Santa Barbara Oil Spill
Andrews, et al. v. Plains All American Pipeline, L.P.
United States District Court, Central District of California
Case No. 2:15-cv-04113
On June 1, 2015, Keller Rohrback L.L.P. and Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP, which represented those affected by the Exxon Valdez oil spill, filed a class action lawsuit against Plains All American Pipeline stemming from the Refugio State Beach oil spill in Santa Barbara. On September 15, 2015, Judge Philip S. Gutierrez consolidated the case along with five other class actions that had been filed relating to the oil spill, and on December 15, 2015 the firms together filed a Consolidated Amended Complaint, followed by a Consolidated Second Amended Complaint, filed on April 6, 2016.
The class action complaint alleges the Texas-based company negligently operated the pipeline, Line 901, causing a rupture that discharged over 140,000 gallons of crude oil onto beaches and into the Pacific Ocean, damaging ecologically and economically significant natural resources.
“In Santa Barbara, these environmental impacts translate to profound economic impacts. In the short term, the oil from [Plains All American’s] ruptured pipeline closed fishing grounds and shellfish areas, and caused many canceled reservations from tourists who otherwise would be spending their money on hotels, restaurants, kayaking or surf trips, fishing charters, and retail shopping” the complaint says.
On February 28, 2017, Judge Gutierrez ruled that fishing businesses affected by the oil spill could move forward with their class action lawsuit against the oil company as a certified class. This includes fishers and both wholesale and retail businesses that purchased and re-sold the commercial seafood. The judge denied plaintiffs’ request for class certification of three other classes (oil workers, tourism, and property owners), but indicated that he would consider certification of a narrower group of classes.
In that same order, the Court appointed Keller Rohrback L.L.P., along with Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP, Cappello & Noel LLP, and Audet & Partners, LLP as Lead Counsel for the class action.
The Fishing Class has been defined as:
Persons or entities who owned or worked on a vessel that landed seafood within the California Department of Fish & Wildlife fishing blocks 651 to 657, 664 to 671, 681 to 683, as well as persons or entities who owned or worked on a vessel that landed groundfish, including but not limited to sablefish, halibut and rockfish, in fishing blocks 631 to 633, 637 to 639, 643 to 645, 658 to 659, and 684 to 690, between May 19, 2010 and May 19, 2015 and were in operation as of May 19, 2015, as well as those persons and businesses who purchased and re-sold commercial seafood so landed, at the retail or wholesale level, that were in operation as of May 19, 2015.
On July 12, 2017, plaintiffs renewed their request for the court to certify oil industry and property owner classes. On February 9, 2018, Judge Gutierrez issued an Order Granting in Part and Denying in Part Plaintiffs’ Renewed Motion for Class Certification and Denying Part and Finding Rendered Moot in Part Defendants’ Motion to Strike.
In its order the Court certified an Oil Industry Class. This class is defined as:
Individuals and entities who were employed, or contracted, to work on or to provide supplies, personnel, or services for the operations of the off-shore oil drilling platforms, Hidalgo, Harvest, Hermosa, Heritage, Harmony, Hondo, and/or Holly, off the Santa Barbara County coast, or the on-shore processing facilities at Las Flores/POPCO, Gaviota, and/or Venoco/Ellwood, as of May 19, 2015.
On March 5, 2018, plaintiffs filed a Renewed Motion for Class Certification of Property Owners defined based on guidance from the Court’s prior class certification orders. On April 17, 2018, Judge Gutierrez issued an Order Granting Plaintiffs’ Renewed Motion for Class Certification and Denying Defendants’ Motion to Strike.
In its order the Court certified a Real Property Class. This class is defined as:
Residential beachfront properties on a beach and residential properties with a private easement to a beach (collectively “Included Properties”) where oil from the 2015 Santa Barbara oil spill washed up, and where the oiling was categorized as Heavy, Moderate or Light, as identified in Exhibit A to Plaintiffs’ renewed motion.
Excluded from the proposed class are: (1) Defendants, any entity or division in which Defendants have a controlling interest, and their legal representatives, officers, directors, employees, assigns and successors; and (2) the judge to whom this case is assigned, the judge’s staff, and any member of the judge’s immediate family.
There are now three certified classes in this action, the fishing class and oil industry class (both defined further above) and this newly-certified real property class.
Options for Non-Class Members
If you are not a member of one of the certified classes but believe you were affected by the Plains oil spill, you may wish to consult an attorney, to consider filing a claim or lawsuit against Plains under state law, or to consider filing a claim directly with Plains, under the federal Oil Pollution Act (“OPA”). For more information about OPA, please refer to the U.S. Coast Guard’s OPA claim website: https://www.uscg.mil/Mariners/National-Pollution-Funds-Center/Claims. Be aware that important deadlines are approaching that may affect your rights.
If you make a claim for losses directly to Plains or Plains’ claims administrator, you may be asked to a sign a release in exchange for payment. If you have questions about how that release may affect your legal rights, contact the attorneys below for a consultation.
On May 19, an underground pipeline ruptured and released up to 140,000 gallons of crude oil at Refugio State Beach, blanketing Santa Barbara County beaches with black crude.
Plains All American Pipeline, a large Texas-based company responsible for the ruptured pipe, has accumulated 175 safety and maintenance infractions since 2006. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration shows Plains’ rate of incidents per mile of pipe is more than three times the national average.
The spill, which triggered California Governor Jerry Brown to declare a state of emergency, had extreme effects on both the environment and economy. Two beaches were closed and nearby hotels fielded calls from concerned visitors who planned on visiting Santa Barbara, one of Southern California’s top tourist destinations, over Memorial Day weekend.
Keller Rohrback represented fishermen, landowners, and businesses located in Prince William Sound in their action against Exxon to recover damages caused by the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill. A federal jury awarded a $5 billion judgment in favor of Keller Rohrback clients. Additional claims against the pipeline owner were settled for $98 million.
Renewed Motion for Class Certification – 07/12/2017
Second Amended Complaint – 04/06/2016
Order Denying Defendants’ Motion to Stay – 02/25/2016
Complaint – 07/01/2015