Frequently Asked Questions for the Fisher Class
1. Why was this notice issued?
Judge Philip S. Gutierrez, of the United States District Court for the Central District of California, is currently the Judge overseeing this case. The case is known as Andrews et al. v. Plains All American Pipeline, L.P., No. 2:15-cv-04113. The people who filed the class action case are called the Plaintiffs. The Defendants in the lawsuit are Plains All American Pipeline, L.P. and Plains Pipeline, L.P. (“Plains Pipeline”).
This lawsuit has been “certified” as a Class Action. This means that the lawsuit meets the requirements for class actions under federal law.
2. What is this lawsuit about?
On May 19, 2015, an underground pipeline known as Line 901 ruptured, resulting in a discharge of crude oil along the coast near Refugio State Beach in Santa Barbara County. As a result, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife imposed a ban on fishing in a 138-square-mile zone from Canada de Alegria by Gaviota State Beach to Coal Oil Point in Isla Vista.
The Plaintiffs in the lawsuit claim that the oil spill caused Commercial Fishers and Fish Sellers to suffer significant financial losses. In this lawsuit, Plaintiffs seek to recover all damages for the injuries suffered by class members resulting from the oil spill. Plains Pipeline denies any claims of wrongdoing and disputes Plaintiffs’ claims.
The Court has not decided whether Plaintiffs or Plains Pipeline is right. As in any case, the lawyers for Plaintiffs will have to prove their claims in Court.
3. Why is this a class action?
In a class action, one or more people called “class representatives” [in this case, Keith Andrews, Tiffani Andrews, Sarah Rathbone (owner of Community Seafood LLC), Hwa Hong Muh (operates Mu’s Seafood Co.), Mike Gandall, The Eagle Fleet LLC, Southern Cal Seafood, Inc. and Pacific Rim Fisheries, Inc., Ocean Angel IV, LLC, Morgan Castagnola, Wei International Trading Inc., and Santa Barbara Uni, Inc.] sued on behalf of a group of people who have similar legal claims. All of these people are members of a “class,” or “class members.” One court and one case resolve the issues for all class members, except for those who exclude themselves from the class.
4. Who is a member of the class?
You are included in the Class if you:
- Are a person or business who owned or worked on a vessel between May 19, 2010 and May 19, 2015, that was in operation as of May 19, 2015, that landed:
- Seafood within the California Department of Fish & Wildlife fishing blocks 651 to 657, 664 to 671, and 681 to 683; or
- Groundfish (including sablefish, halibut and rockfish) in fishing blocks 631 to 633, 637 to 639, 643 to 645, 658 to 659, and 684 to 690; or
- Are a person or businesses (in operation as of May 19, 2015) that purchased and re-sold this commercial seafood at the retail or wholesale level.
- Only persons and businesses who purchased fish or seafood directly from the commercial fishers described above are included in the class.
The fishing blocks are highlighted in this diagram below:
The lawsuit does not include any entity or division in which Plains Pipeline has a controlling interest, and Plains Pipeline’s legal representatives, officers, directors, employees, assigns, and successors; the judge assigned to this case, the judge’s staff, and any member of the judge’s immediate family; and businesses that contract directly with Plains Pipeline for use of the Pipeline.
5. Is there any money available now?
No money or benefits are available now, as neither the Court, nor a jury has decided whether Plains Pipeline did anything wrong, and the two sides have not settled the case. The case has not yet been set for trial. There is no guarantee that the case will be successful. If the Class recovers money or benefits, you will be notified how to recover the money owed to you, if any.
Your Rights And Options
You have to decide whether to stay in the Class or to exclude yourself by October 27, 2017.
6. What happens if I do nothing?
If you do nothing, you will automatically remain in the Class. You will be legally bound by all Court orders, good or bad.
7. What if I don't want to be in the Class?
If you decide not to participate in the lawsuit, you must exclude yourself—this is sometimes referred to as “opting out.” If you exclude yourself, you will not receive any benefit that may be obtained as a result of this lawsuit, including any money awarded by the Court or Jury. You will not be bound by any Court orders, and you keep your right to sue Plains Pipeline on your own regarding the issues in this case.
If you want to be excluded from the Class, you must either (1) submit an opt-out request here no later than October 27, or (2) send a letter that includes the following:
- Your name, address, and telephone number,
- The name of the case (Andrews v. Plains All American Pipeline, No. 2:15-cv-04113),
- A statement that you want to be excluded from this Class Action, and
- Your signature and date.
