The American Association for Justice’s April 2020 issue of Trial magazine “Finding Your Way” includes a new article featuring commentary from Lieff Cabraser founding partner Elizabeth Cabraser, wherein she discusses meaningful settlements she’s been involved in and gives advice to lawyers on negotiating terms in settlements that bring justice for both clients and society. The piece also includes material from David Sugerman and Paul Bland, other plaintiff’s attorneys who, like Cabraser, focus much of their efforts on protecting the rights of consumers.
When asked to describe a settlement with a broad positive impact, she spoke of her work as a member of the team of negotiators for the class action settlement negotiated in the aftermath of the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig and the ensuing massive oil spill.
Cabraser noted, “There were actually two class settlements-one for those who were exposed to contaminants as they were working on the beach cleanup efforts, and one for the residents and the businesses of the Gulf Coast states that were economically impacted by the spill. It was an unusual scenario, in that the same area had been devastated by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita only five years before. The area was struggling to come back from the economic effects of those natural disasters. And then it was hit by a preventable, man-made disaster that had a huge economic toll far beyond the area that was physically impacted by the spill.”
Cabraser said that while involved in the Deepwater case, she was reminded of her experience with the Exxon Valdez oil spill off the coast of Alaska, a similar incident from years before that took over 20 years to resolve.
She went on to point out that what struck her most at the initial hearing with Judge Carol Barbier, who was appointed to oversee the settlement, was that he was aware of what happened in Exxon Valdez and was determined that the courts would not take 20 years to resolve the claims this time.
“Based largely on Judge Barbier’s case management effort,” said Cabraser, “it took us less than two years from the date of the oil spill to presenting a classwide resolution of the claims to the court.”