Tuesday, November 13 , 2018, 1:31 pm | Fair 72º

 
 
 
 
Advice

Former Offshore Oil Platform Employee Files Suit Against Plains All American Pipeline

A local offshore oil platform operator has filed a class-action lawsuit against Plains All American Pipeline, alleging financial injury after he was laid off when operations were halted because of the May 19 spill on the Gaviota Coast.

Santa Barbara law firm Cappello & Noël LLP filed the complaint in U.S. District Court this month on behalf of county resident Richard Lilygren and any other worker — employee or independent contractor — who might have lost jobs or wages, seeking more than $5 million in damages.

Texas-based Plains All American Pipeline was responsible for the pipeline rupture and spill at Refugio State Beach, where as many as 142,800 gallons of crude oil flowed down the hill and into the Pacific Ocean.

Lilygren, who worked for 11 years at the Hidalgo and Harvest offshore oil platforms near Point Arguello, was laid off July 13 after the spill forced operator Freeport-McMoRan to shut down oil and gas facilities using the impacted onshore pipeline, which transports processed oil to refineries outside Santa Barbara County.

Lilygren hasn’t been able to find work or comparable employment since, according to the complaint.

“The consequences of Plains’ conduct and oil spill have had and will continue to have a devastating effect on the ability of oil and gas workers like Mr. Lilygren to earn a living,” the lawsuit states.

“To make matters worse, after Mr. Lilygren lost his job, he contacted Plains in an attempt to seek compensation for lost wages. He spoke with a representative of Plains who assured him that he should be compensated for his losses. When Mr. Lilygren presented his documentation of lost wages to Plains, however, his claim was summarily denied.”

The class action suit was filed under the Lempert-Keene-Seastrand Oil Spill Prevention and Response Act, which says responsible parties “shall be absolutely liable without regard to fault for any damages incurred by any injured party that arise out of, or are caused by, a spill.”

Lilygren’s attorney A. Barry Cappello, managing partner of Cappello & Noël LLP, said attorneys for plaintiffs in a number of class action lawsuits already filed against Plains — homeowners, fishermen, etc. — were working to join together to file a consolidated complaint.

“When the pipeline was built in 1987, Plains refused to install an automatic shut-off valve system on the pipeline to ensure that it would shut down swiftly at the first sign of a problem,” Cappello said.

“Plains also refused to allow county officials to inspect the safety of the pipeline. Not only did Plains’ actions cause tremendous damage to California’s pristine coastline, but it put many local people out of work, causing great economic hardship.”

Plains All American shareholders are part of the legal fight as well. Shareholders Foundation, Inc. filed a lawsuit last month on behalf of certain purchasers of Plains shares, alleging violations of federal securities laws in connection with the oil spill.

Shareholders claim the oil company made false and misleading statements concerning its pipeline monitoring, maintenance and spill response measures, saying a spilled was “extremely unlikely.”

Investors can contact the foundation at [email protected] or call 858.779.1554.

Plains spokeswoman Meredith Matthews said the company doesn’t comment on pending legal matters.

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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