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In re Deepwater Horizon

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

October 18, 2018

In re: Deepwater Horizon
v.
BP, P.L.C.; BP AMERICA, INCORPORATED; BP PRODUCTS NORTH AMERICA, INCORPORATED; BP AMERICA PRODUCTION COMPANY; BP EXPLORATION & PRODUCTION, INCORPORATED, Defendants - Appellees JOAQUIN BARRERA, doing business as Restaurant Familiar Ah Caray, Plaintiff - Appellant S.C.P.P. UNIDOS DE MATAMOROS, SC DE R.L., Plaintiff - Appellant
v.
BP, P.L.C.; BP AMERICA, INCORPORATED; BP PRODUCTS NORTH AMERICA, INCORPORATED; BP AMERICA PRODUCTION COMPANY; BP EXPLORATION & PRODUCTION, INCORPORATED, Defendants - Appellees S.C.P.P. 20 DE APRIL DEL POBLADO IGNACIO ZARAGOZA, SC DE R.L. DE C.V., Plaintiff - Appellant
v.
BP, P.L.C.; BP AMERICA, INCORPORATED; BP PRODUCTS NORTH AMERICA, INCORPORATED; BP AMERICA PRODUCTION COMPANY; BP EXPLORATION & PRODUCTION, INCORPORATED, Defendants - Appellees

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana

          Before KING, ELROD, and HAYNES, Circuit Judges.

          PER CURIAM

         This case presents another in the line of cases related to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The 104 appellants here (collectively referred to as "Plaintiffs") appeal the district court's order dismissing their claims with prejudice. We AFFIRM.

         I. Background

         Plaintiffs are individuals and associations located in Mexico that rely on the fishing industry as a primary source of income. They are a part of the remaining group of plaintiffs from multidistrict litigation ("MDL") 2179, which was created following the Deepwater Horizon accident in 2010 to ensure that the people and entities affected by the accident with legitimate claims could recover from appellees, various corporate entities of British Petroleum, collectively referred to as "BP."

         Following settlements of certain claims in the MDL, the district court issued pretrial order 60 ("PTO 60"), which required that all remaining individuals or entities whose claims had not been settled file individual lawsuits with the district court. Plaintiffs, along with other foreign plaintiffs, filed a complaint which was transferred to the MDL court in May 2013. Significantly, PTO 60 required individual lawsuits to have a wet-ink signature from each plaintiff, to be received by the court by May 2, 2016. PTO 60 warned that non-compliance would result in "dismissal of their claims with prejudice without further notice."

         Plaintiffs' attorneys filed a motion for extension of time and requested an additional ninety days to comply with PTO 60. They stated that they needed the additional time because they represented 1510 plaintiffs and it would be logistically difficult to comply. The district court granted a fourteen-day extension, but emphasized that "[n]o further extensions of time will be granted."

         Plaintiffs' attorneys then filed a second motion for extension of time and explained that they were having technical filing issues, and that they had "clients that [were] out of town, out of the country, or working offshore and unable to respond to counsel in the 48-day window and [could] not provide the sworn declaration." The district court did not rule on the motion, and Plaintiffs did not properly file their declarations by the deadline. The district court then issued a show cause order, mandating that plaintiffs that failed to comply with PTO 60 "show cause in writing on or before June 28, 2016, why this Court should not dismiss their B1 claim(s) with prejudice for failing to comply with the requirements of PTO 60."

         Plaintiffs' attorneys argued that: (1) certain plaintiffs should be granted additional time to submit the signed declaration, (2) other plaintiffs had, since the deadline, filed an individual declaration and had an individual lawsuit filed, and (3) the plaintiffs in the mass joinder complaint needed additional time to comply because of a "lack of electronic means, working offshore, inaccessibility, and change of contact information." BP countered that any plaintiffs that had not complied with PTO 60 by that time should be dismissed.

         On December 16, 2016, the district court dismissed Plaintiffs' claims with prejudice. Plaintiffs filed a motion for reconsideration on January 13, 2017, and the district court denied that motion. Plaintiffs appeal the dismissal of their claims with prejudice and the denial of their Rule 59(e) and 60(b) motions.

         II. Standard of Review

         We review matters concerning docket management for an abuse of discretion. See Garcia v. Woman's Hosp. of Tex., 143 F.3d 227, 229 (5th Cir. 1998) (per curiam). "A trial court abuses its discretion when its ruling is based on an erroneous view of the law or a clearly erroneous assessment of the evidence." Elementis Chromium v. Coastal States Petroleum, 450 F.3d 607, 610 (5th Cir. 2006) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Bocanegra v. Vicmar Servs., Inc., 320 F.3d 581, 584 (5th Cir. 2003)).

         III. ...


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