Tesoro Refining Wins 2011 Long Beach Oil Spill Case

By George Backwell
Thursday, July 10, 2014
Robert S. Crowder: Photo FF&S

Freeman Freeman & Smiley say that its lead trial attorney  Robert S. Crowder (assisted by attorneys Russell R. Fisk and John D. Van Ackeren) have celebrated a win with their client, Tesoro Refining & Marketing Company LLC in a lawsuit filed by Plaintiffs North of England Protecting & Indemnity Association Limited, United Africa Petroleum Limited and General National Maritime Transport Company.

Plaintiffs brought claims as insurer, owner and operator of the Libyan Motor Tanker Aljalaa for cleanup costs associated with an oil spill which occurred at Tesoro’s Long Beach, California, terminal on February 21, 2011.

Although the M/T Aljalaa was admittedly responsible for the spill of its own fuel oil, Plaintiffs claimed that Tesoro was negligent in both responding to the spill and placing a pre-transfer oil spill containment boom from which some of the spilled fuel oil escaped.

At trial, North of England listed $2.74 million in itemized damages and also sought to recover attorney’s fees.

The defense team’s strategy was to defend Plaintiff’s allegations while providing the Court with a readily-understandable explanation of the technical issues in the case.

Honorable Alex Kozinski, Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, presided over the trial in Pasadena. At the close of Plaintiff’s case, Tesoro moved for judgment on partial findings on the ground that Plaintiff had failed to carry its burden of proof on both of the general negligence claims. The motion was briefed, argued, and granted by the Court, resulting in a complete defense and obviating any need for Tesoro to present any evidence or witnesses of its own.

“It is highly satisfying to have demonstrated here that Plaintiff’s contentions were unfounded,” says Robert S. Crowder. “We hope that this result in a case involving stakeholders on four continents that was delivered in a courtroom packed with regulatory and industry observers will dissuade others from seeking to pursue unwarranted claims against those whom they perceive as having deep pockets.”
 

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