On September 20, 2022, U.S. District Judge Philip S. Gutierrez of the Central District of California granted final approval to a $230 million settlement of the long-running Plains Oil Spill lawsuit filed by Lieff Cabraser and co-counsel arising from an oil spill off Refugio State Beach in Santa Barbara County in May 2015. The spill occurred when a 10-mile-long, 24-inch-wide Plains oil pipeline ruptured and discharged over 100,000 gallons of crude oil onto land and beaches along the Santa Barbara coastline, destroying properties owned by local residents, businesses and fishers in the community.

During Tuesday’s hearing, Judge Gutierrez also approved the plans of allocation of the settlement fund to the fishers and property owners, with $46 million going to the class of property owners, and $184 million going to the class of the fishers.

“This is an outstanding result for our class and for the environment,” noted Lieff Cabraser partner Robert J. Nelson, who represented the plaintiffs in the case. Nelson added that the outcome was especially rewarding because there were no objections to the settlement in which more than 10,000 claimants were individually notified.

“I’ve been doing this for 30 years, and that’s the holy grail of class actions,” Nelson said.

Judge Gutierrez praised the attorneys during the hearing: “The arguments were always presented well and the briefs were always terrific. The lawyers disagreed but always gave the court what was necessary to make a decision.”

The LCHB Plains Oil team was led by Robert J. Nelson and included Nimish Desai, Wilson Dunlavey, Amelia Haselkorn, and Jacob Polin. We are delighted to have achieved such a strong result for our clients after seven years of extremely hard-fought litigation.

Learn more about the Santa Barbara/Plains Oil Spill litigation.

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