BP Urges Judge to Approve $7.8 Billion Oil-Spill Accord
By Laurel Brubaker Calkins and Margaret Cronin Fisk – Oct 23, 2012 9:23 AM ET
BP Plc (BP/) urged a federal judge to approve a proposed $7.8 billion settlement of thousands of claims by coastal businesses and property owners who sued over economic damages from the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
“The settlement will bring full compensation to all class members, including those on the Gulf Coast, while resolving a major component of the Deepwater Horizon litigation,” BP lawyers said yesterday in an after-hours filing in New Orleans. “The alternative is all-out litigation that would last many years and have an uncertain outcome for class members.”
Lawyers representing more than 13,000 spill victims have attacked the settlement, BP said in the filing. Fewer than 1,000 claimants have formally opted out of the deal so far, BP said. The objectors represent “only a small fraction of the total class members,” the company said.
BP, based in London, agreed in March to pay an estimated $7.8 billion to resolve most private plaintiffs’ claims for economic loss, property damage and injuries. The settlement, reached days before a scheduled trial on liability for the 2010 spill, doesn’t cover federal government claims and those of the Gulf Coast states.
Also excluded are claims of financial institutions, casinos, private plaintiffs in parts of Florida andTexas, and residents and businesses claiming harm from the Obama administration’s moratorium on deep-water drilling prompted by the spill. The settlement comprises two agreements — one over medical claims, the other on economic and property damage.
Spill victims who don’t like the proposed accord have until Nov. 1 to notify the court they don’t want to be part of it. U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier will hear arguments on the settlement at a Nov. 8 fairness hearing.
A nonjury trial over liability for the April 2010 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig and the subsequent oil spill is set for Jan. 14 before Barbier in New Orleans.
Criticism of BP’s proposed settlement has centered in large part on victims’ fears that businesses and individuals that depend on the Gulf seafood industry won’t be adequately compensated if regional fish populations nosedive in a few years as a result of the spill.
Victims objecting have cited the collapse of the Alaskan herring fishery three years after the wreck of the Exxon Valdez tanker as evidence they shouldn’t prematurely settle with BP.
A “scientific consensus has formed” that the Exxon Valdez didn’t cause the herring collapse and that Gulf of Mexico fisheries are already strongly rebounding from the 2010 spill, BP said in yesterday’s filing.
The company urged Barbier not to hold hostage to the complaints of a few objectors a settlement that would benefit many. The judge is overseeing pretrial proceedings for more than 500 spill-damage lawsuits consolidated in his New Orleans court.
“This small group of objectors has a simple solution to their complaints,” BP’s lawyers said. “Opt out.”
The case is In re Oil Spill by the Oil Rig Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, 2010, MDL-2179, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana (New Orleans).
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