BP Asks Supreme Court to Review $9.2B Spill Settlement
NEW ORLEANS -- BP plc has taken its efforts to throw out part of a settlement relating to its 2010 oil spill to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The oil giant is fighting a section of the settlement related to claims for damage, which states businesses don't have to prove the spill directly harmed them to be eligible for payment; only that they lost money afterward, according to an Associated Press report.
The claims for damage are a result of the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion that spilled millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Eleven people were killed in the accident.
Claims administrator Patrick Juneau has awarded hundreds of millions of dollars to businesses whose losses "were not fairly traceable to the spill" in the Gulf of Mexico, including $76 million to businesses whose entire losses had absolutely nothing to do with it, BP's lawyers wrote in the request filed with the Supreme Court on July 31.
The financial awards included $3.5 million to an Alabama excavation company that had sold nearly all of its assets in 2009, and $172,000 to a lawyer whose license was revoked in 2009, BP lawyers wrote.
BP argues in its formal request for a hearing that the U.S. Supreme Court should hear arguments on the appeal because the settlement goes against rulings in other federal districts and by the Supreme Court itself, according to the news report.
The highest court in the country hears arguments in 75 to 80 of the 10,000 appeals it receives each year.
BP's lawyers cited a 2011 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that canceled a class-action suit against Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc. In that matter, the court ruled that members of a class had to have suffered the same injury, according to BP.
"Claimants whose purported injuries did not result from the spill cannot have suffered the 'same injury' as those who actually did suffer spill-related loss," BP's appeal states.
Lead class attorneys Steve Herman and Jim Roy said, "BP co-wrote and agreed to every word in the settlement agreement," including Juneau's policy. "It is not surprising that the courts have all told BP to honor its word," they responded in an email to the AP.
The Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the settlement in deeply split rulings, with votes of 2-1 and 8-5. BP's attorneys said one federal appeals court has, like the Fifth Circuit, ruled that groups bringing a class-action suit may include members who have not been injured by the defendant, but four have rejected such classes.
"The issues raised here are important to all companies, which depend on a fair and consistent application of the law when they choose to do business in the United States," company spokesman Geoff Morrell said in an e-mailed statement to the news outlet. Upholding terms of the settlement reached in 2012 could lead companies to go to court rather than settle claims, "resulting in years of court proceedings and delayed justice for real victims," he said.
BP said it has spent about $27 billion on response, cleanup, early restoration and claims payments, about $14 billion on response and cleanup, and the rest in claims and other payments such as money to test seafood and grants for tourism campaigns in Gulf Coast states.