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In the immediate aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, BP publicly touted its expert oil clean-up response, but it quietly girded for a legal fight that could soon embroil hundreds of attorneys, span five states and last more than a decade.

BP swiftly signed up experts who otherwise would work for plaintiffs. It shopped for top-notch legal teams. It presented volunteers, fishermen and potential workers with waivers, hoping they would sign away some of their right to sue.

Recently, BP announced it would create a $20 billion victim-assistance fund, which could reduce court challenges.

Robert J. McKee, an attorney with the Fort Lauderdale, Fla., firm of Krupnick Campbell Malone, was surprised by how quickly BP hired scientists and laboratories specializing in the collection and analysis of air, sea, marsh and beach samples - evidence that's crucial to proving damages in pollution cases.

Five days after the April 20 blowout, McKee said, he tried to hire a scientist who's assisted him in an ongoing 16-year environmental lawsuit in Ecuador involving Dupont.


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