Florida Keys News
Wednesday, May 29, 2013
Dozens of Keys firms join BP lawsuit

At least two dozen Florida Keys businesses have joined a massive federal lawsuit against BP and Transocean for their roles in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

The roughly 100 plaintiffs from across the state listed in the 105-page lawsuit include a who's who of Keys businesses, including the Mel Fisher Maritime Heritage Society, real estate agents Curtis Skomp and Terri Spottswood, Key West Seaplane Adventures, the Rusty Anchor and B.O.'s Fish Wagon, according to court documents filed late last month. Plaintiffs also include the Marathon Veterinary Hospital.

"While we may not be directly supported by the ocean and tourism, many of our clients are," said veterinarian Doug Mader. "We took a huge hit. In the months following the spill, we were down tens of thousands of dollars a month. ... We were down 30 to 40 percent."

The lawsuit is a not a class-action suit, as each of the plaintiffs has an individual case, said a representative of Fort Lauderdale attorney Robert McKee.

BP and Transocean have been cited for negligence in the use and construction of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, resulting in one of the biggest environmental catastrophes in history. That negligence created economic hardships on the businesses named in the lawsuit, the lawsuit states.

"Defendant, BP, recklessly, willfully and/or wantonly failed to ensure that oil would be quickly and fully contained within the immediate vicinity of the Macondo well in the event of a blowout," the lawsuit states. "(The spill) will likely have long-term impacts on the commercial and recreational fishing industries. The full extent of these impacts has not yet been determined and may take years to assess, but preliminary evaluation suggests they will be severe."

But proving economic loss in the Florida Keys could be difficult, as there were no reports of oil making it to land and the Keys had a banner tourism season in 2010.

Lodging occupancy rates throughout the Keys after the spill were higher in every month -- except for August and December -- when compared with the year prior, according to the Monroe County Tourist Development Council's lodging statistics. The average cost of a hotel room also was higher in every month of 2010 than it was for the same month in 2009. Key West International Airport saw more people arriving in May, June, July and August 2010 -- during the height of the spill disaster -- than during those months in 2009, records show. Tourists spent about as much money after the spill as before, if not more, according to sales tax revenues.

tohara@keysnews.com

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