A preliminary settlement agreement in the OC oil spill class action litigation was filed late last night. The proposed settlement is subject to Court Approval, and a hearing on a motion for preliminary approval is set for November 16, 2022, in Judge David O. Carter’s courtroom.
The pipeline, which is used to carry crude oil from several offshore drilling platforms to a processing plant in Long Beach, began leaking the afternoon of Oct. 1, 2021, but the companies who own it, including Amplify, continued pumping oil through the line until the following morning eventually spilling 25,000 gallons into the Pacific Ocean, fouling the beaches in Orange County.
The class settlement amount is $50 million divided among three classes of plaintiffs: A Fisher Class Fund of $34M, a Property Class Fund of $9M, and a Waterfront Tourism Class of $7M.
The plaintiffs’ team believes it is an excellent settlement that awards substantial damages relative to the expert’s damages analysis.
The other essential part of the agreement includes various injunctive relief measures Amplify Energy Corp. must implement, such as:
- The company must increase staffing and ensure all its operational employees and management personnel are appropriately trained and instructed in compliance with the California state code to notify and update all appropriate agencies of any release or threatened release of hazardous materials.
- Amplify must ensure it uses a leak detection system on the pipeline that provides the best available protection before being authorized to restart production. And it must notify the Cal-OES State Warning Center of each leak detection alarm.
- Amplify must modify its existing pipeline-related procedures, which will require a financial investment of at least $250,000.
- Amplify must establish and maintain a contract with an oil spill response organization, vessel service company, or another entity that will promptly deploy upon request and can detect oil on the surface of the water at night or in low-light conditions.
The litigation doesn’t end here. The plaintiffs continue to pursue litigation against the shipping defendants involved in the January 2021 weather incident that caused anchors to strike the pipeline. This settlement doesn’t impact that case.
Amplify previously agreed to pay nearly $13 million to resolve a federal criminal indictment over the spill and an additional $1 million to Orange County to cover expenses incurred responding to the oil spill.
The co-lead counsel on this case was Wylie Aitken. Aitken is a nationally recognized trial lawyer and founding partner of AitkenAitkenCohn, in Santa Ana, California. He was the youngest president in the history of the State Trial Bar and is continually recognized by publications such as the Los Angeles Daily Journal and the Orange County Business Journal as one of the top lawyers of California. Aitken’s daughter Ashleigh Aitken is running for Mayor in Anaheim in the upcoming November election. She also works for Wylie’s law firm.
Amplify Energy Corp. is an independent oil and natural gas company engaged in the acquisition, development, exploitation and production of oil and natural gas properties. Amplify’s operations are focused in Oklahoma, the Rockies, federal waters offshore Southern California, East Texas / North Louisiana, and the Eagle Ford.