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.
JUL 29 Saints Quarterback Drew Brees, who clearly is no slouch at public relations, countered any worries about his age by commenting from training camp that he'd like to play another 10 years on Friday. For the next two days, he says, he was subjected to "random" drug tests, this post on the Picayune says. Really?
JUL 29 This story in the Washington Post says Louisiana is in the top five of dog-loving states. According to this post, we have 1.27 dogs for every cat. Unfortunately, a whole lot of them are used for fighting or end up in shelters - left there by their owners. So maybe WaPo needs to reconsider that premise, because ownership doesn't necessarily equate with love.
JUL 29 Here's yet another "lady left her kids in a hot car" story, but this one is a little more ridiculous than most. KPLC reports that this lady (a Princess, no less!) Left her little kids unattended in a parking lot while she went to her boyfriend's car so she could provide him with some oral support. Hey, she left the windows down!
JUL 29 Environmental activist Wilma Subra made the Los Angeles Times this week, the star of this piece by Julie Cart in the "Great Reads" section. One interesting thing is the reference to Wilma as a "diminutive grandmother." Only someone who doesn't know her could possibly refer to her as "diminutive"!
JUL 29 Remember that "execution" in Arizona last week, the one where it took the inmate two gasping hours to die? Arizona uses the same drugs to kill its citizens as we do, this post on The Lens tells us. But hey, nothing to worry about, because state officials are "reviewing the protocol." OK!
JUL 29 Somebody over at LaPolitics is a big fan of the infographic! Here's another one, this time looking at the income of former governor, former reality TV star, and current Congressional candidate Edwin W. Edwards.
JUL 29 Blogger Crazy Crawfish got a tip that the state Department of Education was promoting a lot of people, and so he did some digging. Instead of asking a question to which he knew he would receive no answer, he just asked for payroll records. And, he found some pretty interesting stuff there.
JUL 29 Blogger Ian McGibboney is writing about the NRA in this post, and the absurdity of requiring people to follow one group's narrow philosophies. The NRA currently is floating the idea that children be required to demonstrate firearm proficiency in order to be promoted in school, and some other kinda nutty stuff. (Really?) Spoiler alert: Ian's not a fan.
JUL 27 Here's the first of four pieces from Minnesota Public Radio about the horrible legacy of Gilbert Gauthe, the pedophile who also was a priest and used his position to obtain victims. The story gets into the most shameful aspect of that time - the protection Gauthe received from the leaders of the church. This four-piece story promises to be more comprehensive than anything we've seen, because it is looking back from so far. Some of the information here has only been released recently.
JUL 27 The news gets worse in the case of the 11th hour bill that added a bunch of money to the retirement income of State Police Commander Mike Edmonson. Blogger CB Forgotston says here that the annual increase was not $30K, it was more like $55K. Also, it was Jindal buddy Neil Riser who tacked the action onto another bill - something he didn't feel compelled to tell us until now. But here's the best part - Edmonson turned down the money on Friday.
JUL 27 When you're telling people they have lost their jobs, you have to be careful about how you do it. When more layoffs were announced last week to the employees of the Office of Group Benefits, apparently that wasn't handled well, blogger Tom Aswell argues in this post. He's also got some info on who gets to stay - and how much they make. (Spoiler alert: It's a lot.)
Read the Flipping Paper!
Click Here for the Entire Print Version of IND Monthly