TALLAHASSEE, Fla., May 7 /PRNewswire/ -- As the devastating BP oil spill increasingly threatens Florida's fishing, maritime and tourism industries, a team of nationally known attorneys led by Tallahassee lawyer and Northeastern University Professor P. Tim Howard last night filed an amended complaint in one of the first Florida class action lawsuits over the sinking of the oil rig Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico.
First filed last Friday in the U.S. District Court in Tallahassee on April 30, the amended complaint in Ward, et. al. v. BP, et.al. (N.D. Fla., Case No. 4:10-cv-00157-SPM-WCS), alleges gross negligence, willful misconduct and other claims in the design, construction and operation of the rig, as well as in the response to the disaster. The case has been assigned to Chief Judge Stephan P. Mickle.
Among the plaintiffs are George Weems Ward, who lives in East Point, Florida, on Apalachicola Bay near Panama City. Mr. Ward earns his living as a guide fisherman, shrimper, and oysterman. He is joined by plaintiff Jeff Galloway, who lives on nearby St. George Island, where he works as a real estate broker. A third lead plaintiff in the class action is Constance Ward (no relation to Mr. Ward), who owns property in Cape San Blas, Florida, also just south of Panama City.
Panama City and its beaches are among those expected to be directly impacted by the oil slick as it moves onshore. Panama City Beach is routinely named one of the world's most beautiful beaches by sources such as CNN, Money Magazine and Conde Nast Traveler.
The defendants include various divisions of oil giant BP (formerly British Petroleum), Transocean, Ltd. (the owners/operators of the Deepwater Horizon), Halliburton Energy (which was involved in "cementing" operations to cap the oil rig when the explosion occurred) and Cameron International Corporation (manufacturers of the rig's blow-out-preventers, which failed to operate properly and prevent the oil spill).
Similar lawsuits are planned for Texas, Alabama and Mississippi, as the devastation from the oil rig disaster continues to grow.
"Oil continues to flow into the gulf, and with it an environmental nightmare," said Dr. Howard, who most recently played a leading role in coordinating a national team of more than 40 law firms in the Toyota sudden acceleration lawsuits. "This unmitigated horror threatens to destroy one of the most beautiful marine, coastal and estuarine environments in the world."
In addition to their work in the Toyota litigation, Dr. Howard and his team are known for expertise in a variety of consumer law and product liability cases. Howard coordinated the legal team in the Florida tobacco lawsuit in the 1990s that led to a $20 billion settlement with the State of Florida and a national settlement of $250 billion, and is currently co-counsel representing 3,600 victims of cigarette-related diseases in Florida. Among the attorneys joining Dr. Howard on the lawsuit are:
Douglas Lyons of Lyons & Farrar of Tallahassee, Florida. Mr. Lyons has been lead counsel in over 20 certified class actions, successfully representing hundreds of thousands of class members across the country.
Stephen A. Sheller of Sheller, P.C. in Philadelphia, who has worked closely with Dr. Howard on tobacco litigation and Toyota sudden acceleration lawsuits. Sheller, P.C. is also among the best-known attorneys in the nation in the area of corporate fraud and whistleblower cases. In 2009 alone, his firm represented plaintiffs in separate settlements of $1.4 billion against Eli Lilly and $2.3 billion against Pfizer, and just last month, Sheller, P.C. was lead counsel in a $520 million qui tam action against AstraZeneca. Sheller, P.C., attorney Kenneth W. Smith is licensed in Florida and Mississippi.
James F. Haggerty of The Law Offices of James F. Haggerty, an attorney internationally known for his work with public communications, regulatory and legislative issues during litigation. Based In New York, Haggerty is also licensed to practice in Florida and has a background in environmental and energy issues.
Robert Hilliard of Hilliard, Munoz, Guerra, L.L.P., in Corpus Christi, Texas, a firm with a national reputation for taking on some of the largest and wealthiest companies in product liability and injury cases.
Fletch Trammell of Bailey Perrin Bailey in Houston, Texas, which represents thousands of clients in various mass torts in virtually every state against some of the largest corporate defendants in the world.
Don Barrett of The Barrett Law Office in Lexington, Mississippi.
Joe R. Whatley, Jr., of Whatley Drake & Kallas in Birmingham, Alabama, one of the largest plaintiffs law firms in the country. Whatley Drake & Kallas has been recognized for its work by the National Law Journal's "Plaintiffs' Hot List."
Dr. Richard Daynard, law professor at Northeastern University and a well-known consumer law specialist. Daynard is the Chair of the Tobacco Products Liability Project and President of the Public Health Advocacy Institute at Northeastern.
Katie Griffin, a Texas attorney with the Oklahoma City-based catastrophic injury, class action, and mass tort firm Sill & Medley.
John B. White Jr., of Harrison, White, Smith & Coggins of Spartanburg, South Carolina, which handles complex personal injury and wrongful death litigation, criminal defense and other complex litigation.
J. Mark Moss, of Spiro Moss in Los Angeles, California, a firm with a national practice in mass tort, personal injury and wrongful death cases.
THE PR CONSULTING GROUP
Joshua Plant, ext. 200, email@example.com
Sean Hughes, ext. 239, firstname.lastname@example.org
SOURCE Howard & Associates, P.A.