The US Department of Justice yesterday joined the hundreds of lawsuits that have been filed as a result of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, the largest in US history:

- The vast majority are for economic losses filed under the Oil Pollution Act, seeking to recover lost wages or damage to a business. Thousands have claimed they were harmed by the spill, including shrimpers, owners of commercial vessels, seafood processors and even owners of nail salons.

- Personal injury and wrongful death cases brought by workers hurt in the blast and by families of the 11 killed.

- The states of Louisiana and Alabama have filed lawsuits over claims for loss of resources, loss of tax revenue and response costs for the cleanup. The federal government is pursuing civil penalties under the Clean Water Act that could top $4,300 per barrel of spilled oil, or $20BN, if gross negligence is determined.

- Securities-related claims have been filed on behalf of investors who bought BP’s stock, which lost half its value in the months after the rig explosion.

- Most have been filed along the Gulf Coast, in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. But some cases have been filed as far away as Ohio and California.

- About 379 cases, the vast majority of the federal cases, have been consolidated with a federal court in New Orleans. The court is coordinating discovery and other procedural matters. The court has scheduled "test trials" for next year to determine which parties are potentially at fault.

- The securities-related lawsuits are before a federal court in Houston.

-- BP has been the focus of the lawsuits, but other parties sued include:
-Anadarko Petroleum Corp, which owns a 25-per cent stake in the Macondo well that spewed the oil.

- MOEX Offshore, which holds a 10 per cent interest in the well.

- Transocean, a Swiss company that owned the Deepwater Horizon rig, which it leased to BP.

- Halliburton Energy Services, which cemented the blown-out well.
-Cameron International Corp, which manufactured the blow-out preventer valve that was meant to prevent a spill from the well.

-M-I LLC which provided drilling fluids for the well.

-Weatherford International, a Swiss company that was involved in the casing process for the well.

-Hyundai Heavy Industries, which manufactured the Deepwater Horizon rig.