Articles Posted in Oil Spill Litigation

Post #2 image. 2014-03-26.jpgIn an important victory for plaintiffs across the Gulf Coast, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals delivered a serious blow to BP last month when the court rejected BP’s attempt to block settlement payments to large numbers of victims.

Specifically, BP had tried to prevent businesses from claiming a share of settlement funds unless they could clearly trace their losses back to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster. The Fifth Circuit chose to reject BP’s argument that the claims administrator, Patrick Juneau, had misinterpreted the terms of the carefully agreed upon settlement.

The defeat was a surprise to BP’s lawyers who have engaged in an aggressive campaign to cast victims of the oil spill as undeserving thieves. BP has taken out newspaper ads, run commercials on TV and generally gone after companies that it felt did not deserve a share of settlement funds. BP argued that businesses across the Gulf Coast were filing false claims and receiving compensation despite the fact that their losses had no connection to the oil spill.
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Post #1 image. 2014-02-25.jpgA recent (and scathing) article in the Los Angeles Times took BP to task for its bad behavior over the past several months regarding its oil spill settlement. The article accuses officials at BP of displaying an unseemly buyer’s remorse regarding the settlement agreement it reached back in 2012 with private plaintiffs across the Gulf Coast who suffered damages as a result of the catastrophic oil spill.

At the time the settlement was reached, BP said that it “wanted to do the right thing” and ensure that victims of its mistakes would be compensated for the harm they endured thanks to the Deepwater Horizon explosion and subsequent spill. BP and a group of plaintiffs agreed that the settlement was in everyone’s best interest and would avoid forcing victims to file their cases individually, dramatically streamlining the claims process.
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In a surprising twist, news reports have covered the increasingly hostile campaign led by BP’s lawyers to discredit Judge Carl Barbier, the U.S. District Court Judge who is presiding over several cases concerning BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Experts say that the lengths BP has gone to are surprising given that most companies would try to avoid publicly embarrassing the judge assigned to watch over several of their multibillion dollar cases.

Earlier this year BP appealed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals claiming that Barbier had refused to stop payments of some claims that the oil company said were fictitious. As a result of that appeal, the Fifth Circuit ordered Barbier to reconsider BP’s claims and reevaluate whether business plaintiffs who had never suffered any real harm due to the accident were receiving payments.

Apparently unhappy with Barbier’s efforts, BP last week filed what it called an “emergency motion” with the Fifth Circuit asking them to yet again intervene. BP’s lawyers said that Barbier has defied the Fifth Circuit’s directive to prevent payments to undeserving claimants. Many experts familiar with the case say this motion is nearly unheard of given how aggressively it takes the presiding judge to task.
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Post #2 image. 2013-10-23.jpgIn good news for people waiting on money from the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill settlement; U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier has lifted a temporary pause on approving some claims for payment. However, Barbier simultaneously extended the stay on payments for those businesses whose loses were being contested by BP.

Judge Barbier issued a temporary injunction on payments late last week and said that the settlement claims administrator, Patrick Juneau, will have seven days to come up with new procedures to implement his changes regarding how business economic loss claims are decided and ultimately paid out. Barbier said the new guidelines were arrived at after reading over suggestions from BP’s lawyers and plaintiffs’ counsel, neither of whom he fully agreed with.

Barbier has said that he intends to follow the language of the original settlement document which does not require proof that the oil spill directly caused losses for those businesses located within a geographic area closest to the disaster, known as Zone A, to receive settlement payments. Barbier said that the language of the settlement agreement is clear that for these businesses, alternative causes of losses are irrelevant if financial data could show that a loss did indeed occur.
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