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Mississippi's first class-action lawsuit filed over oil spill

GULFPORT - Attorneys representing the owner of a Pass Christian seafood company have filed a class-action lawsuit over the Gulf of Mexico oil spill near Mississippi's coastline.

Bay St. Louis attorney Edward Gibson filed the lawsuit this morning in U.S. District Court on behalf of Jerry Forte, owner of Jerry Forte Seafood, and the interests of all Mississippians. It seeks not less than $5 million in economic and compensatory damages.

It is believed to be Mississippi's first class-action lawsuit over the massive oil spill following the explosion and sinking of oil rig Deepwater Horizon off the Lousiana Coast. Attorneys in neighboring states had already filed class-action suits after authorities realized an oil spill off the Louisiana coast was far worst than first believed.

"It is time to assert our rights," Gibson said. "It could be a disaster of mammoth proportions. If media reports are true, it doesn't look like the weather and the seas will be kind to us today."

The National Weather Service expects high winds, tides and wave action will push oil this weekend deep into Southeast Lousiana's waterways and on to the shorelines of Mississippi and Alabama.

State Rep. Bobby Moak, an attorney assisting with the lawsuit, said all indications show a direct impact on the Coast and an indirect impact statewide.

"There's the environmental and ecological impact and its impact on the economy and tourism. It can impact so many people in so many different ways," Moak said.

Moak said a Jackson restaurant owner called him this morning over concerns about obtaining fresh seafood for his customers.

Forte could not be reached immediately for comment. Moak said Forte and his employees finished bagging up all the oysters they could yesterday.

Defendants named in the lawsuit include Cameron International Corporation, BP, Transocean,, Halliburton Energy Services Inc. and Hyundai Heavy Industries Co.

The lawsuit represents all Mississippians who live, work in or derive an income from the coastal zone who sustain loss or damage from the April 20 explosion on the oil rig and the resulting oil spill. The lawsuit alleges the series of events would not have occurred "had the defendants exercised the high degree of care imposed on them.

Read more in updates on this story in the Sun Herald.

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