Mail your exclusion request postmarked no later than October 27, 2017 to:
Santa Barbara Oil Spill Class Action
PO Box 2820
San Francisco, CA 94111-3339
8. If I filed, or wish to file, an OPA claim, can I still participate in the class action?
The Oil Pollution Act (OPA) is a federal statute that provides compensation for people who incur economic injury as a result of an oil spill. Under OPA, claimants who wish to pursue recovery under the statute must first submit a claim to the “responsible party.” The Responsible Party here is Plains Pipeline. If a claimant and Plains Pipeline do not reach a resolution of the claim, or if the claimant is dissatisfied with the amount of Plains Pipeline’s offer, OPA provides the claimant the right to sue the responsible party or file an administrative claim with the National Pollution Funds Center (NPFC), a division of the Coast Guard, 90 days after the claimant submits its claim to Plains Pipeline.
This class action lawsuit does not include a claim for recovery through OPA. The class action, however, does include claims brought under state law, including the Lempert-Keene-Seastrand Oil Spill Prevention and Response Act, Cal. Government Code Section 8670, et seq., to recover all damages suffered by class members as a result of the oil spill, including some types of relief that are not available through the OPA process, such as punitive damages and damages for losses that may accrue in the future as a result of the oil spill.
You may seek payment from Plains Pipeline for your OPA claim and also remain in the Class. Any settlement you reach with Plains Pipeline about such a claim will resolve only your OPA claim. As a class member, even if you file an OPA claim and receive payment from Plains Pipeline directly, you are still entitled to any additional recovery obtained as part of the class action. Any payment you receive for your OPA claim may be deducted, however, from the amount you are entitled to recover in the class action.
As a class member, however, you will not be able to negotiate a full and final settlement with a release of all of your claims arising from the oil spill with Plains Pipeline directly. To do so, you must opt out of the class. Because Plains Pipeline has the right to negotiate full and final settlements with non-class members, Plains Pipeline has indicated that class members with OPA claims who choose not to opt out may receive less from Plains Pipeline or may be asked to submit more documentation in support of their losses in any settlement of their OPA claim alone than they would if they opted out and negotiated a full release of all of their claims arising from the oil spill.
Moreover, if you remain in the class, you may not sue Plains Pipeline separately for your OPA claim or file an administrative claim with the NPFC, unless the class action is resolved in a way that would allow subsequent individual suits arising from the spill to be filed. If you wish to settle all of your potential claims now, to pursue your rights under OPA to sue Plains Pipeline, or file an administrative claim with the NPFC, without participating in the class action, you must opt out of the class.
If you choose to opt out of the class, you will not be entitled to any additional or supplemental recovery from the class action, and Class Counsel cannot represent you in your separate action.
To learn more about your rights under OPA or how to file an OPA claim, please visit the following page of the National Pollution Funds Center’s website: https://www.uscg.mil/npfc/claims/general_claims_requirements.asp.
If you have questions or wish to know about the class action, you may contact Class Counsel at the number indicated below.
The Lawyers Representing You
9. Do I have a lawyer in the case?
Yes. The Court has appointed the following law firms to represent you and other class members as “Class Counsel”:
Robert J. Nelson
Lieff Cabraser Heimann Bernstein
A. Barry Cappello
Cappello & Noël LLP
Juli E. Farris
Audet & Partners
You will not be charged for these lawyers. If you want to be represented by another lawyer, you may hire one to appear in Court for you at your own expense.
10. How will the lawyers be paid?
Attorneys’ fees in the class action lawsuit will be decided by the Court. Typically, lawyers are paid a percentage of the recovery obtained on behalf of the class or that amount is separately negotiated by the parties. The attorneys for the class will not be paid any fees out of any interim payments you get through the OPA claims process. The Court must approve of any request for attorneys’ fees by the lawyers in the case. No matter what happens, you will not have to pay any attorney fees or expenses out of pocket to the lawyers representing the class.
Will there be a Trial
11. How and when will the Court decide who is right?
If the case is not dismissed or settled, Plaintiffs will have to prove their claims at a trial at the First Street Courthouse, 350 West 1st Street, Courtroom 6A, 6th Floo, Los Angeles, California 90012. During the trial, either the Judge or a jury will hear all of the evidence so that a decision can be reached about whether the Plaintiffs or Plains Pipeline is right about the claims in the lawsuit. No trial date has been set at this time.
12. Will I get money after the trial?
If the Plaintiffs obtain money or benefits as a result of a trial or settlement, you will be notified about how to recover the amount owed to you, if any. Important information about the case will be posted on the website, www.PlainsOilSpill.com, as it becomes available.
Getting More Information
13. How do I get more information?
You can get more information at www.PlainsOilSpill.com, by calling toll free at 1-888-684-6801, writing to Santa Barbara Oil Spill Class Action, PO Box 282, San Francisco, CA 94111-3339, or writing an email to: email@example.com.