Legal experts tell the Los Angeles Times at least 250 class-action lawsuits may eventually be filed against the British petroleum giant, Transocean, the firm that operated the Deepwater Horizon rig, Halliburton and others, and that litigation could last for decades.
Plaintiffs range from fishermen and seafood processors to restaurant and property owners, environmental groups, and the families of 11 workers killed in the April 20 explosion on the rig, which sank two days later causing the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history.
Tens of millions of barrels of crude oil gushed into the Gulf of Mexico in 86 days.
Legions of attorneys are expected at federal court in Boise, Idaho, Thursday as a seven-judge federal panel begins the process of selecting a judge or judges to oversee the cases and decide where they will be heard, the Times said.
Seafood and marine industry interests want their cases merged in New Orleans or Mobile, Ala., while BP reportedly would prefer litigation be assigned to Houston, corporate home of the oil industry.
Loyola Law School Professor Georgene Vario said the stakes are huge.
"For a single-event type of incident, this is the biggest we've ever seen, just in the range of claims, the government and private-party actions, the cost of claims, the insurance aspects," Vario said.