| LONDON, April 30
LONDON, April 30 BP Plc has been hit by
over 2,200 new lawsuits seeking payback for the 2010 Gulf of
Mexico oil spill in the past few weeks as individuals, companies
and government bodies rushed to stake their claim before their
right to do so expired.
The British oil company, whose deepwater Macondo well
ruptured on April 20, 2010, killing 11 men and spilling crude
into the sea for weeks, revealed the number of new claims made
since March 6 in its first-quarter results on Tuesday.
The United States Oil Pollution Act of 1990, under which
most of the new lawsuits were registered, has a three year
statute of limitations which could make bringing further legal
action difficult after the third anniversary of the disaster.
BP said it would be applying to have the new legal
challenges consolidated into a trial that is already under way
in New Orleans.
The first phase of the trial of BP and its partners in the
well, Transocean and Halliburton, ended earlier
in April, but the judge, Carl Barbier, has yet to rule on the
degree of blame that will be apportioned to each party and on
the level of negligence that will be applied.
Both decisions could have a big impact on the size of BP's
final liability, already measured in tens of billions of
dollars. His ruling, to be made without a jury as is traditional
under U.S. maritime law, could come this summer.
$1.7 BILLION CLAIMS HEADROOM
BP also revealed that its $20 billion spill fund - some of
which is earmarked for compensation claims it has already agreed
to pay - has only $1.7 billion still unassigned.
The company is fighting to keep a lid on so-called Business
Economic Loss (BEL) claims which are being paid out of the fund
at a higher rate and to more businesses than it expected.
In the results statement, it raised its estimate of such
compensation payouts it can already quantify to $8.2 billion
from $7.7 billion previously.
The estimate has been fluctuating up and down since last
year, but BP has continued to stress it does not include any BEL
claims that have yet to be made or processed. It has said that
should BEL claims balloon beyond what the $20 billion fund can
pay, it will have to take new charges against its profits on top
of the $42.2 billion overall provision it has already set aside.