law firms in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; New Orleans, La.; and Austin, Texas.