Georgians file class-action suit against BP

Two Atlanta law firms representing Georgians who have property on the Gulf Coast are suing BP for damages as a result of the oil spill.

The class-action lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court of Northern Georgia, asks for compensation based for loss of income, property value and enjoyment by Georgians who own land or homes in Florida, Alabama and other states whose coastlines have been directly impacted by the oil spill.

It is the first lawsuit filed against BP that limits the class-action group to Georgians who own property in Florida. BP faces more than 250 lawsuits from businesses, investors and individuals. The oil company has set up a $20 billion trust fund to pay claims to people who have been directly impacted by the spill.

The 37-page complaint, filed Wednesday, also names Transocean Offshore Deepwater Drilling; Halliburton Energy Services; and Cameron International Corp. as defendants.

The Deepwater Horizon rig leased by BP exploded April 20, killing 11 workers and causing millions of gallons of oil to spill into the Gulf. BP is testing a new oil cap that could temporarily halt the flow of the oil.

As of Tuesday, the 84th day of the disaster, between 90.4 and 178.6 million gallons of oil have spewed into the Gulf of Mexico.

Chris Schorr and Kimberly Schorr of Atlanta, and Roy Moscattini and Lori Moscattini of Duluth are the named plaintiffs so far.

The Schorrs own about 1/3 of an acre in Cape San Blas, in Gulf County, Fla. The Moscattinis own property in Miramar Beach, in Walton County, Fla. The couple has lost $10,000 in rental income, according to the lawsuit.

“I feel over time that the whole area from Louisiana to the Gulf Coast of Florida is going to be affected from a property-values standpoint,” Chris Schorr told the AJC.

Real estate and tourism Web sites state that the oil currently has not reached Cape San Blas. The area is included in the part of the federal waters that have been closed off to recreational and commercial fishing since last week.

Schorr bought land in a subdivision about six years ago in hopes that an investor would take interest and buy the property from him a year later.

As the economy began to falter, Schorr said his plans changed to building a house on the land as a way to entice investors.

Then the market completely crumbled.

In Schorr’s eyes, thanks to the combination of the bad economy, back-to-back hurricanes and the oil spill, his land “has been reduced to a worthless piece of property.”

“It’s going to be devastating,” Schorr said. “At some point, BP is going to have to address that.”

Atlanta law firms Taylor English and Pope, McGlamry, Kilpatrick, Morrison & Norwood are representing the plaintiffs.

Schorr said he initiated the lawsuit with Taylor English after asking the firm whether anyone had filed a class-action suit in Georgia against BP. Given the number of Georgians who have property in the Gulf Coast, Schorr said he was shocked to find that no one had taken legal action.

“I do know it’s going to be a lengthy process,” Schorr told the AJC.

BP has a bigger job to do first, he said.

“The far-reaching impact of this is to the fishermen and the people who live there," he said. "It affects so much trade and industry. Please, let’s take care of that first."

Taylor English lawyer Foy Devine said in this case, BP's payment should come from somewhere other than the $20 billion trust fund set up to pay claims of people directly and immediately impacted by the oil spill.

Kenneth Feinberg, who ran the compensation fund for the families of Sept. 11 victims, is overseeing BP's trust fund.

"Our class action is not seeking relief under the rules and regulations or operations under that fund," Devine told the AJC.