Lieff Cabraser Civil Justice Blog

On Behalf of Class Counsel, Lieff Cabraser Announces that Commercial Fishers and Fish Sellers Affected by the 2015 Refugio State Beach Oil Spill in California Are Part of Class Action Lawsuit

Notice has been issued to Fishers and Fish processing businesses confirming that their claims are now part of a class action that has been certified by the United States District Court. Information has been mailed to each identified class member and additional information is available on-line, through various trade associations, and various publications.

Background on the May 2015 Refugio State Beach Spill

The Class Action arises from the May 15, 2015 rupture of a corroded underground pipeline owned by Texas-based Plains All American near Refugio Beach. As a result of the spill, the Department of Fish and Wildlife imposed a ban on fishing in a 138-square-mile zone from Gaviota State Beach to Isla Vista. Plains All American has acknowledged that it is the “Responsible Party” as required by federal law. The company and one of its employees also face criminal charges.

The civil litigation, Andrews et al. v. Plains All American Pipeline, L.P. et al., was originally filed shortly after the spill as a series of separate actions that have since been consolidated. The proceedings are pending in the United States District Court for the Central District of California, before Judge Philip S. Gutierrez.

Fisher and Fish Industry Subclass is Certified

On February 28, 2017, Judge Gutierrez issued an Order certifying the Fisheries and Fish Industry Subclass in the litigation, which allows those claims to proceed collectively. This Subclass contains “fishers and those that purchased fish from the commercial fisherman who worked in designated areas of the Santa Barbara coastline” affected by the closure of fishing areas in the Pacific Ocean and attendant damage to those fisheries. The Court also appointed four law firms as Lead Counsel for the Fisher Subclass. Lead Counsel recently submitted a Plan of Notice, to provide information about the litigation to all known members of the certified class.

Those who wish to participate in the class action do not need to do anything more at this time. The Notice provides additional information, including instructions for those who do not want to participate, and explains how the class action litigation coordinates with claims made directly to Plains under the federal Oil Pollution Act.

Additional Subclasses are Pending

Class Counsel seeks to certify two additional subclasses on behalf of oil spill victims: an Oil Industry Subclass for workers and businesses who were employed or contracted to work on the offshore drilling platforms or on-shore processing facilities shut down as a result of the oil spill; and a Real Property Subclass that includes beachfront properties, properties with a private easement to the beach, and properties within one-half mile of beach affected by the oil spill.

Notice Mailed to Fishers and Fish Industry

Written notice has been mailed to each identified class member, and should arrive within seven days. The mailed notice will be followed by printed advertisements and postings in four languages. Information is also available online in English, Spanish, Chinese, and Vietnamese.

For additional information, class members are encouraged to visit the class action website, or call the toll-free number 1-888-684-6801.

Statement from Class Counsel

“The purpose of this lawsuit is to compensate local fisherman, businesses, and other victims, and to hold Plains accountable for all the harm it has wrought on the Santa Barbara community,” said Robert Nelson, a partner in Lieff Cabraser’s San Francisco office and one of four Lead Counsel appointed by Judge Gutierrez. “Plaintiffs are pleased with the Court’s certification of the Fisher and Fish Industry Subclass, and look forward to expanding the class to include other victims of the spill. We are eager to prove their claims in court.”

About Class Counsel

Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP is a seventy-plus attorney law firm with offices in San Francisco, New York, and Nashville. It is among the largest law firms in the United States that only represent plaintiffs. Since its founding in 1972, Lieff Cabraser has litigated and resolved hundreds of class action lawsuits and thousands of individual cases. Lieff Cabraser successfully prosecuted cases against many of the world’s most powerful corporations, obtaining compensation for families, businesses, and property owners harmed by toxic environmental exposures.

Keller Rohrback L.L.P. is a national law firm headquartered in Seattle, with offices in Santa Barbara, Phoenix, New York and Missoula/Ronan. The firm’s Complex Litigation Group has obtained judgments and settlements, on behalf of clients and class members, in excess of 18 billion dollars, including fishermen and other victims of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill. Members of the firm currently hold key leadership roles in the landmark Volkswagen “Clean Diesel” Litigation, and Wells Fargo unauthorized bank account litigation, among others.

Cappello & Noël LLP is a nationally-recognized trial firm based in Santa Barbara, California, with an emphasis on lender liability and class actions. As the City Attorney of Santa Barbara, A. Barry Cappello obtained a pioneering settlement against offshore oil companies following the 1969 Santa Barbara Channel Oil Spill. Since its founding in 1977, the firm has obtained jury trial verdicts and settlements in excess of $1 billion for individuals and small businesses against corporations, banks and insurance companies. The firm has successfully litigated and tried class actions challenging discriminatory business practices, environmental contamination, and price-fixing.

Audet & Partners, LLP, is a nationally recognized firm based in San Francisco specializing in complex litigation and class actions. The attorneys at Audet & Partners, LLP, represents individuals, small businesses and institutional shareholders in antitrust, product liability, negligence, consumer, construction defect, securities, environmental, whistle blower, and employment cases. In recognition of their commitment to the legal profession and outstanding abilities to get results for their clients, the firm and its members have served as Court-appointed Plaintiffs’ Counsel in dozens of federal and state cases throughout the United States.


Robert J. Nelson
Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein LLP
415 956-1000

Juli E. Farris
Keller Rohrback L.L.P.
(206) 623-1900

A. Barry Cappello
Cappello and Noël LLP
(805) 564-2444

William Audet
Audet and Partners LLP
(415) 568-2555