Cleanup crews have medical claims after becoming ill as a result of their tasks. (Photo:Petty Officer 2nd Class Elizabeth H. Bordelon/USCG/Stock File)
BP, attorneys ask judge to approve oil spill settlement agreement
Friday, April 20, 2012, 05:10 (GMT + 9)
BP and a team of plaintiffs' attorneys this week gave a federal judge the formal terms of a proposed class-action settlement meant to determine billions of dollars in economic damage claims resulting from the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
BP and lawyers representing more than 100,000 individuals and businesses are asking US District Judge Carl Barbier in New Orleans, Louisiana to provide preliminary approval to the settlement agreement, The Associated Press reports.
BP PLC estimates that it will pay about USD 7.8 billion to settle private party claims, but the settlement -- one of the largest ever -- does not have a limit on the amount BP would pay.
The settlement will take care of the "substantial majority of eligible private economic loss and medical claims stemming from the Deepwater Horizon accident and oil spill," BP said in a statement, AFP reports.
The court filing says the agreement "creates a comprehensive compensation system" and is "more than fair, reasonable and adequate."
"As in any settlement, neither side will receive everything it wants -- not BP, which believes that plaintiffs' claims are subject to considerable litigation risk, and not the PSC (Plaintiffs' Steering Committee), who maintain that they would one day obtain larger awards if their claims were to proceed to trial," the filing reads.
The agreement announced last March does not resolve separate claims introduced by the federal government and Gulf states against BP and its partners or claims against Switzerland-based rig owner Transocean Ltd and Houston-based cement contractor Halliburton. Barbier has scheduled a 3 May status conference to discuss a possible trial for these claims.
The judge may also hold a "fairness hearing" before deciding to give his final approval.
BP and the plaintiffs' attorneys said their agreement calls for paying medical claims by cleanup and other workers who say they became ill from exposure to the oil or chemical dispersants. None of the related claims filed were paid through a BP-created USD 20 billion compensation fund administered by the Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF).
BP also agreed to pay USD 2.3 billion for seafood-related claims by commercial fishing vessel owners, captains and deckhands.
The GCCF processed more than 221,000 claims and paid out more than USD 6 billion before a court-supervised administrator, Patrick Juneau, took over the claims process on 8 March. He announced last week that 5,238 claimants have been paid more than USD 134 million during the transition period.
Claimants who received settlement offers from the GCCF can receive 60 per cent of that offer while they decide if they wish to participate in the court settlement. If they opt out, they must sign a release to get the remaining 40 per cent, and if they opt in, the court-supervised process will decide if they will receive more than what the GCCF offered.
- Gulf fishers offered double the money for losses incurred since BP oil spill
By Natalia Real