* BP rejects paying businesses for harm not caused by spill
* BP must also face U.S. shareholder class action
(Recasts to reflect Supreme Court appeal, adds comments)
By Jonathan Stempel
May 21 BP Plc, seeking to limit costs
related to the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, said it would ask
the U.S. Supreme Court to review whether it must pay some
businesses for economic damages without proof that the spill
caused such losses.
The British oil company will appeal Monday's decision by the
5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans not to disturb
a divided three-judge panel's March ruling over the payments.
It will also ask the 5th Circuit not to require
that it pay businesses for economic losses during the appeal.
BP has complained that the settlement it negotiated to cover
business loss claims is being interpreted incorrectly by the
businesses' lawyers and claims administrator Patrick Juneau. It
said making payments unrelated to the spill could push the
settlement's estimated $9.2 billion cost significantly higher.
"No company would agree to pay for losses that it did not
cause, and BP certainly did not when it entered into this
settlement," BP said.
A spokesman for Stephen Herman and James Roy, lawyers
representing the businesses, had no immediate comment.
Dissenting from the 5th Circuit's 8-5 decision to let the
panel ruling stand, Circuit Judge Edith Brown Clement said the
holdings "funnel BP's cash into the pockets of undeserving
non-victims ... Another court surely must resolve this."
The April 20, 2010 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon
drilling rig led to 11 deaths and the largest offshore U.S. oil
spill. BP has taken $42.7 billion of pre-tax charges so far.
BP's appeal was announced one day after U.S. District Judge
Keith Ellison in Houston let a group of shareholders pursue a
class-action lawsuit accusing the company of understating the
Ellison said investors who bought BP's American depository
shares between April 26 and May 28, 2010 may pursue claims that
BP publicly "lowballed" the oil flow rate, and that the share
price "did not reflect the magnitude of the disaster."
He also denied class certification to a separate group of
shareholders that claimed BP overstated its ability to manage
safety issues prior to the explosion. Ellison said this denial
was because it was too hard to calculate damages.
Shareholders can often recover more money at lower cost by
suing as a group. BP's ADS price fell 37 percent from the start
of the class period to the first trading day after it ended.
BP said it will appeal the grant of class certification, but
called the dismissal of the safety claims, covering investors
over 2-1/2 years predating the spill, a "significant victory."
The lead plaintiffs are New York State Comptroller Thomas
DiNapoli, who oversees that state's Common Retirement Fund, and
the Ohio Public Employees' Retirement System. Neither was
immediately available to comment.
BP asked Ellison to delay a trial until after U.S. District
Judge Carl Barbier in New Orleans finishes the third phase of a
trial, likely in early 2015, to apportion blame for the spill
and award damages, including to federal and state governments.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Additional
reporting by Nate Raymond; Editing by Bernadette Baum)