Friday, 09 November 2012 09:52
by Michael Kunzelman, Associated Press
Federal judge urged to approve BP settlement
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — 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.
To post a comment, please log into your IND account. If you do not have an account, click the "register" button to create one. Facebook comments can be used as an alternative to creating an account at theIND.com.
OCT 24 You gotta love it when they start eating their young, right? In this post in Politico, BP mouthpiece Geoff Morrell denies that his company's oil spill "ruined the Gulf." Instead, he says, it was Bobby Jindal's decision to divert fresh water into the salt water environment that caused massive losses to shrimp and oyster industries. The evidence doesn't back up any claims that the spill caused that harm, he says. Nothing to see here, move along.
OCT 24 The former mayor of Sorrento was arrested on dozens of child pornography charges, a post on The Creole reports here. Wilson Longanecker Jr. was arrested in his Ascension Parish mansion, the blog reports.
OCT 24 As Bobby Jindal's tenure as governor winds down, blogger Tom Aswell tells us to expect to see more and more of his appointees jumping ship. Some might get shown the door (or the federal indictment, as the case may be) and others are just going to want to avoid standing in "the inevitable unemployment line," he says.
OCT 24 Jim Brown is blogging about elections in this post. There's no one more recognizable when it comes to elections than he is, and yet he still had to show his ID, you know. He gives some easy-to-remember advice on the Amendments: vote against them all. This stuff needs to be handled by legislators, not added to the Constitution, he says.
OCT 24 Bobby Jindal's recent "magical" budget touch - you know, the one that turned a $140 million deficit into a $170 million surplus - is just imaginary, columnist James Gill tells us in this post. It's about as real as that story he tells about the "gold standard" of ethics, Gill says.
OCT 24 George Carter III, a teenage member of the group Kids Rethink New Orleans Schools, died this week, the Picayune reports here. Educators who knew him called him a "visionary." He certainly had some highly-developed ideas for his age, but despite his ability to provide positive ideas for helping kids in the city, in the end he wasn't able to escape NOLA's problems, either.
OCT 24 John Dickerson posts this slice-of-campaign-life look at Mary Landrieu on the trail in Louisiana. Republicans are playing to a runoff, he opines, meaning our state will become "a zoo" if it turns out this race will decide control of the Senate.
OCT 24 Bike lanes have been quite the topic of convo over in NOLA recently, what with streetspace, already at a premium downtown, being sacrified for them. In this post on the Uptown Messenger blog, Owen Courreges opines that the lanes are not really being constructed for people who ride bikes, but instead because developers seeking to make money downtown feel they are needed. He's also predicting that they will increase already nightmarish levels of traffic to new heights. Nah -- that couldn't happen!
OCT 23 Blogger Tom Aswell posts the photo that started making the rounds of the Facebook this week; it shows our governor and his lovely bride, all bright and smiley and holding big guns. The Jindals look a little posed, down to their carefully and properly placed index fingers. They're both grinning wide, displaying how comfortable they are with weaponry. Whee!
OCT 23 This fascinating post on The Lens opens the discussion of New Orleans as subject. C. W. Cannon talks about the concept of dual consciousness and how New Orleanians, especially, have experienced this condition post-Katrina. Cannon attended a recent conference about the issue at Tulane, where the discussion focused on how the romanticization of the city by outsiders masks real social problems.
OCT 23 Bayou Buzz is taking Gov. Bobby Jindal and the GOP to task here for the Ebola shrieking. The so-called "travel ban" makes no sense, and these politicians should have done their homework before coming up with this stunt, Stephen Sabludowsky writes.
Read the Flipping Paper!
Click Here for the Entire Print Version of IND Monthly