Becnel on team handling $330 million Murphy Oil settlement

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 6, 2006



LAPLACE – Reserve attorney Daniel Becnel Jr. will be one of the five lead members of the lawsuit against Murphy Oil, who will help disburse $330 million which has been awarded as a settlement in that case.

Becnel was one of the five lawyers named to the liaison committee in the class action suit, which was recently settled with Murphy Oil.

A total of 21 lawyers are involved in the case, but Becnel said that in this case, the $330 million will go directly to those affected.

Murphy Oil was sued after an incident connected to Hurricane Katrina, where reportedly 1.1 million of gallons of oil spilled into St. Bernard Parish homes when an oil storage tank ruptured.

&#8220We’re very happy with this settlement,” Becnel said. &#8220There are a lot of people who lived there and may never be able to go back to their homes.”

Whereas lawyers usually get a percentage of a settlement total, Becnel said that in this case the $330 million is being awarded to the plaintiffs, and the lawyers will submit their own bills to be paid for legal costs.

The original lawsuit filed said that at least 1,800 homes had been affected, mainly of which also now have ground contamination, Becnel said. Since then, a total of 6,200 claims were made.

The case against Murphy oil said the company did not take adequate measures, either in the design and construction of its tanks or after the construction, to ensure such an accident would not happen.

The spill was made worse when Katrina flooded the entire area, thereby spreading the oil spill throughout the entire area.

&#8220Obviously, the community is eager to move forward, and so are we,” said Murphy spokeswoman Mindy West.

The proposed settlement includes $80 million paid so far to settle roughly 2,700 household and business claims, said Sidney Torres, the court-appointed liaison for the committee. The class consists of a total of about 6,200 claims, he said.

Another $160 million would go toward property buyouts and paying property owners in the area, while the remaining $90 million would be for cleanup, he said. The latter figure could rise, however, if more cleanup work is needed, Torres said.

Terms of the proposed agreement and benefits would be paid by Murphy and its insurers, according to a news release from the plaintiff attorneys. Torres said attorneys’ fees would be above and beyond the settlement amount, and set by the judge.

Torres said the judge urged all parties to work toward a resolution.

&#8220Everyone down here is struggling to recover, to return home, and this is a very positive step,” he said.