The lawsuit, filed in federal court late Wednesday, alleges that "the fire, explosion and resulting oil spill was caused by the joint negligence and fault" of the defendants, a copy of the document read.
The shrimpers are seeking class-action status on behalf of "all Louisiana residents who live or work in, or derive income from," the Louisiana coastal zone, and who have sustained losses as a result of the oil spill.
Defendants in the suit include British energy giant BP, which leased the Deepwater Horizon platform which sank last week causing the spill, rig owner Transocean, and Cameron International, the company which manufactured a key safety valve that failed to fully shut off the oil.
The plaintiffs are seeking "economic and compensatory damages in amounts to be determined at trial, but not less than five million dollars," the legal minimum, the document said.
A BP executive on Thursday agreed with a US government estimate that the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico could be pumping up to 5,000 barrels a day of crude into the ocean, far more than previously thought.
The Deepwater Horizon platform sank April 22, two days after a huge explosion that killed 11 workers, and a giant oil slick from the site threatens to pollute Louisiana's fragile wetlands.
Among other things, the lawsuit claims that the defendants failed to operate the oil rig properly; failed to properly inspect the rig "to assure that its equipment and personnel were fit for the intended purpose"; acted "in a careless and negligent manner without due regard for the safety of others"; failed to "react to danger signs"; and employed "untrained or poorly trained employees."
Furthermore, "the fire, explosion, sinking and resulting oil spill were caused by defective equipment," and the defendants "knew or should have known of these defects and ... are therefore liable for them."
Daniel Becnel, a Louisiana-based trial lawyer who filed the suit, saying that the plaintiffs "have a whistleblower on an adjoining rig saying 85 percent of the drilling pipe was not properly inspected" by the US Minerals Management Service.
"We knew that BP and Transocean, the owner of the Deepwater Horizon weren't telling the truth," said Becnel.
According to Becnel, the suit was filed "on behalf of all class members who have been adversely affected in Louisiana -- fishers, shrimpers, oystermen and others like ... guides into the marshes."
Becnel also alleged that the oil slick could wreak havoc on US shipping entering and leaving the Mississippi River.
Coast Guard Rear Admiral Mary Landry, who is leading the government's response to the disaster, warned that if the well is not secured the spill could end up being one of the worst in US history.