Troy native serving on BP trial panel

Published 6:23 am Friday, February 24, 2012

A familiar face will be present as the massive trail over the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill begins Monday in New Orleans.

Rhon Jones, who was born in Troy and graduated from Charles Henderson High School, is one of 15 attorneys who were chosen for the Plaintiff’s Steering Committee in the multi-district litigation related to the Deepwater Horizon explosion an oil spill.

Jones is based out of Montgomery and is an attorney with Beasley Allen Law Firm, but these days he is spending most of his time in New Orleans preparing for trial.

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“It’s always really hard to predict how things will go,” Jones said. “I feel confident because I think that we are right. As to what the evidence will show and what the judge thinks, we just have to see.”

Jones said there are more than 100,000 plaintiffs in the case, so the steering committee was put in place as a leadership group appointed by the court to work on the discovery and other case issues. He also explained that the court proceedings had been consolidated into one place so that they could be handled efficiently.

“I really think the court has done a wonderful job as far as management goes,” Jones said. “Inside of two years, the court is holding a trial on liability. It is almost unheard of to move things that quickly.”

On April 20, 2010, the offshore oil rig Deepwater Horizon exploded in the Gulf of Mexico about 50 miles from coastal wetlands. The disaster killed 11 workers and injured 17 others. The oil rig sank on April 22. The event caused the largest oil leak in U.S. history and created environmental destruction and economic hardships for many states.

Jones said whether it was a business in Pike County along U.S. Highway 231 who lost revenue from beach-going traffic, or a tourist destination in Orange Beach, people’s livelihoods were affected.

“There are hardworking people who have really had a tough time ever since the spill occurred,” Jones said. “To me, this has never been about one lawyer or one law firm, or anything like that. The issue is trying to obtain justice for those thousands and thousands of individuals and businesses that have been harmed.”

Jones said that the trial will be a bench trial. That means no jury.

The trial will play out in three phases, the first of which kicks off Monday to decide liability issues. The main defendants are BP, which owned 65 percent of the well; Transocean Ltd, which owned the rig; and Halliburton Co, which provided cementing services for the well. The companies are also suing each other.

Earlier this year, Troy Mayor Jimmy Lunsford told The Messenger that the Beasley Allen Law Firm approached the city and asked if they could enter a claim on behalf of the City of Troy. Loss of revenue in Troy would have come from less travelers stopping in at restaurants, gas stations and hotels on their way to gulf-area beaches.