U.S. appeals court expedites BP spill claims case

Tue Apr 23, 2013 2:41pm EDT

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NEW ORLEANS, April 23 (Reuters) - A federal appeals court
has agreed to speed up the process of determining whether BP
Plc's settlement with class-action plaintiffs over the
2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill is being handled properly.
    BP had asked for the case to be heard as early as late May,
and the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans agreed
late on Monday to an expedited appeal, but denied BP's request
that payments be suspended until the appeal outcome is known.
    U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier in early April told BP he
saw no reason to interfere with the current payout process,
despite BP's complaint that frivolous and even "fictitious"
claims are being paid. 
    The source of dispute is the calculation of business
economic losses, for which just shy of $800 million has been
paid out on 4,870 claims so far, according to the program's
official website. 
    As of Tuesday, more than 168,000 claims have been submitted
under the entire Deepwater Horizon Economic and Property Damages
Settlement, according to the website, and a total of $1.96
billion of payments had been made on 29,413 claims.
    BP, in a March court filing, listed two dozen examples of
"unjustified windfall payments" calculated through formulas
stipulated in its settlement with thousands of class-action
plaintiffs, including individuals and businesses who say they
were harmed economically by the worst U.S. offshore oil spill.
    BP complained that the court-appointed claims administrator,
Patrick Juneau, was misinterpreting the formulas to the benefit
of plaintiffs.
    BP initially estimated it would pay a total of $7.8 billion
through the settlement, but it was not capped, and the company
later put it at $8.5 billion before reducing it back to $7.7
billion to underline its disapproval. 
    Last week saw the end of the first phase of the trial under
Barbier over all the claims brought by the U.S. government, Gulf
Coast states, and private parties affected by the spill. Legal
briefs will now be filed for a few months, before the September
start of the next phase to determine how much oil spilled.
 
    That case is In re: Oil Spill by the Oil Rig "Deepwater
Horizon" in the Gulf of Mexico, on April 20, 2010, U.S. District
Court, Eastern District of Louisiana, No. 10-md-02179. The
appeal is "BP Exploration & Production Inc et al. vs Lake
Eugenie Land & Development Inc, et al." in the U.S. Court of
Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, No. 13-30329.
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