Top New Orleans restaurateur sues BP over loss of seafood

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Susan Spicer, one of New Orleans's most prominent and highly regarded chefs, has sued BP for damages to restaurants that have lost normal seafood supplies because of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Ms Spicer, who runs Bayona, a restaurant in the French Quarter of New Orleans, is seeking class-action status on behalf of restaurants and others in the seafood industry that have suffered damage since the April 20 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig.

In a complaint filed in New Orleans federal court, Ms Spicer's lawyer, Serena Pollack, said the restaurants depend heavily on the availability of local seafood. They expect to lose customers because of lower tourism and convention business, contamination fears and significantly higher prices as a result of the spill, the complaint said.

"Much of plaintiff's business is based on the unique quality of Louisiana seafood, as well as the chain of delivery of that resource from the initial harvester (be it fisherman, oyster grower or shrimper)," Pollack wrote. "Because this chain of delivery can not be maintained, plaintiff's business has been, and continues to be, materially damaged."

Mark Salt, a BP spokesman, said the company does not comment on litigation. Bayona opened in 1990, and according to its website has since 1995 been one of New Orleans's top five restaurants in the Zagat survey.

Ms Spicer has received a James Beard Foundation award, and appeared as a judge on Bravo's Top Chef and Food Network's Iron Chef America. She has also opened the New Orleans restaurants Herbsaint and Cobalt.

The lawsuit seeks compensatory and punitive damages from BP. It also names as defendants Transocean, which operated the rig; Cameron International, which provided a blowout preventer; and a Halliburton unit that provided cementing services. More than 250 lawsuits have been filed over the oil spill.