Judge Certifies Real Property Class in Refugio Oil Spill Lawsuit

Source: Cappello & Noël

A U.S. District Court judge certified a real property class in a case against Houston, Texas-based Plains All American Pipeline arising out of the May 2015 oil spill that discharged hundreds of thousands of gallons of crude oil into the ocean and onto beaches along the California coast. Class members are owners and lessees of residential beachfront properties and residential properties with private easements to beaches affected by the oil spill. (Keith Andrews et al. v. Plains All American Pipeline, L.P. et al., CV 15-4113 PSG, U.S. District Court, Central District of California, April 17, 2018.)

An estimated 5,000 properties are included in the class. They are located from Hollister Ranch in Santa Barbara County to Manhattan Beach in Los Angeles County—a stretch of over 130 miles.

Plaintiffs’ attorneys utilized the analysis prepared by expert witness Igor Mezić, co-founder and chief technology advisor of AIMdyn, Inc. and professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Mezić is an authority on fluid flow processes. He analyzed the spill flow, the geographic area it covered, where the oil became submerged, and where it washed ashore.

A second plaintiff expert witness, Randall Bell, Ph.D.. is a real estate economist and licensed appraiser who is the principal and CEO of Landmark Research Group, LLC, a consulting firm that specializes in real estate damages economics. After researching the effects of the spill on the affected properties, he concluded that the “oil spill resulted in an effective loss of the amenities for which residential property owners and lessees pay a premium to live on or near the ocean.”

The court concluded that both experts’ methodologies were admissible. “Each expert provided detailed analyses that went far beyond what is normally required of experts during this phase of the proceedings,” says Leila Noël, partner at Cappello & Noël LLP, one of the firms representing the class members. “We wanted there to be no doubt about the validity and strength of our claims.”

Class members will soon be notified of their eligibility. Advertising will also be appearing in local media.  

Cappello & Noël, Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP, Keller Rohrback LLP and Audet & Partners are representing class members. The firms also are representing two other certified subclasses against Plains involving the oil spill: fisheries and oil workers/oil industry service providers. 


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