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BP Contests Oil Spill Settlement, Fearing 'Fictional Losses'

By Brett Snider, Esq. | Last updated on

In late August, British Petroleum (BP) asked the Fifth Circuit to put a freeze on the settlement process, which BP had approved in 2012, to avoid entitling business plaintiffs to an excess recovery.

BP had most recently estimated that it would pay $9.6 billion in settlement funds to plaintiffs injured in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. But the company complained that the rules approved by the claims administrator may allow businesses to recover billions for "fictional losses," reports The Times-Picayune.

Why is BP making such a fuss over a settlement agreement that it approved?

Methinks BP Doth Protest Too Much

After wiping some of the egg (and oil) off its corporate face from the Deepwater Horizon spill, BP is now upset about the methods by which plaintiffs are going to be paid out.

This issue was originally before a district court in March, when BP prevailed on a separate insurance dispute. But federal Judge Carl Barbier sided with plaintiffs' attorneys in approving how claimaints with large "Business Economic Losses" are paid, reports The Times-Picayune.

As Judge Barbier noted, it's odd that BP is complaining about the unfortunate consequences of the global settlement agreement they agreed to in order to make this giant liability go away. Big corporations like Walmart have been fairly successful in enforcing settlement agreements against small plaintiffs, so we shouldn't expect BP to slip the noose.

BP made much of the same arguments before the Fifth Circuit at the end of the summer, arguing that the unintended consequences of the current interpretation of the bargain "breaks faith" with the original bargain in the global settlement agreement, reports The Times-Picayune.

Plaintiffs Respond

Plaintiffs in this case didn't remain silent either, filing with the Fifth Circuit in early September to uphold Judge Barbier's ruling, which would give the green light to settlement recovery.

The plaintiffs reminded the court that "over 69,000 business economic claims" have been filed with the settlement claims administrator without objection, and fewer than 15 businesses have objected with "the narrowest of a single concern," reports The Associated Press.

Although it may not be saying much to declare that plaintiffs are by and large happy with the billions of dollars being offered to them, it does seem like BP made its bed when it agreed to the settlement in 2012.

Like in any case, all parties to a settlement agreement must file with the court declaring the deal was made in good faith and fairly bargained, so its unlikely that the Fifth Circuit is going to give BP any takesies-backsies.

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