The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

National News

November 9, 2012

Federal judge urged to approve British Petroleum settlement

NEW ORLEANS — BP and attorneys for businesses and people who lost money in the Gulf oil spill urged a federal judge Thursday to give his final approval to a class-action settlement.

U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier heard arguments from lawyers who negotiated the deal as well as other attorneys who have objected to parts of it. BP PLC estimates it will pay $7.8 billion to the resolve claims, but the settlement is not capped and BP could pay out more or less.

Barbier, who didn’t immediately rule, said the hearing was designed to help him determine if the settlement is “fair, reasonable and adequate” and that he doesn’t have the authority to rewrite or renegotiate it. Barbier said he would rule in the coming days. However, he said some of the objections he heard were “frankly, not made in good faith and bordered on being frivolous.”

Barbier preliminarily approved the agreement in May. Since then, thousands of people have opted out of the deal to pursue their claims individually. BP attorney Rick Godfrey said fewer people opted out than the company had expected.

Jim Roy, a lead plaintiffs’ attorney, said the settlement could resolve more than 100,000 claims.

“This settlement provides the class with an opportunity to try to put this behind them and get on with their lives,” he said.

BP has agreed to pay $2.3 billion for seafood-related claims by commercial fishing vessel owners, captains and deckhands. The amount is nearly five times more than the average industry revenue between 2007 and 2009, Godfrey said.

“It was a generous program, and it was designed to account for future risk,” Godfrey said.

Joel Waltzer, one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys who filed an objection, said the seafood program doesn’t adequately compensate some kinds of commercial fishermen.

“We don’t need to hit a homerun, but we need to get on base,” he said. “It doesn’t justify the rights that they’re giving up.”

Barbier told Waltzer he was “too focused on what somebody else is getting compared to your clients.”

“You’re comparing apples to oranges,” the judge said.

The agreement also calls for paying medical claims by cleanup workers and others who say they suffered illnesses from exposure to the oil or chemicals used to disperse it. In addition, BP has agreed to spend $105 million over five years to set up a Gulf Coast health outreach program and pay for medical examinations.

The settlement doesn’t resolve separate claims brought by the federal government and Gulf Coast states against BP and its partners on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig. Those claims involve environmental damage from the nation’s worst offshore oil spill.

It also doesn’t resolve claims against Switzerland-based rig owner Transocean Ltd. and Houston-based cement contractor Halliburton.  

A trial next year is designed to identify causes of BP’s well blowout and assign percentages of fault to the companies involved in the disaster.

The April 2010 blowout of BP’s Macondo well triggered an explosion that killed 11 rig workers and spilled more than 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf.  

In the aftermath, BP created a $20 billion compensation fund for Gulf Coast residents and businesses. The Gulf Coast Claims Facility paid out more than $6 billion to about 221,000 claims before a court-supervised administrator, Patrick Juneau, took over the process earlier this year. BP agreed to continue paying claims as Barbier decides whether to approve the settlement.

Juneau said his team has received more than 79,000 claims and made offers to claimants worth a total of more than $1.3 billion as of Tuesday. Roughly 95 percent of people who received offers have accepted them, Juneau added.

BP agreed to pay up to $600 million in fees, costs and expenses to a team of plaintiffs’ attorneys who brokered the settlement.

 

1
Text Only
National News
  • Auto Show Nissan Hot _Cast.jpg Hot models at this year’s New York Auto Show

    With more than 1 million visitors annually, the New York International Auto Show is one of the most important shows for the U.S. auto industry.

    April 16, 2014 3 Photos

  • Court to weigh challenge to ban on campaign lies

    As political campaigns begin to heat up, the Supreme Court is deciding whether false accusations and mudslinging made during an election can be punished as a crime.

    April 16, 2014

  • Transportation Blues 2.jpg Congress is giving states the transportation blues

    On the road in a tour bus this week, the U.S. transportation secretary is spreading some bad news: the government’s Highway Trust Fund is nearly broke.

    April 15, 2014 2 Photos

  • Report: Russia withheld intel before Boston attack

    A yearlong review of information the U.S. intelligence community had prior to the Boston Marathon bombing found that the investigation could have been more thorough.

    April 11, 2014

  • Obama Health Secretary.jpg Obama announces Sebelius resignation, successor

    President Barack Obama praised outgoing Health and Human Secretary Kathleen Sebelius for helping to steer his health care law’s comeback after a rocky rollout, even as he nominated a successor aimed at helping the White House move past the political damage.

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • Police seek driver in deadly Florida day care crash

    As mourners trickled by Thursday to honor the 4-year-old girl who was killed and 14 others injured in a crash at a Florida day care, authorities scoured the state for the driver they said fled in the vehicle that caused the fatal wreck.

    April 10, 2014

  • Stephen Colbert-Late _Cast.jpg Stephen Colbert to replace Letterman on late show

    CBS moved swiftly Thursday to replace the retiring David Letterman with Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert, who will take over the “Late Show” next year and do battle with Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel for late-night television supremacy.

    April 10, 2014 1 Photo

  • Civil Rights Summit.jpg Reflecting on progress, Obama honors civil rights

    Barack Obama was 2 years old when Lyndon Baines Johnson sat in the East Room of the White House with Martin Luther King Jr. and signed the Civil Rights Act, putting an end to an America where schools, restaurants and water fountains were divided by race.

    April 10, 2014 1 Photo

  • House passes Ryan budget with big cuts

    The House on Wednesday passed a GOP budget blueprint that promises a balanced federal ledger in 10 years by making sweeping cuts across the federal budget and eliminating health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

    April 10, 2014

  • Gay Marriage Utah_Cast.jpg Gay marriage’s win streak tested in higher court

    The gay rights movement’s winning streak in same-sex marriage lawsuits faces its biggest test yet in Denver where a federal appeals court will weigh whether to give an important victory to gay couples’ right to marry or halt their momentum.

    April 9, 2014 1 Photo