Storm clouds advance upon a BP sign in Peckham, south London.
Storm clouds advance upon a BP sign in Peckham, south London. - 
Listen To The Story


Bill Radke: Today marks the beginning of the giant legal battle over the BP oil disaster. A panel of federal judges in Boise, Idaho will decide how to handle more than 250 lawsuits related to the incident, filed in 12 different states. We get more now from Marketplace's Krissy Clark.

Krissy Clark: The judges will look at how to consolidate the cases -- and, just as important, where.

Here's why geography matters: the lawsuits involve a complicated Web of liability and billions of dollars. So plaintiffs and defendants want every edge they can get. That includes the sympathies and conveniences that might come with a friendly location.

BP's lawyers want the court to be in Houston, a.k.a "Oil City." They say it makes sense because the company has headquarters there and it's an airline hub. But many of the people suing BP say New Orleans is a better site, closer to where the oil spill actually happened and the people it's affecting most.

Georgene Vairo, a professor at Loyola Law School, says the federal panel will weigh those factors, but will probably say:

Georgene Vairo: I don't really care where you want to be, here's where we're going to put you. And they have over time chosen neutral forums.

Wherever the cases wind up, the chosen city could get an added economic boost. It will host thousands of lawyers, witnesses and members of the media for years to come.

I'm Krissy Clark for Marketplace.