Hundreds hear plan to settle lawsuit

Published 5:00 am Tuesday, October 8, 2002

Hundreds of plaintiffs and their attorneys met Monday toconsider whether to accept a $5.5 million settlement in a lawsuitover alleged oil field contamination by Chevron.

“What we’re here to do is to talk about the settlement so theycan make a decision,” said Jeff Thompson prior to the meeting atthe Lincoln County Multi-Use Facility.

Monday’s meeting was not open to the public as it involvedattorney-client discussions, Thompson said. He expected the meetingto last several hours as he fielded questions about the settlementand reasons for accepting it.

Plaintiffs attorneys and attorneys for Chevron agreed torecommend the settlement prior to an August trial involving 10 ofthe approximately 1,000 clients’ cases. Results of that trial wouldhave been used to resolve similar claims related to Chevron’sBrookhaven Oil Field exploration and drilling activities.

The agreement requires that 80 percent of clients and 85 percentof property owners sign off on the settlement. Plaintiffs attorneyshave until Oct. 28 to collect the required signatures.

Thompson said a lot of clients had already agreed to thesettlement, although he did not have an exact total. Others signedoff on the agreement prior to Monday’s question and answer sessionwith attorneys.

“I hope when we’re done, we’ll have enough participation,”Thompson said. “It’s really up to the clients.”

Thompson did not give a dollar amount as to how much individualplaintiffs could expect. He said it would be determined by aformula involving property ownership and personal injury aspects ofindividual cases.

“The settlement does require that Chevron follow through withclean up of the field and with a testing program on the water,”Thompson said.

The lawsuit had been on-going for about six years prior to thesettlement recommendation. Thompson was hopeful there would beenough clients willing to accept the settlement.

“If it’s not, we’re off to the races,” Thompson said.