Orange County Oil Spill Class Action

Mass Tort / MDL

Mass Torts


Justice For Everyone

Oil Spill Class Action Case Could Be First of Many

A local DJ who regularly books events along Huntington Beach filed a class action suit against Amplify Energy, the operator of a pipeline that leaked up to 131,000 gallons of processed oil into the ocean off the coast of Huntington Beach, Laguna Beach, and Newport Beach. The complaint said the plaintiff, Peter Moses Gutierrez Jr., will lose business for the foreseeable future and alleges personal injury damages due to the harmful toxins he and other local residents will be exposed to as a result of the spill.

The class action suit represents the first Orange County oil spill lawsuit in a wave of litigation against Amplify or other potentially liable parties. Oil spill claims could also be filed against the operator of a cargo ship whose anchor appears to have caused the Amplify oil spill by dragging the pipeline.

The Orange County oil spill is the last of several recent large oil spills in California — and it has spurred an immense outcry from the environmental community and the residents whose lives and businesses will be negatively impacted as a result.

Fishermen's lines cast over pier

What Are the Economic and Environmental Effects of Oil Spills?

The initial complaint filed on October 4 alleged that the entire shoreline suffered “tremendous damage” that will bring “catastrophic” consequences. In fact, several other industries are affected by the Orange County oil spill, which will have a large impact on the local economy.

Lobster fishermen and other commercial fishermen and charter boat operators can all expect to see significant losses during one of their busiest seasons.

Orange County closed much of its shoreline due to the oil spill, and County Health Officer Clayton Chau urged people against swimming or gathering near affected beaches since vapors from the oil could spread in the wind. Local beaches and fisheries from Huntington Beach to Dana Point Harbor were closed for days — and some for more than a week.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife also announced a ban on fishing and collecting shellfish on the night of October 3, as a result of the spill, as oil was seen washing up on the shores of Laguna Beach, Crescent Bay, and Shaw’s Cove, and as far south as San Diego County.

In Huntington Beach alone there were more than 2,000 feet of booms deployed to prevent the oil from spreading further into Talbert Marsh, an ecological reserve that spans more than 25 acres across from the beach. More than 3,000 gallons of oil were recovered from the waters in the first 48 hours of cleanup efforts.

Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley said the county would build a sand berm to keep the oil from intruding further.

As the iconic beaches of Orange County affected by the oil spill close for the coming weeks, the economic effects of the oil spill on local businesses will be significant.

How Do Oil Spills Affect Tourism?

It’s clear that oil spills have a significant impact on local tourism. After the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, studies found that tourism declined significantly across the entire region. 

According to a 2015 study by Oceana, local tourism suffered the hardest, but regional tourism declined even in areas that did not experience any direct contamination from the oil spill.

Many travelers maintained the misperception that unaffected areas in the region as far away as the Florida Keys had been contaminated by the oil spill. Leisure spending in Louisiana dropped by $247 million the year of the oil spill and was projected to $433 million from 2010 to 2013.

Hotel cancellations in the Gulf States rose to as much as 60% six weeks after the oil spill, and hotels in the region had difficulty booking future events.

Huntington Beach Mayor Kim Carr said the area’s beaches could be closed from weeks to months, and the economic effects could last for years to come.

Experts say that even though the economic impact from the 2015 Refugio oil spill in Santa Barbara was relatively minor, the COVID-19 pandemic has destabilized the small-business economy and depleted the amount of time businesses are able to close and stay afloat.

How Do Oil Spills Affect Shipping?

Oil spills often interfere with shipping routes and cause backlogs at ports. In the case of the Orange County oil spill, there was already immense shipping traffic at nearby ports due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Orange County oil spill may have been indirectly caused by the shipping and supply-chain gridlock that has resulted from the pandemic. 

Crowded ports in Los Angeles and Long Beach have led to a backlog of ships in the harbor waiting to dock, which is causing some ships to drop anchor in places they normally wouldn’t.

Container ship traffic has seen a fivefold increase in these areas since 2019, creating an “unprecedented bottleneck.”

With container ships and oil tankers dropping 30-ton anchors closer to oil platforms and underwater infrastructure (internet cables, sewage treatment lines, oil pipelines, etc.), the risk for an incident is higher than ever.

Now, with the waters affected by the Orange County oil spill off-limits to ships, the traffic has gotten even tighter. Previously, there was an overflow section off Huntington Beach, near a series of oil platforms, but reports said this area was no longer being used for anchoring ships in the days after the oil spill.

In September 2021, the Marine Exchange reported a 20% increase in arrivals, with 90% of anchorage locations occupied at any given time over the previous few months. This backlog could get even worse in the wake of the spill.

How Do Oil Spills Affect Fishing?

In addition to the harmful health effects oil spills have on fish and wildlife, they also have devastating economic impacts on the fishing industry, both through closures and drops in public demand for seafood.

The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) estimated that the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill cost the Gulf Coast commercial fishing industry between $94.7 million and $1.6 billion, as well as 740 to 9,315 jobs, in the first eight months after the disaster.

What’s more, after the oil spill there was a major drop in commercial demand for seafood due to the toxic health effects of the oil spill on the area’s marine life. Oil spills leak toxins into the water and natural habitats of fish and shellfish, making them unsafe for humans to consume.

Adult fish experience reduced growth, enlarged livers, and changes to heart and respiration rates, as well as fin erosion and reduction impairment, according to the National Ocean Service. issues can make fish and

After the Orange County oil spill, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife placed a temporary ban on commercial and recreational fishing along a 20-mile stretch of coastline extending six miles out to sea.

Lobster fishermen in the area can typically make as much as 70% of their annual income in the early Fall. As one 29-year-old commercial fisherman, Josh Hernandez, told the LA Times, “I wait for this all summer long.” Hernandez said he has a two-year-old daughter and another child on the way. “I just don’t know what to do at this point,” he said.

How Do Oil Spills Affect Local Small Businesses?

Local small business owners are also affected by the Orange County oil spill. Like the DJ who filed the first Orange County oil spill lawsuit, surfing instructors, lifeguards, physical trainers, and others have lost business as a result of the oil spill.

As one surf coach, Bronwin Major, told the LA Times, “I’m going to be directly impacted. Obviously, I’m going to have to shift some of my work.” She added, “It’s really hard coming out of a pandemic and just trying to get back on your feet again.”

Another surf instructor, Jaz Kaner of Banzai Surf Company — a Huntington Beach surf school that filed a class-action lawsuit against Amplify Energy over the oil spill — said at a press conference that this is the worst possible time of year for him to be put out of business.

“It’s October,” he said. “If you ask any surfer, October is prime time for surfing in California.”

Business Loss From the Orange County Oil Spill

If you own or work for a business affected by the Orange County oil spill, whether it be as a commercial fisherman, charter boat operator, local restaurant or small business owner, or if you are a local resident facing exposure to harmful toxins as a result of the oil spill, contact the experienced Orange County oil spill attorneys at Singleton Schreiber today to find out how you can receive compensation.

The toxic environmental mass tort lawyers at Singleton Schreiber will fight for you until you receive all the compensation you deserve so that you can recoup what you’ve lost and move on with your life. Contact Singleton Schreiber for a free consultation today.

You can also find more oil spill information on our site, including Orange County oil spill resources, as well as a timeline of the largest oil spills in California history.