On March 3, 2016, a U.S. District Court judge invalidated the settlement releases that Plains All American Pipeline required claimants to sign during its claims process. The court found that Plains was attempting “to steer those victims towards unwittingly waiving their rights to full recovery” available to them through the class action filed after the company’s May 19, 2015 oil pipeline rupture near Refugio State Beach. The court also ordered Plains to stop its misleading communications with potential class members and barred Plains from telling claimants that a payment from Plains would prevent them from recovering further in the pending class action. (Case No. 2:15-cv-04113-PSG-JEM, U.S. District Court, Central District of Calif.)
The ruling resulted from a motion filed by Plaintiffs, who argued that Plains had used a months-long campaign of misleading phone calls, letters, newspaper advertisements and Internet pop-up ads to persuade oil spill victims, including named plaintiffs, to settle with Plains in exchange for a full release of their existing and future rights to claim damages. Plains’ ds appeared in the Santa Barbara News-Press, Santa Barbara Independent, on Noozhawk.com and in other print and online media.
The judge also ordered Plains to notify all claimants who had signed its improper releases that the releases are invalid.
The class action against Plains All American Pipeline is being led by three plaintiffs’ firms: Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP, Keller Rohrback L.L.P. and Cappello & Noël LLP.