THE BAJA POST
SOURCE: PRN MEDIA
A proposed Settlement has been reached with shipping companies in a class action lawsuit involving the October 2021 oil spill off the coast of Orange County near Huntington Beach (the “Oil Spill”).
What is this about? Plaintiffs brought claims on behalf of commercial fishers and processors, coastal real property owners and lessees, and waterfront tourism businesses harmed by the Oil Spill (“Class Members”) alleging that certain “Shipping Defendants” that own or operate two container ships have responsibility for the Oil Spill because those ships dragged their anchors over the pipeline during a heavy storm event prior to the spill, damaging the pipeline and ultimately causing it to leak. The Shipping Defendants are Capetanissa Maritime Corporation, Costamare Shipping Co., S.A., V.Ships Greece Ltd., the M/V Beijing, Dordellas Finance Corp., MSC Mediterranean Shipping Co. SA, Mediterranean Shipping Co. S.r.l., MSC Shipmanagement Ltd., and the MSC Danit. The Shipping Defendants deny those allegations.
This Settlement was reached to resolve Class Members’ claims against the Shipping Defendants in the lawsuit titled Gutierrez, et al. v. Amplify Energy Corp., et al., Case No. SA 21-CV-1628-DOC-JDE (C.D. Cal.). This Settlement would also resolve claims by Class Members in the related lawsuits brought by some of the Shipping Defendants to limit their liability, titled In the Matter of the Complaint of Dordellas Finance Corp. Owner and MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company S.A., Owner pro hac vice, Nos. 2:22-cv-02153-DOC-JDE and 2:22-mc-00213-DOC (C.D. Cal.) (collectively “Limitation Action”).
Both actions are pending in the Central District of California before Judge David O. Carter. If the Court approves the Settlement, payments will be made to all Class Members automatically by mailed check. Class Members will not need to do anything to receive a payment. This Settlement does not address claims against the pipeline owners and operators Amplify Energy Corp., Beta Operating Company, LLC and San Pedro Bay Pipeline Company’s (collectively “Amplify”). Class Members reached a separate $50 million settlement with Amplify that is being finalized after being approved by the same Court.
A separate notice was issued regarding that settlement, and for those eligible for compensation under it, separate payments will be made. The capitalized word “Settlement” in this notice refers to the Settlement reached between Plaintiffs and the Shipping Defendants. Who is affected? You are a Fisher Class Member if you are (1) a person or business who owned or worked on a commercial fishing vessel docked in Newport Harbor or Dana Point Harbor as of October 2, 2021, and/or landed seafood within the California Department of Fish & Wildlife fishing blocks 718-720, 737-741, 756-761, 801-806, and 821-827 between October 2, 2016 and October 2, 2021, and were in operation as of October 2, 2021; or (2) a person or business who purchased and resold commercial seafood so landed, at the retail or wholesale level, that were in operation as of October 2, 2021.
You are a Property Class Member if you owned or leased, between October 2, 2021, and December 31, 2021, residential waterfront and/or waterfront properties or residential properties with a private easement to the coast located between the San Gabriel River and the San Juan Creek in Dana Point, California. You are a Waterfront Tourism Class Member if you are a person or entity in operation between October 2, 2021, and December 31, 2021, who: (a) owned or worked on a sea vessel engaged in the business of ocean water tourism (including sport fishing, sea life observation, and leisure cruising) and accessed the water between the San Gabriel River and San Juan Creek in Dana Point; or (b) owned businesses that offered surfing, paddle boarding, recreational fishing, and/or other beach or ocean equipment rentals and/or lessons or activities; sold food or beverages; sold fishing bait or equipment, swimwear or surfing apparel, and/or other retail goods; or provided visitor accommodations south of the San Gabriel River, north of the San Juan Creek, and west of: (1) Highway 1 in Seal Beach; (2) Orange Avenue and Pacific View Avenue in Huntington Beach; and (3) Highway 1 south of Huntington Beach.
If you believe you are in the Classes above but do not receive notice by mail, please email email@example.com or call 1-844-717-0591. What does the Settlement provide? Under the Settlement, the Shipping Defendants will pay $45 million to create settlement funds for different classes affected by the Oil Spill. If the Settlement is approved by the Court and becomes final, the funds will be used to pay eligible Class Members based on an allocation plan approved by the Court.
The funds will also be used to pay attorney fees and costs, notice and settlement administration costs, service awards to Class Representatives, and any other fees and costs approved by the Court. What are my options? Do nothing and receive a payment. Remain part of your respective Class and receive your payment.
Be bound by the Court’s decision, give up your right to sue the Shipping Defendants over the claims resolved by the Settlement, and release any claims you may have filed in the “Limitation Action,” the related lawsuits brought by some of the Shipping Defendants to limit their liability, titled In the Matter of the Complaint of Dordellas Finance Corp. Owner and MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company S.A., Owner pro hac vice, No. 2:22-cv-02153-DOC-JDE (C.D. Cal.) and 2:22-mc-00213-DOC. Exclude Yourself/Opt Out: If you exclude yourself from the Class (also known as opting out), you will not receive a payment.
You will keep any rights to sue the Shipping Defendants that you already have. You cannot object to the Settlement. Object. If you do not exclude yourself from the Settlement, you may object to it or tell the Court what you don’t like about the Settlement. You will still remain a Class Member, meaning you will still receive a payment, and you will still give up your right to sue the Shipping Defendants for the claims resolved by this Settlement, and release any claims you may have filed in the related Limitation Action.
Exclusions and objections must be postmarked/served/filed by August 21, 2023. For details about your rights and options and how to exclude yourself or object, go to http://www.OCOilSpillSettlement.com. What happens next? The Court will hold a Final Approval Hearing on September 14, 2023, at a time to be determined, to (a) determine whether to grant final approval of the Settlement; (b) consider any timely objections; (c) rule on any application for attorneys’ fees (up to 25% of the Funds, or up to $11.25 million) plus expenses; (d) rule on any application for service awards (up to $7,500 each to the 17 Class Representatives); and (e) determine whether or not to adopt the Plans of Distribution.
The Court appointed Lieff Cabraser Heimann Bernstein LLP, Aitken, Aitken, Cohn, and Larson, LLP to be the attorneys representing the Classes. If you want to be represented by your own lawyer, you may hire one at your own expense. How do I get more information? For more information and to view the full notice, go to http://www.OCOilSpillSettlement.com, or contact the Settlement Administrator by writing to OC Oil Spill Settlement, c/o JND Legal Administration, P.O. Box 91048, Seattle, WA 98111, emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or calling 1-844-717-0591.